I don’t talk with my dad a lot these days. He doesn’t talk much on the phone. Never did. And likely never will. In person, though, he’s a man of comedy and of intelligence and critical opinion. As a young man he esteemed to fly airplanes, but because he permanently injured an eye as a child, by necessity his life took another course becoming, rather, and chiefly, husband and dad.
In line with this, I was wondering what lessons my dad taught me that might be of value to other fathers with young children. While the Bible has become my primary guide, and the frame by which I view the world, what my own father taught me is a second or third reference point I yet still consider of immense help. So, without further ado, here are the most important lessons my father taught me. (Thanks, dad.)
Be Firm But Loving
My dad did his best. There is no doubt in my mind about that. Execution was also far more than admirable, especially considering a world that has a dearth of true masculine leadership. He grounded me for a year once, and made it stick (and yes I deserved it). But along with his rugged exterior, there is a very sensitive and kind side that unconditionally loves his wife and children in ways that seem more and more uncommon today. When my daughter was born, my father was among the first few people I called; and while we had not spoken in some time, his tone and words were most calming and knowing, sensitive and kind.
Be A Rugged Man
I went to school with a teacher who went to school with my dad, and that teacher told me a few vague stories of my dad’s manliness and machismo. Hey, that all plays very, very, well with me. My dad even shared some sage fighting advice with me after I was taken to court for a fist fight and not one morsel of the advice included not fighting, and none of it can be shared here for fear of being sued! Oh, and that fist fight that led to a court date? The judge through out the charge, calling the actions chivalrous. So, no, no real boys are truly hurt in the making of real men. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating young boys fighting (if it can be avoided), because teaching a boy to be rugged can be accomplished through hard work assignments, digging up tree stumps, digging ditches or other such work that causes hand callouses, require grit, or can’t be solved by writing computer code or playing video games.
Be Tender When You Need To Be
I got myself into a lot of trouble as a teen and young adult. Frankly, and retrospectively, I can see I needed much more discipline. I left home at sixteen, and by twenty-one I was living without much food, no hydro, in a run down environment. I earned my way there. Those were the wages of my own youthful ignorance. One day, as I sat on a beat-up old couch, there was a knock at the door. It was my dad. He sat me down on the couch, and he put my hand in his, and proceeded to talk to me about making some changes, and that he wanted to give me a chance to come home and get back on track. We shed some tears. This was among the top three turning points in my life.
Dedicate Your Life To Your Family
My dad was always around when he wasn’t working and golfing. He did both regularly, and that is perfectly fine; if not great, in my opinion. The work was for family (and retirement) and the golf was to relax with some time away with my mom. So even when he was working at a hobby, he was working at it with my mom. I also remember spending many weekends cross-country skiing with my parents together; always together. Looking back now, that is pretty special, and something I took for granted.
Be A Man of Convictions
My dad was never shy about airing his opinions, and while I have not always shared the same ones, what I admire about my dad is his convictions. They are very strong, and he stands true to them. This is among the great qualities of a father, I think. This does not preclude saying sorry when wrong, or readily admitting error (which is a great trait all on its own), but when one thinks something is right, it seems reasonable to hold your ground until factually proven wrong. Nothing says washy-washy like folding like a deck chair at a hint of controversy or resistance.
Work Hard To Provide
When I was young my dad was often away from home working long hours. This continued well into his late thirties until he moved up in seniority. So, much of my young years involved observing that a dad will do what it takes to provide for his family. And my mother backed him up. She was proud of his work ethic and continually pointed me and my siblings to his strong work ethic. And while me and my siblings are quite different, among the unifying qualities I believe we all share is my dad’s strong work ethic, the quality of being willing to put in the work to make our families stable, and our children provided for.