The Play-Off Payoff: Dad’s Investment in Me

My first job was spent selling snow cones in the summer of 2006. It was paradise but paid $5.15 an hour. By the end of that summer, I had made just enough to buy an $80 aboveground pool on summer clearance. I was determined to give my family the greatest Christmas gift ever.

When I rolled the boxed-up pool out of my grandpa’s garage on Christmas morning, my family was indeed as ecstatic as I hoped, and I thought myself quite the superhero.

But as things requiring assembly go, it was my dad who turned the pool into an oasis summer after summer—even upgrading it every year or so to the next size. He became an expert in pH balance and filters, joking that the pool water might cause us to shrivel up if he didn’t test it first. While all I did was splash around, he far surpassed the number of hours I’d spent selling snow cones, as he skimmed leaves, leveled the ground, refitted the drains, and inflated our floaties.

Last summer, I was twenty-four and my dad, fifty-six, yet we still found ourselves floating around in the same old way. Instead of water fights and Marco Polo though, conversation turned to the benefits of savings accounts and the right way to buy a car. Though my dad sunburns easily—and usually sports a strange Lawrence of Arabia-like hat in the heat—he braved the sun for his children summer after summer.

My $80 paid off more than I ever thought it could in time with my dad. His investment in the pool project turned into time with us. And, according to a study by Marriott School professor Ramon Zabriskie, families function better when fathers participate in family recreation. My dad dove deep into it, creating quality and quantity family time from my meager investment.

How has your dad created a play-off pay off? What does recreation look like in your family? You can read more about the study in Marriott Alumni Magazine.