I remember the first time I met Pat. I had mooched an invitation from Lynn to join her on a Girl Scout trip to Ringing Rocks in Bucks County. I was still in the part of my life when I didn't feel like I had the good good friends that I wanted. So much of having small children and staying home with them is comprised of joining play groups and talking to mothers and fathers and hoping to get a connection but sometimes that connection is only made up of the tenuous strings of both of you having small children.
I was so hoping for some real friends.
So we got to Ringing Rocks when everyone from her troop was already there. I had a vague recollection that the tow-headed girl with the Dutch boy haircut was little Caroline Ytsma because Lynn's daughter was in kindergarten with her. I climbed over towards her and heard her talking to "Pat," the man next to her with the same-colored hair.
"Pat! Look at what this rock looks like!
Pat! Listen to what this rock sounds like when I bash it in!
I asked Lynn who "Pat" was. "That's Caroline's father. She calls him Pat."
I considered myself open-minded, hip, even mildly sophisticated in my early 30's. But it would never ever cross my mind to "allow" a child to call their father by his first name, thinking it seemed....disrespectful somehow. Once I got to know Pat, I understood Judy's reasoning for "allowing" it.
"There is no question of who the children's father is and how they respect him.
They just call him Pat."
And she 's right. Pat is one of the best fathers I know. Pat's children had the best of him---teaching, snuggling, teasing, loving. That first meeting was an indication of the level of involvement, genuine liking of his children and his wife that Pat had. In a sea of Girl Scouts that first time we met, he was the one dad banging on those rocks with his girl.
And loving every minute of it.