Our dads impart their own kind of special wisdom, generally far different than our mothers. So we thought on this Father’s Day, we’d share some of the best (or most interesting) lessons from our dads.
If my mother taught me how to be a lady, my father taught that having balls is less about your chromosomes and all about your state of mind. The summer before kindergarten the family spent two weeks in the Outer Banks. When we got there, Dad told me he needed to toughen me up before I started school, so he’d trip or bump into me as walked on the beach, and being pint-sized, I’d fall down. We’d be in the ocean and he’d toss me (with a life-jacket attached to him) into the wave and pull me up sputtering. The first time he did it, I was shocked, the second time I was pissed. The third time, as he bent down to pick something up, I shoved him over, and as he looked up flabbergasted I said with my hand on my hips, “You gotta tuffin’ up, Daddy!” and then ran away giggling maniacally. It was such a simple lesson- learn how to take a hit, stand back up when you fall down, and don’t take shit from anyone – even from Dad. (Which admittedly was probably a lesson he came to regret over the years.)
Probably all of the most practical realities about life, Dad’s taught me. Some of it came via his infamous “Do as I say, not as I do” speeches that followed tales of his misspent youth; but most came from him leading by example, despite his warnings. Always lead with logic and rationality- don’t be afraid to be shrewd and always listen to your gut about people; trust your brain, you’ll solve a problem if you just take a step back and look at the bigger picture; and most importantly, throw all that out the window when it comes to family, because logic and instinct have no place when it comes to doing whatever it takes to give your family what they need.
And at the end of the day, Dad taught me that happiness is easy. All you really need in life is a family that loves you, good music played far too loudly, fat dogs, and a BBQ full of sizzling meat…and a stiff bourbon and ginger.
My father is the hardest working man I know. He gave me my work ethic, and he taught me that when a job needs to be done, you do it. When the going gets bad, you put your head down and break through the other side.
My father told me how to stand up for myself, how to never back down. He always protected, but never coddled. He taught me bad jokes and curse words, and the proper way to punch someone. (He probably promptly regretted that.)
My father passed on a good part of his personality to me. We’re both grumpy assholes in our own right, and when we get stubborn we’re unmoveable. We share a love of music: not only the appreciation, but the art of crafting it as well. I picked up his instruments along the way, and while I’ll never pursue it professionally, I hope with every fiber of my being that when I reach 60 I can sit down at the piano and play half as well as he can today.
For my whole life, he’s pulled me along with the sweat of his brow and while breaking his back. My father has waded through the mud his entire life, diving into deep water when necessary, pulling my family along- often by himself. I’ll never accomplish even half of what he does, and I’ll certainly never manage to do it with so little complaining.
The biggest lesson I have received and utilized from my father is the idea that unconventional is the new conventional. My dad and I eat chinese food every Tuesday, and we only serve our dog human food (his favorite is spaghetti). I was taught that being overprotective is more than acceptable because it means you are well-headed enough to care about others. Rather than being grounded, I was taught that the gravity of disappointment weighed so much more heavily (and it really does).
But most importantly, he taught me that in this world of billions of people, we cannot please everyone. While he will do anything in his power to never say “no” to me, he has taught me that sometimes people will say no to us. Sometimes things won’t go as planned, and not everyone will like us. But as he would say, that’s just life.
The thing about being unconventional is that it’s a foolproof plan to being strong. It taught me that I should never live life solely in the motions. I swear, there’s this strength in knowing that rationality is only a word, and not necessarily a lifestyle. You see, being unconventional has taught me to do things for me, regardless of social norms. If I can be myself in a world where everyone is trying to be someone else, I am only that much stronger.
Although my dad might be the craziest person I know, he manages to be the wisest at the same time. Hence, unconventional is the new conventional.
Measure twice, cut once. A flathead is flat, a Phillips is the other one. Righty-tighty, lefty-loosey. Hammer from the elbow, not the wrist. Load the boxes first, then the furniture; when you get there, the furniture goes into place, and the boxes go in the middle of the room. It will fit; just rotate that one. The other way would have been faster. Knees bent, elbows straight, lean back — if you fall, hold onto the skis and we’ll swing the boat around to get you. The blue coals are the hottest ones — hold your marshmallow over them and it will heat through without catching on fire. Don’t tell your mother; we’ll just pick it up on the way home. The dog can sleep with your brother tonight; I don’t care; well, life’s not fair.
I’m proud of you.
Call me any time; I’ll pick up.
You probably could have done it in one trip.
My dad raised me a philosopher, always asking these existential questions that would drive my mom absolutely crazy. “Do you think that only the knowledge of Plato’s Forms constitutes real knowledge?” or “what does it really mean to be good?” He introduced me to Jean Valjean and David Paulsen and Ira Glass, listening patiently while my 13 year old self tried to return the favor by explaining the rules of Quidditch. When I was little, he’d tuck me in and tell me stories of Greek Mythology before singing me to sleep. I would lay there in the dark with my eyes closed imagining Medusa’s hair full of hissing snakes, and I’d picture my dad as Perseus, brave and tall and strong. For as long as I can remember my dad has defeated the monsters in his bedtime stories and reality, always coming home the victor. There is so much I admire about my dad, and while I now realize he was never a hero of the Trojan War (sorry, daddy), I still want to grow up to be just like him. Smart, witty, hilarious and kind with a mint always in pocket.
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