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From one dad to another

A seasoned dad gives advice to a new dad
by: Jim Clark,

Hayden Loftin doesn't know Shawn Bradford.

And Shawn Bradford doesn't know Hayden Loftin.

Both Gresham residents, Loftin and Bradford are part of a fraternity whose members have a powerful and often unseen influence in the lives of their children. They are among a group of men who hold fishing poles, car keys, the last word and sometimes, their own heads in frustration. Yet they also are role models to their sons and heroes to their daughters.

Loftin, 73, has been a father for nearly 50 years. Bradford, 30, is celebrating his first Father's Day, following the birth of his daughter, Liberty ShyAnn, on Wednesday, June 6.

Though Loftin and Bradford may be worlds apart in parental experience, we wondered what advice a seasoned father would impart to one just joining the club. Loftin, insisting he's no expert, volunteered some pearls of fatherhood wisdom for his newbie counterpart.

• Working parents are known to struggle for a balance between long work hours or time spent pursuing a career. Dads frequently beat themselves up, fearing they shortchange their families with their time and attention. Carving out time for family reinforces what is important, Loftin said, and instills more than just fond childhood memories.

'We did stuff together on weekends. I've had boats all my life, so we went water-skiing and camping. All those things we did, my kids still love to do. Spend time with your kids. Once they turn 16, they've got other things to do on their own.'

• Loftin was part of a generation of children who heard, 'Wait until your father gets home' after doing something they shouldn't. His late wife, Joyce, was a stay-at-home mom, viewed by her children as the disciplinarian. She was never without reinforcements, however.

'I always backed her up. Kids always play one parent against the other and push you right to the edge. But when they see a united front between mom and dad, they back off. They know they can't use one parent against the other. They usually find another way to work it, though.'

• There isn't a parent alive who hasn't wished for a child-rearing instruction manual at one time or another, especially as a family grows. It doesn't take long to learn that whatever worked with one child probably won't work with the next. Nobody has all the answers, Loftin said, but the bottom line is to make sure the child is confident of his or her place in your heart.

'I told my wife a thousand times, I always do the best I can. That's all there is. You don't know it all, but you can do what you can. Each one is different, and you have to deal with them individually. But you have to make sure they know you love them all.'

• Every parent wants their child to achieve more than they did, Loftin said. A lengthy career in heavy construction prompted Loftin and his wife to strongly encourage education for their kids, believing it would be the key to their futures.

'I made a good living as a crane operator, but I could see down the road that education for them was the answer for a good job. We never said, 'If you go to college.' We said, 'When you go to college.' Jeff and Scott both graduated from Oregon State University, and Holly graduated from the University of Oregon. It worked out well for them.'

• Dads (and moms) mired in teething and toddlerhood look forward to the day their child becomes independent and self-reliant. Launching a child into adulthood carries a shift in the parent/child relationship, Loftin said, but doesn't mark the demise of the work and worry of parenthood.

'My kids are good kids, and we're real close. But being a parent never stops, no matter how old they are.'

Nor do tokens of affection on Father's Day. The memory of handmade cards from his children make Loftin smile, but this year's gift carried a double meaning.

'They gave me a roll bar for my tractor. I guess that means they want me to be safe and stay around a while longer.'

Bradford, who's still years away from a crayon-colored card, probably received the best gift any father could have. Cradled in his arms, pink-clad Liberty looked at the face before her and cracked one eye as if to say, 'That's my dad.'