Heeere’s Daddy!

Lia on her father’s lap

There were only two men I admired when I was little: my daddy and Johnny Carson. My father would let me stay up and watch the “Tonight Show” with him. At one time he fussed, but I think he just gave up. Watching the “Tonight Show,” I felt like I had membership in a special club that only met at 11:30 p.m. eastern/10:30 p.m. central. Laughing at Johnny’s monologue or staring in amazement at Joan Embery’s animals were some of the best times with my dad.

I am undoubtedly, unequivocally, and unapologetically 100% a “Daddy’s Girl.” In fact, being a “Daddy’s Girl” runs in the family. My mom was one, and based on the way my daughter instantly melts my husband’s heart with one puppy dog look, she’s going to become one too.

As a little girl, my father and I were inseparable. It wasn’t until I was older did I appreciate the uniqueness of my situation.

Much has been said about how the absence of a father or father figure in the household may negatively affect boys. The fact is, girls need their fathers too. A father is the first man that shapes a girl’s view of manhood. Many of my girlfriends who grew up without their fathers are still feeling the effects of their absence to this day.I feel very blessed that I have always had my father to rely on. Growing up in a neighborhood where the presence of single mothers was the norm, I knew I had a different experience growing up than some of my peers. Even from the very beginning my father was involved in my life. My mother worked the night shift, so my dad, who was the janitor of our apartment complex, played both the mother and the father during those late night feeding and diaper sessions.

On her wedding day, Lia with her father

My father is also the man behind my “unique” personality. So for those who know me, blame him. He would entertain me with impersonations of Johnny Carson and educate me on the jazz idiom by exposing me to the great voices of Nat “King” Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, and Louie Armstrong.  I recall a particularly awkward moment when my puzzled 1st grade classmates gave me an odd look when I asked them If they’d like to listen to Dizzy Gillespie during a playdate. Being a particularly quiet man, he subconsciously taught me that it was ok to not always be the center of attention. Sometimes it feels good to just stand in the background and observe from afar. He also taught me what hard work was. At one point, he took on two jobs as an apartment building janitor to send me to private school.

Over three decades later, I continue to be “Mr. Merriweather’s little girl.”  I married a wonderful man who has the same tenderness and quiet strength that my dad has. I make funny voices and characters for my daughter’s amusement and for my husband’s embarrassment. I spend select weekends where I expose my child to different genres of music. It brings me extra special joy when I see my 86 year-old dad chase his crawling infant granddaughter across the living room floor. Since becoming a parent one year ago this month, I’m amazed at how the games, ideas, and values my parents passed along to me surface in my relationship with my daughter. I could not imagine my father not being there for me. Who would teach me Johnny Carson’s patented end-of-monologue golf swing?  Who would teach me that black and white movies didn’t mean that the whole world was literally black and white?  Who would be a model for the man that I married?

Dads, both your sons and daughters need you to shape and guide their lives, as my father did mine. Please vote for National PTA’s Million Hours of Power campaign at http://www.refresheverything.com/millionhoursofpower in the Pepsi Refresh Project. Help us, help men shape the lives of our young people.

Lia Rogers

Lia Rogers is the Electronic Communications Manager for the National PTA based in Northbrook, IL.  Her parents, Elbert and Grace Merriweather, live in Chicago, IL where they eagerly await visits from their granddaughter.

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