It’s month 8 of my 1st pregnancy and sh*t is hitting the fan. Let’s imagine it’s that baby green kind that we can all relate to. I’m 3,000 miles away from my family and completely unsure of what I’m about to do or who I’m about to become. Then the phone rings.

It’s my dad. The only person I know that thanks me for talking at the end of our conversations. I pick up the phone, mainly because he usually only calls for 2 reasons: 1) to see how I’m doing or 2) to let me know that a care package is on its way- complete with a good book, a $50 tucked in it and a handwritten note.

We talk, I vent and he thanks me for the phone call. I realize that I’m going to be ok. Talking helps like that.

Fast forward 3 years.

My daughter Lily Love is being potty-trained and baby #2 is on his or her way. Being a mom, as most of you know, is the wildest and most amazing ride. I’ve realized that I’m happiest being a mama and one of the people I have to thank for that is my dad.

My husband is my rock and in the trenches beside me, day in and day out. My mom is my inspiration and resident wonder woman, but my dad is the one who created a strong foundation for me as a mother, upon which I have built a happy (albeit messy) home.

For me, my dad has gifted 4 of the most precious pieces of wisdom, from which I use everyday to gather my inner strength to battle through toddlerdom:

Excessive Patience: I remember living at home after college (that happened!) and my dad would drop me off at the local train station every morning so I could get to work. I was always running late and he would always wait. He could have gotten mad and yelled…. and sometimes he did, b/c I was a brat and deserved it. But most of the time, he would sit patiently in the car and drive extra fast to catch the train. I now draw upon that wooosaaa-like patience in the form of long, deep breaths as I wait for my little girl to find her 5th stick of Chap Stick before we run out the door. Because having only 4 Chap Sticks is unimaginable!

Active Listening:  Only recently have I learned just how important it is to actively listen. That is, to show up, hold space and to care for another. The response you receive when you do so is nothing short of amazing. My husband and daughter now feel supported when I see them and hear them, rather than easily interject my own opinion. My dad, a social worker of over 40+ years, has mastered the art of active listening. He stops what he is doing, looks you in the eye and silently listens until you ask him a question. He gives his eyes, ears and heart to you.

Uncluttered Presence: My dad often tells me, “This too shall pass”- a quote that exudes wisdom with each word. He taught me that the best and the worst moments fade, so you better embrace the here and now. Stop and take in the sun’s rays, smell the grass, roll down the hill with your kid, cannonball into the pool or simply read a book while listening to the birds sing. Whatever you do, be fully present because now is all we have. I truly believe that my daughter is more content because I try (try is the key word here) to be present with her, to create memories and not distractions.

Unconditional Love: This one’s a biggie. Some say that this type of love doesn’t exist but my dad made sure that I knew it did. From getting up at 3am to take me to horse shows, to picking me up at 3am from train stops, my dad didn’t just tell me he loved me, he showed me. Through thick and thin. And trust me, I wasn’t an easy teenager but that didn’t matter. I always knew that my dad’s love was unwavering and that he was only a phone call away. Cute faced toddlers are easy to forgive, but those older, more difficult years are not that far away. Knowing what unconditional love feels like will help me through it all, because to know and to give love is the greatest gift of all.

I am forever grateful for my dad, who has also become the most incredible “DeDe” to my daughter. But having an amazing dad or any dad is not a prerequisite for being a good mom (whatever that means). It’s about knowing a person that has loved and supported you through the good, the bad and the ugly. To know that type of love, in any capacity, is to be able to give that type of love. If you’ve known such a person, consider yourself lucky and I can bet your kids are just as lucky too!