First-time fathers learn by actions, not wordsStories of fathers through the generations
By: Ryan Bakken, Grand Forks Herald
Today, Tom Haug will be celebrating his first Father’s Day. However, it may be impossible for him to be more proud of being a dad today than he has been the previous five-plus months.
Evidence of that pride includes a Facebook page that has 152 photographs of daughter Hallie, who was born on Dec. 23 and came home on Christmas Day.
“That was pretty special for that to happen on Christmas Day,” Haug said.
“Special” is a word the 24-year-old uses frequently when gushing about the first child of he and wife Christina, 22. He notes how they document Hallie’s firsts, such as first smile, first giggle and first rollover. He mentions how he races home from work at 5 p.m., “something I didn’t always do six months ago.”
Being a parent means that “life changes 100 percent,” he said. “But it’s life-changing for the better.”
Another blessing of fatherhood, he said, is gaining a greater appreciation of his own father, Howard Haug of Manvel.
“I’d like to become the exact same dad I had,” Tom Haug said. “He was always supportive, always behind me. His favorite saying was ‘don’t sweat the small stuff and it’s all small stuff.’”
Tom Haug recalled how he moved out of the family’s Manvel home on the day after his high school graduation.
“I wanted my independence then, but my dad is my best friend now,” he said.
Haug is joined by three other newly-minted Grand Forks dads in saying that they learned the most about fatherhood from their dads by the examples they set, not through advice.
Learning by example
Will Kusler, husband of Stacy and father of 5-month-old Lewis, says he appreciates the approach of his dad, Bruce Kusler, a farmer and small-business owner in Kulm, N.D.
“For my dad, there’s a certain way of doing things,” he said. “He doesn’t tell you that you need to do something in a certain way, but he shows you. I’ve learned from him that it’s easier to lead by example.”
He also cites a story known to the family as “the big hole.” Kusler said he and his younger brother, Ethan, were preteens when they decided to dig a hole. There was never a clear plan for what the hole would become, said Kusler, a commercial loan officer at First State Bank in Grand Forks and a former tight end for the UND football team. But they spent months working on it, eventually getting to 5-6 feet deep, before they lost interest and abandoned it.
“Dad gave us the freedom to do it and the resources to do it,” Kusler said. “But it got to the point where we had other interests, realized this wasn’t the best idea and abandoned it.
“I would feel bad not giving Lewis that same opportunity to build whatever he wants to build or dig whatever hole he wants.”
He said another lesson learned was how to tiptoe the line of “giving you a little bit of freedom, but with clear boundaries of discipline.”
Time is greatest gift
Travis Jung was 20 years old when his father, David Jung, died. That was five years ago. He and wife, Chasity, honored him by naming their son Knox David, now 3 months old.
“I got an idea of what type of dad I wanted to be by the way he raised me,” said Travis Jung, a UND law student. “It’s all about spending time with your kids.
“Do everything you can to provide for them, but more importantly, make sure you have enough time for them.”
Travis’ plans for Knox include outdoor sports such as fishing, hunting, golfing and boating – the activities of his youth.
“He was a very hard-working dad, but still found time for his kids,” Travis said. “He was active and his kids fell in step.”
Grandfather serving as a father
Not all father figures are fathers. So says Dan Brown, whose father figure was Milton James, his grandfather.
Brown, the UND associate women’s volleyball coach, was born to a single, teen-age mother. His mother’s father, Milton Brown, who died five years ago, served as both father figure and role model.
Dan and wife, Nicole, honored his grandfather’s role by naming their son Milton James, who was born on Dec. 31, 14 minutes before the new year.
“My grandfather was a big influence on my life; he taught me how to show love,” Dan Brown said, his voice cracking.
“I learned from observing how he treated and respected the family, his hard work and his faith. The love was unconditional.”
A few weeks ago, Dan and his son visited the Milton Brown’s gravestone.
“That was pretty special for me,” Brown said.
Call Bakken at (701) 780-1125; (800) 477-6572, ext. 1125; or send
email to email@example.com.