One Father’s Legacy

It’s almost Father’s Day, but don’t worry.  I’m not going to use my blog to give you advice on how to be a great father.

As a dad, I’m all too aware of my shortcomings.  I know where I stink at fatherhood.

I know that I have absolutely no experience with raising a teenage daughter.  Or how to invest into my pre-teen son to ensure he doesn’t go through the same crap I went through.  I hope that what I learn with my oldest two I can apply to my youngest two, but I’m pretty sure that it won’t work–they are all just too different from each other.

I can’t offer advice to other fathers beyond what small experiences I have had.  Your kids aren’t like my kids.  Your family isn’t like my family.  What works in my home probably won’t work in yours.  So there isn’t a lot I can offer in this post on fatherhood, except to point out what I have learned from one dad.

He was a dad who liked spending time with his daughters.  Having children hadn’t been easy for he and his wife.  He was prosperous, famous, and seemed to understand kids pretty well, based on the nature of his successes.  But even in the midst of all his success, he enjoyed what he called his “Daddy Days.”  These were days of the month set aside for him to just be with his kids.

They would go to the park, he would buy cotton candy and ice cream, and then he would sit on a bench and watch them play.  The stuff at the park wasn’t created for them to do together, it was strictly for the kids, and parents were expected to sit and watch.  They would go on the merry-go-round as he sat there holding the treats.

And he hated it.

This wasn’t the way he wanted to spend his time with his kids.  And they really didn’t like the fact that the time he had set aside for them was spent with him just watching.  He thought there should be something better. Some place where parents and kids could go together and have fun together.  Where they could laugh about the same things, remember the same experiences, and be together.

So he put together a plan, pulled in a few of the experts in his organization, and set out to create something that didn’t exist: a place where “age relives fond memories of the past, and youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future.”  But most importantly, it was a place they could go together.

He bet his entire future and every bit of money in his personal fortune–and the fortune of his company–around it.  People told him he was crazy.  He couldn’t get anyone to invest in it.  He cashed in his life insurance policy to help pay off the cost of constructing it.

What began as his musings as a father wanting to spend time with his kids eventually became the Happiest Place on Earth: Disneyland.

You may think of Walt Disney as just a beloved American icon.

I like to think of him as a dad who got at least one thing right: spending time with his kids, being with them, doing things together, was worth more than all he had ever earned or created or done before.  And although his own children were grown by the time Disneyland opened in 1955, what he created–what he nearly lost it all to create–still serves as an inspiration to every father today.

Being together with your kids is one of the greatest legacies you can give them.

As he said, “We believed in our idea: a family park where parents and children could have fun–together.”  He believed in it so much that he nearly lost everything to create it.  How much do you believe in it?

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