06/11/2014 11:04 am ET Updated Aug 11, 2014

I've Known my Dad My Whole Life, But Didn't Meet Him Until I Was an Adult

Before I left for college, the longest time I had spent alone with my dad was the length of a meal (inevitably Chic-fil-a or Arby's in the mall food court) or the nine innings of an Astros game. When it was time for me to head out of state for school, my parents decided it would be my dad to make the 15-hour drive with me. It was then, on those long, less-than-scenic, up before the crack of dawn drives between Houston and Tucson that I really got to know my dad. We bonded in a way we never had. We had conversations about music, hobbies, his childhood, my own childhood and everything in between. We forged a new type of friendship, and I often tell people that my relationship with my dad is so unique because we really met as adults, rather than the traditional growing-up-with-a-dad-around type of relationship.

I have had the types of conversations with my dad about relationships, marriage and parenting that are typically reserved for close friends. I seek out and value his advice, knowing very well that we are more alike than either of us would like to admit. With all of that being said, when I became a parent myself, I really understood where my dad was coming from. I have learned that all we (he) can do is be the best parent we (he) know how to be. When you become a parent, your perspective on life changes. That goes without saying. However, it was only when I became a parent that my perspective on my own parents changed. That is not something I was prepared for. It's almost as if the wool had been removed from my eyes, as if I had found out there was no Santa Claus, and that the magician had used a mind trick, rather than magic, to produce the card I had memorized.

As a child of divorce, there were many years when I resented my dad for not being around enough, for not being a bigger part of my life and for putting me in the position to have to juggle between houses. But as an adult, I realized that he did the absolute best he could. Nothing he did, or didn't do, meant he loved me any less. It just took years of life experience and becoming a parent myself for me to realize this. His love, undoubtedly unwavering, was expressed in ways I didn't understand during my childhood. Regardless of the tumultuous years we had, I wouldn't change my relationship with my dad today for anything in the world. He is incredibly smart, hard working and knows how to enjoy life. He gives advice when it is sought out, not just when he sees the opportunity, and he listens, I mean really listens, when I need him to be there for me. The past may have been a rocky road, but where we are today is a testament to the fact that there is nothing in the world quite like the love between a father and a daughter. In our time as "friends," I have learned many life lessons from him and the sage advice that he has given me.

1. There's no such thing as a free lunch. I remember numerous conversations when I was younger when this phrase was repeated. This came from discussing anything from first jobs as a teenager to asking favors from parents or friends. He taught me to work for what I want and not to fall for gimmicks.

2. Everything in moderation. My dad is a successful man. He has worked hard to get to where he is in his career and is able to enjoy the finer things in life. However, it is rare to see him indulge in something unnecessary or go overboard. When I was in college and beginning to experience the typical college scene, he often reminded me of this adage. He has used it in regards to partying, spending habits and time management.

3. Be flexible. This one is a tad ironic, considering my dad is (and I say this with love) one of the most inflexible people I know. In fact, this can be filed under his infamous "do as I say, not as I do" category. If dinner is at 6:30, I can almost guarantee my phone will be ringing with a "where are you," phone call by 6:28. Within my own life and with my child, I tend to stick to a pretty strict routine, much to the dismay of my husband. My dad, who has been married a handful of times, told me once, "You have to be flexible in a marriage. I may not know what works, but I certainly know what doesn't, and not being flexible doesn't work." I heard you, Dad, and I am working on it!

4. Always see the best in people. While he may have never come out and said this to me, it is surely something I admire about my dad. In his world, you are innocent until proven guilty, and a friend until you act otherwise. My poor dad sees the best in people and it has cost him several pricey divorces. It is endearing that he is still so optimistic, considering I tend to be the opposite, and I wish a bit of it would rub off on me (not the divorces, of course!).

My dad is easily one of (if not the) the smartest people I know. Even with the rose-colored glasses of the past, I know we didn't always have the best relationship and struggled with our communication. I truly believe had we not endured what we have, that I wouldn't be able to appreciate the bond we have today. I am so lucky to have not only a father in my life, but a trusted friend and confidant. I know my daughter will look up to him as I do, and we are all so lucky to have him in our lives, even if it means never being late to dinner!