I don’t think there is a better gift in the world than to be raised by a loving Father. I have been blessed to grow up with not only a loving father, but a super smart, hilariously funny, and well — a truly unique Dad. (which became all the more apparent as I compiled the following list.) Dad worked as a lawyer, and loved his work. In fact, though he is officially retired, he still goes into his office regularly. (What he does there is up for debate.) Beyond work, Dad is also crazy about his wife, (see #11-12) and has a genuine enthusiasm for life. He wakes up early every morning, excited for another day. Dad’s a dreamer, a talker, and a deeply loving father and grandfather.
I thought it would be fun to share a list of lessons that I learned from my father, as a sort of tribute to Father’s Day. The older I get the more I realize that so much of who I am, is a reflection of my father’s influence on my life. As you can imagine, this list could have been a mile long as I kept thinking of more and more lessons to add, even as I tried to finish the list.
If you’re lucky enough to know my dad, I have a feeling many of these will be familiar to you. If you don’t know my dad, then consider this my little gift to you…A list of life lessons from a truly exceptional man who I get to call Dad. 😉
LESSONS I LEARNED FROM MY DAD…
1. An enthusiastic compliment can change a person’s day. (or life.)
Almost every friend that entered my home was greeted with an enthusiastic compliment from my father. Most often, it was: “Hey, you’re beautiful!!” Pimple-faced, awkward, chubby, it didn’t matter–Dad’s compliments were so genuine, no one would doubt him. I remember well the surprise and joy on some of my friend’s faces who were obviously not used to being called “beautiful.” I’ve had more than one friend tell me that it was Dad’s affirming words that gave them confidence during a challenging season.
2. Helping people really is what it’s all about.
“If you get a chance today, help somebody.” Those were Dad’s parting words each day as he walked out the door to leave for work. He, of course, was headed out to a high-stress courtroom, as I was headed to…elementary school. As a little girl, I took those like an order, and went to school each day on a mission to find somebody to help. I knew he would ask about it later, and I wanted to have a good answer. I credit Dad with my elementary school memories of befriending the new kids, defending the bullied, and spending many a recess in the Special Ed building volunteering as a helper.
3. Confidence is a state of mind.
“It happened again today…” I would hear Dad say as he combed through his hair and straightened his tie in front of the mirror. A pregnant pause ensued, in which someone (anyone!!) was expected to ask, “What happened, Dad?” Finally, with laughter in his voice Dad would bring the ritual to completion. “I got better looking.” We all laughed, shaking our head at Dad’s silliness (and monotony.) That little routine taught me that self-confidence was a state of mind, and sometimes claiming it in front of the mirror before a big day is the best thing you can do.
4. A good list of witty idioms may be your best parenting resource.
Dad never had a shortage of pithy sayings ready to dole out in a moment of need. As we hit adolescence, I think he especially relied on these, knowing that some silly saying might be better received than a dad-lecture. And it’s true: They’re stuck in my head now for a lifetime…
“Nothing ventured nothing gained”…”Pride comes before the fall”…”A fool and his money are soon parted”…”A penny saved is a penny earned”…”The last shall be first”…”Fools names and fools faces are always seen in public places”…”To have a friend you must be a friend.”…”Back to the drawing board”…”He’s not playing with a full deck” (and many variations of that one!)…”You can’t judge a book by its cover”…”Actions speak louder than words.”…and (a personal favorite)–“It won’t make your candle burn any brighter to blow out someone else’s.”
5. Laughter really is the best medicine. Both of my parents have a great sense of humor. Dad has a wild imagination, and has occasionally gotten himself into trouble with a case of the giggles. (he has a really funny story that involves a crazy man and a chicken and a courtroom, but I’ll let him tell you that one.) Dad is an expert at cutting the tension with joke, and poking fun without hurting feelings. He always used humor to both make fun of himself, and flatter others.
Our family went out to dinner often, and sometimes we went with my mom’s parents; My Mom’s father was a butcher by trade; He owned a grocery store and cut meat for a living. But when we’d all go out to dinner, Dad would publicly refer to Grandpa as “Doctor.” He’d walk in the restaurant and say, “You first, Doctor,” so that everyone nearby could hear. Grandpa would blush with embarrassment and pride. He loved it.
Dad loves to offer challenges and to turn any situation into a little party. From challenging someone to a basketball match, (I remember one college-age kid having to wash my dad’s car all summer as a result of one!) to offering people rewards for crazy dares, Dad always found a way to make an everyday situation more fun. (I’ll never forget when my best friend and her then-fiance scored some wedding cash by moonwalking across the front of a crowded restaurant.)
6. If you’re looking for legal advice, Kenny Rogers might be all you really need. Though he’s read all of the law books and could probably quote every law and bylaw under the sun, if you came to my Dad for legal advice, you might just have to endure a line or two from Kenny Rogers. It turns out the key to avoiding (or getting out of-) trouble just might come down to: “You gotta know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away, and know when to run.”
7. “I’d rather be poor than bored.”
It’s another one of dad’s
overused oft- spoken sayings, but it’s worth mentioning on its own. If you know me, you know I’m a doer…a busy bee that doesn’t like sitting around. I think I got this from both of my parents, and my poor kids are now getting it from me. If you’re bored, we’ll surely find something for you to do.
8. “If there’s a solution, there is no problem.”
To dad, problems are merely a challenge to find a solution. Especially since being diagnosed with Type I Diabetes and Celiac disease– both after age 60, my dad has modeled a positive, grateful attitude in response to every adversity. Always cheerful and never complaining, Dad refuses to let obstacles bring him down. (though he might make heavy hints for his daughter’s Gluten Free cinnamon rolls whenever possible.)
9. “You can do anything in the world you set your mind to, but…” Dad spoke those words to me countless times when I was growing up. But the end of the sentence was his heart: “But the most important thing you can ever do is be a great mom and wife.” He would then go into a short speech about how hard my mom worked, how valuable she was, and how nothing (nothing!) he did could compare to the value of her work for our family. Thanks to all that, I grew up literally aspiring to be a great mom and a wife. I have never struggled a single minute with any doubts about whether or not my role as a stay-at-home mom was enough.
10. Thoughtfulness makes the world go-round.
Even as I write this my parents are driving across the state of Washington to visit a 99 year-old man. He is not a relative, and they don’t even know him that well, but he was a friend of my mom’s parents, and they sort of adopted him since my grandparents passed. It requires a long drive, and a hotel room. But I have a feeling the old man looks forward to that visit for six months leading up to it, and thinks about it for weeks following. That is the kind of thing my parents do. Growing up we always had someone extra at the dinner table, (or living in our guest room.) Dad takes time to call old friends. To jot a note. To reach out with concern or encouragement.
11. You can still be in love with your spouse after fifty-one years.
If you’ve spent any time with my parents, no doubt you’ve heard my dad publicly compliment my mom. Fifty one years later, he’ll still point out how pretty mom is, how nice her hair looks, or just about anything else. He and mom are easily best friends, and dad is clearly crazy about her.
12. Romance does not have to get old.
Dad never let a busy schedule or all of the years get in the way of keeping the fun and romance in his marriage. Leaving sticky notes with “I love you’s” and funny faces around the house for my mom, bringing coffee into her bedroom every morning, and (hello!) bringing her FLOWERS EVERY FRIDAY (really!) since I can remember are just a few examples of how Dad has kept the love alive. (I know, it’s hard to compare to that, right?) (It’s ok Dave, there’s still time….haha)
13. Learning never ends/Some of the best growth happens later.
Dad continues to learn and grow even as he gets older. He took up running in his 60’s, and has tried (though not without pain and agony and maybe a few swear words) to keep up with technology. He’s great with a smart phone and texts like a pro. (I love how he and my boys send messages back and forth!)
Since I’ve been grown dad has also taken more time to read the Bible and grow spiritually. Every morning I am with my parents now I see Dad up early, reading his Bible and praying. His heart is tender towards God and he has such a humble appreciation for the gifts God has given him.
14. Emotions are healthy. And (sure 😉 ) manly. Along with a tender heart comes tender emotions. My big, strong dad has developed a sensitive heart over the years, causing him to choke up when talking about touching things. (like his grandkids. Or his wife…) We’ve given up on letting him pray before a meal because he gets all of three words out, an he’s a teary mess! I love it of course– mostly because it’s so much fun to make fun of.
My boys love their Grandpa and he’s crazy about them. I am so blessed to share him with them (and vice versa.) I know they are learning many life lessons from him too, and I am so thankful.
^Last summer in California (Luke was surfing.)
Thank you all for letting me share some lessons I’ve learned from my Dad. I’ll share the rest in Part Two when he turns 99. And boy will those be funny.
If you have a loving father (or father-figure) in your life, I’m sure you have a list of your own! You are welcome to share a lesson from your own Dad in comments below. And of course if you know my dad, feel free to chime in on the conversation as well! 🙂
Happy Father’s Day to all of the Dad’s of the world. YOU ARE SO IMPORTANT!!
God bless you and…