Tag Archives: family vacation

Happy Father’s Day!

For the first time in our extended family’s history, we went on a weeklong family reunion to celebrate my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary this past week. Throughout our time together, I recognized the beauty of the five fathers in our family — my dad, my husband, my two brothers and the husband of our long ago German exchange student.

The fact that each of our five families has strong father figures is somewhat remarkable, but a Norman Rockwall portrait we are not. We have warts and, like every family out there, we have our share of challenges, disagreements and plain ugliness. However, this week, watching five men do their roles as husbands and dads with grace, love and caring that went above and beyond the call of duty was a beautiful thing.

Each of the fathers has a signature style — and there are generational and cultural differences to be sure. Nonetheless, their love for their children is evident and seems to have served to create happy, healthy children.

Anyone who has ever tried parenting knows that it is not for the faint of heart and is a constant learning experience. To celebrate Father’s Day, I asked the five most prominent fathers of my life the biggest thing they’ve learned thus far in their parenting journey — and what has made them a better father.

My youngest brother has been a father for about 18 months. He says he’s learned how quickly children learn, how much your life changes and how much you enjoy it. He believes patience has made him a better father.

His wife agrees that his patience makes him a better dad. “Also, he helps more than most fathers do. He changes diapers. He gets up with our son during the night. He gives him baths. He accepts responsibility for everything. Nothing is ‘my job’ because I’m the mother. He helps all the way around.”

Martin, our German friend, who has a four-year-old daughter, said the biggest thing he’s learned is that he can’t really plan things. “If you have a child, she has her own way,” he said. “If she’s not ready, you have to wait. Now, if we come late, which would have been a big problem for me before, I have to just be ok. As a father, I’ve learned that I have to be more relaxed.The last time we came to the States, it didn’t matter which hotel we stayed in. Now we have to plan in advance — on one side, you must plan more. On the other side, you cannot plan anything.”

His wife agrees. She says that her husband is always there for their daughter. “He’s always listening to her,” she said. “Before he thinks of himself, he’s thinking about her.”

My husband, whose daughters are 15 and 11, said becoming a father later in life probably made him more reflective. He’s recognizing, as our daughters grow, their personalities are developing in different paths. Because they’re so different, he has to deal with them differently.

My middle brother has three children, 22, 18 and 14. He said the biggest lesson he’s learned as a dad is much like the one my husband has recognized — each child has an independent personality and is totally different. Even so, he strives for consistency. “I’ve also learned that most things are small stuff, and don’t sweat the small stuff,“ he said. “And one last thing, every now and then, it’s good if your children are a little bit afraid of you.”

My dad, whose children are 33, 45 and 49, said he now believes that you never quit raising your children. “I have learned to look over things that would have upset me at one point,” he said. “I have learned to accept my children for what they are and not what I want them to be. I know they are grown, but still I worry about them and want to take care of them.”

My mom said that through the years my dad has always been there. “And, I never doubted his love for me or the children or grandchildren,” she said. “He works so hard, too hard sometimes — it’s all because he wants to provide for us.”

Having this kind of time to just hang out and be with our extended family was a gift that I believe we will all cherish for decades to come. Happy Father’s Day to each of them and the fathers in your family too.

LSS: Contrapposto, baby.

A new or different perspective intensifies and enriches life.

And sometimes the inspiration for seeing things a little differently comes from a surprising source.

In our family’s case, it was our 10-year-old daughter’s art class that led us to a new way of looking at things — and our family’s latest buzzword.

Contrapposto, baby.

Four months ago, I had no idea what contrapposto meant, and I’m certain that many of you will immediately know the term’s context and meaning. I, however, did not. So, Piper and I learned together as we looked at and for various examples of its usage in art and figured out ways we could apply it to our lives.

Turns out, we’ve looked better ever since. In turn, and with summer vacations in full swing, I thought I’d share my newfound insight with you, dear reader, on the off chance that you are in the same boat as me (pre-4th grade art history lesson).

Granted, we have looked better in a shallow and superficial way (and maybe only in our imaginations), but at this point in (mid)life, one needs occasionally to embrace the shallow and superficial and just go with it.

Consider my contrapposto interpretation a summer gift for you. Do not consider it an art history lesson. This interpretation is not aiming for scholarly level. The dual goal here is to make you look better in your summer family vacation photographs and create more interesting captured memories. And for good measure, maybe you’ll also look at the world a little differently every now and then, spotting a contrapposto of your own.

The lesson:

Contrapposto, in Italian, means counter pose or set against.

Think Michelangelo’s David. Remember how David is standing? He’s relaxed with most of his weight on one foot. He’s holding a sling with his left hand, casually thrown over his left shoulder. If that image doesn’t come immediately to mind, imagine a mother standing and holding a 9-month old baby, with one arm on her hip. (She’s taking a pose very similar to David, except instead of holding a slingshot near her shoulder, she’s holding the baby on her hip.)

The weight-bearing hand and foot details are key to contrapposto. They make a hip jut one way or the other. They misalign the shoulders. Just like David and the baby-toting mama, taking the contrapposto pose makes a more interesting image. Why? Because these two pose details create a variety of angles — primarily triangles, in fact. For reasons I won’t even pretend to explain (or comprehend), all those angles and triangles make a more interesting and dynamic image.

What does this have to do with you? Try a contrapposto pose in your next family photography session. Have some fun with it at the beach, in the mountains, at your camp, on a riverbank or in your backyard. I double-dog dare you.

Chances are, you’ll find out what we’ve learned. Michelangelo and his Greek predecessors who started the whole contrapposto craze were on to something.

I’m a believer that looking at the world in general with an altered lens — including those you love and even yourself — is almost always good for the brain (and heart).

Jan Risher’s column, Long Story Short, appears Sundays. She would love to see your favorite contrapposto posed photographs. If you’re so inclined, send a single image to her at jan@janrisher.com. Who knows? We might stage our own contrapposto photo competition.