This was previously published on Deeper Inquiry.
Live Your Life By Dad’s Example
There are certain things that Father does best. And then there are certain things that Father just tries hard at. But either way he gives his all, and it’s in those attempts where the lessons shine.
Daddies are a versatile bunch, yet fatherhood does something similar to each man. He settles down, yet loosens up. He works for his kids’ future, yet sometimes likes to live in the past. He’s the attention-grabber without trying to be, and he’s the show-off when you don’t want him to be.
We rolled our eyes at him then, but are grateful for him today. He’s our father, and here’s five lessons that Daddies the world over have taught us. Perhaps they ring a bell for you and can give extra special reason to be grateful this Father’s Day.
Dad Lesson No. 5: Cherish Your Youth
Apparently, the days of “back when” are never matched. At least this is the way dads like to talk. This goes for his own youthful accomplishments; it also goes for the times that were.
The fact is, fatherhood settles a man down. So regarding his own doings, the daring days of yore are rarely measured up to since. As we grew up, we got to hear about his early driving stunts, his times with old buds and the way he got in trouble with the principal. And the walk to school? Don’t get him started.
The “times were different,” he’d say. People were kinder, cars were faster and louder, music and films were more wholesome and athletes were tougher.
In all, the message learned was this: When you’re young, look around and take it all in. These days will be talked about the rest of your life.
Lesson Dad Taught Us No. 4: Be Yourself
Yeah, we’ve heard this advice a million times, but fathers are especially good at dispensing this nugget. When the role of “Daddy” is instilled in a man, he’s less afraid to show himself for who he is. Many dads stop trying to be someone they’re not and relax into a more comfortable style.
So bring out the cut-offs!
Not only fashion, Dad may let loose at a wedding dance or tell a bad joke to your friends. He’s the perfect yin to his child’s uptight yang, but darn it, he’s the one having the fun.
The lesson here is that if you want to dance, don’t let bad rhythm stop you. And if your impression of Chris Farley is terrible, but makes you laugh, go for it. Dads know this, and no amount of flack from their uptight kids will change that.
Lesson Dad Taught Us No. 3: Conquer Something
Fathers love recognition for who they are and what they accomplish. This gets ratcheted up now that there’s little eyes looking back at him — he wants them to be proud eyes. A man’s “take-over-the-world” fantasy gets traded in for something actual and real, and an investment is made wherever he is.
The stereotype is the father trying to win the neighborhood house-decorating contest. But the truth takes on a hundred forms: his awesome barbecue, his immaculate lawn, coaching his son’s Little League team. Through these efforts, we got to see the joy and dedication our fathers enjoyed.
Maybe they didn’t conquer what they strove for, but that’s not what really matters. It’s in the effort that the lesson is learned. It’s the script given for how we can enjoy life, and hopefully conquer something ourselves.
Lesson Dad Taught Us No. 2: Be Legendary
Dad also taught us the importance of being remembered.
He wants to know he meant something to this world. Maybe it’s his remembrance literally carved into a park bench or a building dedication. Maybe it’s an annual potluck or charity event in his namesake. Maybe it’s the way he fished or hunted, or the way he laughed and pulled pranks.
If Dad’s a business owner, we get his desire for a legacy in two forms: the business itself living on through his kids. Because more than money and property, Dad taught us his most important legacy was his lineage.
His motivation from it led to his greatest deeds of all: helping others, donating, working hard for your family. In short, leaving the Earth a better place than he found it; making sure his kids have more opportunity than he had.
Lesson Dad Taught Us No. 1: Father Knows Best
Dads show us that no role is as important as being the person whose knee we sat upon for life’s answers. From the silly, “Dad, why can’t dogs talk?” to the serious, “Dad, why is breaking up so hard to do?”
He also taught us that these answers don’t come from a text book. They’re not to be found in our education nor better provided by a Daddy with a doctorate.
It simply takes the ability to listen, to be listened to (respected), and a bit of wisdom picked up along the years prepped to be a papa.
As we grew up, we learned that it’s these interactions that influence lives and make memories. Hopefully, by listening to the collective wisdom of dads everywhere we can all do more of this.
Happy Father’s Day!
—Photo credit: msmornington/Flickr