Learning to walk is kind of hard work. You’re using muscles you have never used before. Often times, you crash and burn. Injuries can ensue. And if you’re my son, your extra large thighs — which came by way of waking everyone up and eating several times in the middle of the night — get in the way. But in the end, the hard work pays off. You grow. You mature.

My son has been learning to walk the last month and nothing has been more fun for our whole family than to watch him figure it out. The look of victory that washes over him when he pushes himself up and puts one foot in front of the other sends all of us into a cheering, and quite frankly, super idiotic-looking frenzy.

We, of course, have an excessive and embarrassing amount of recorded footage of the 10-month-old new walking sensation. And as I was watching some of it, I noticed something I didn’t notice before in all the commotion; my husband. No one is cheering and encouraging louder and more genuinely than him. And in turn, mirroring his example, I watched as my daughter caught the cheering-like-a-maniac fervor and did the same. Together, their cheering section provided just the right amount of crazy for the little walker to walk on.

What is it about the power of example a father has over his children?

A couple of weeks ago, I let my daughter choose a lunch destination. Thinking she would choose a fun bakery or our favorite sandwich shop, Potbelly; I was slightly horrified when she chose a greasy fast food joint. But, trying to not be boring ‘ole pro-vegetable Mom, I acquiesced. When we arrived, we had to wait a bit because the little fast food chain got enormously busy. As we waited, I saw a man approach the counter while his school-age child waited a few steps back. I heard him angrily inquire where his food was, that he had been waiting minutes for his food. As the workers apologized profusely and scurried to make his order right, he began screaming at the workers. He continued to humiliate and berate them, his voice growing louder arousing the attention of all the patrons. Demanding to see a manager and refusing to be quieted, I saw the manager count out a refund to him: $13.49 to regain the peace. In all of this, my eyes shifted to the child behind him, staring quietly at the commotion before him. And again, I wondered …

What is it about the power of example a father has over his children?

In June, we celebrate fathers. We celebrate, and perhaps in some cases even mourn, whatever precedent they set for us in our lives. And whether good or bad, there is no doubt that there is great power in the example of a father. And whether good or bad, children tend to emulate their father in some way shape or form somewhere down the road.

As parents, that’s a scary fact, right? They emulate us. My husband and I are quickly learning how terrifying it is to have little sponges around soaking in every single little thing we do. And believe me you, we’ve had to explain and apologize for some bad examples we have set. In that sense, parenting is much like learning how to walk: We’re using muscles we’ve never used before. We crash and burn (a lot). But in the end, it pays off. We all grow. We all mature.

But speaking to you dads specifically, since it is Father’s Day, my gift to you is this fact: You hold the power. The power of powerful example. You can encourage your kids to be encouragers and champions of others. You can also encourage your kids to belittle and humiliate others for such things as a measly $13.49 refund. No matter what example you choose to set, know, you hold the power!

Follow Tracy on her blog, littleparentontheprairie.com.

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