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Dads Dish On What It Takes To Survive Fatherhood

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As children across the country prepare to celebrate their fathers this Sunday, Tell Me More offers dads its own special gift. In the series "Father to Father," dads give their words of wisdom and advice to other dads. The first essay comes from John Siegfried, a 74 year-old dad, step dad, and grandfather from Highland Heights, Ohio.


Sunday is Father's Day and we bet that a lot of kids are still trying to find that perfect Father's Day gift for their dads. We know the moms are helping. Well, here at TELL ME MORE, we are also looking for the perfect gift for the fathers out there and, this year, we think we found it. A collection of essays from dads to dads.

It's our Father to Father series and here to kick off the first essay, 74-year-old John Siegfried of Highland Heights, Ohio. He is the father of three sons, stepfather of three daughters and grandfather of more than a dozen grandchildren.


JOHN SIEGFRIED: Ask me about parenting and I can tell you that, in my lifetime, I've seen lots of changes. Did I ask my father for advice? No. I followed the family expectation. Because my father didn't offer any advice, I was afraid to ask for any, kind of like guys not asking for road directions. In hindsight, this was certainly a mistake we both made.

My family was never very close. My siblings and I had a pretty standoffish relationship with my dad and, when I got married, I saw the beauty and benefit of close family ties. I have to admit I was a bit jealous of just how close my wife's family was and I finally got fed up with the unnecessary estranged relationships in mine, so in my father's final years, I decided to close the distance between us.

And then there was a turning moment. There was a time when I was saying goodbye to my dad. I gave him a hug and told him that I loved him, despite never having heard those words from him. No words were spoken back, but I felt him shudder in my arms.

On my next visit, my father apologized for the way he treated me all those years. Although I had three siblings, I believe none of them ever shared this kind of closeness with our dad, all because I made a conscious effort to parent my father before he died at age 93.

Today, I see my wife Susan give lots of advice to my stepdaughters, sometimes too much, in my opinion, but when I tell her that, she laughs, saying, I'm only passing along what my mother did for me. The caring is palpable.

So, to bite the bullet and give advice for the first time to my sons, I would say: be tolerant. The greater the differences you find in people, the more difficult this will be, but the more important being tolerant will be for you. Second, don't be afraid to let your sensitivity show publicly. Some guys may rag on you, but society's changing and somebody must have the guts to lead the way.

And life is short. Spend time with your kids and grandkids. Distribute your time carefully among work, adult distractions and time with your kids. Kids have short memories and you have to catch their attention to exert any influence on their lives before their peers take over. Future generations will thank you because kids model their parents.

I wasn't brave enough to get this advice from my own father when I needed it, but I am brave enough to pass my experiences along to others. This is my gift to all dads on this Father's Day.


MARTIN: That was dad, stepdad and granddad John Siegfried of Highland Heights, Ohio, sharing his words of wisdom to fathers everywhere.


MARTIN: And please stay with us to hear more stories from dads. Men are taking on jobs that have long been dominated by women, like teaching and social work. In fact, from the year 2000 to 2010, these so-called pink collar fields have accounted for nearly one-third of job growth for men, that according to a new analysis from the New York Times. We'll find out what's drawing men to these fields and how they are riding a so-called glass escalator once they get there. That's coming up on TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin.


MARTIN: South Africa was the first country in the world to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation and the fifth to legalize same-sex marriage. So why are so many gay people, especially women, targets of violence?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Men are so challenged by the fact that two women would love one another they feel emasculated.

MARTIN: We'll talk about corrective rape in South Africa next time on TELL ME MORE.


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