Saturday, June 19, 2010

What I Learned (and Still Learn) From My Dad

Father’s Day. One day a year. As a teenager, I always wondered why dads got a day, and moms got a day, but kids didn’t. Seemed unfair. The answer I got back was always, “every other day is kid’s day,” and I believe it now. Every other day of the year is devoted to children. So we have father’s day, one day a year, to honor everything our dads have done for us. Since the average cost of raising a kid these days is somewhere in the ballpark of $220,000 (if THAT isn’t effective birth control, I don’t know what is), we owe quite a bit. However, this debt goes so far beyond the physical things our fathers have provided for us. Everything I know, everything I’m currently learning, and everything I will learn has somehow been shaped by the lessons I was (and continue to be) taught by my mom and dad. I wish I had thought about doing something like this on Mother’s Day in May, because there are so many lessons from Mom too, but this post is about what I learned from my Dad.

DIY Isn’t Dead: Kids these days may be better using technology, but if there’s one thing we are lacking in, it’s a general knowledge of handyman skills. Plumbing. Landscaping. Auto Repair. Home remodeling. These are just a few things that I’m willing to bet all of our dads are at least somewhat proficient in. Maybe they aren’t good enough to be certified for any of these jobs, but they have a general idea of what to do. My generation would probably just use Google and pay someone to do it. We barely know how to change our own oil, or change a tire. Hell, we don't even know how to use a map anymore. I was lucky enough to have a father that knew how to do all of these things and was also able to pass some of it along to me. Do-It-Yourself shouldn’t be dead. We should all put down the laptops and smartphones once in a while and try harder to learn these skills.

It’s All About Sacrifice: I’ll probably get married. It sounds like a decent idea. Who knows, maybe my wife will even pop out a youngster, and I’ll be a Dad myself (as scary as that seems to anyone who currently knows me). If that happens, I hope to have half the ability to sacrifice my own desires and needs as my Dad does. That selflessness is something our generation really doesn’t do all that well (we got trophies for everything, so everything is about us). It’s all about giving up your own time, money, and effort for others, especially your family. It's acting like a chauffeur and driving kids to every imaginable ball game, appointment, or friend’s house when you just want to relax after work. Not getting sleep because your kids are having a loud sleepover. Spending your hard-earned money on a kid’s allowance, even when they do a crappy job. Taking the red-eye home just to be able to spend time with your family. It's sacrifice, and it’s something I hope to do better at in the future.

Cherish the Outdoors: When I was a kid, I absolutely loved hunting and fishing. Once I became a teenager, the thought of waking up at 4 am to go sit somewhere in the cold dark stopped being incredibly appealing, but I think I get it now; it’s all about being in the outdoors. One of the best things about growing up in Minnesota is the proximity to lakes and woods, and I spent a lot of time hanging out in cabins and sitting around bonfire pits. It’s so incredibly peaceful and serene, and I doubt I'll ever see anything as beautiful as a late-September day in Northern Minnesota (see picture). I still love outdoors, and my one and only plan for my future is to get a cabin up there. I doubt I would have such affection for being outside without taking these trips with my Dad, spending time launching boats at 5am or walking to a Marsh under the early-morning sky.
 This is Google's, but it's fairly accurate. Heaven.

Get a dog: No further explanation needed.

Listen Up: Teenagers are assholes. That is a universal truth. They think they know everything, and won’t listen to any piece of advice. I was no exception. The sad part about adolescence is it’s probably the best time to learn how to be an adult, to soak up all you can about being a successful person, but teens don’t simply don’t want to learn. My advice: LISTEN, assholes. I’m not saying you have to respect your elders; many don’t deserve all that much respect. But you might as well listen to what they have to say. They’ve been through a lot and have had experiences you never will get to (or have to) have, and are at least deserving of being heard out. I have the advantage of being able to both listen to and respect my Dad and his teachings. Just lucky, I guess. And, on that note…

Teach the Right Lessons: The beauty of life is that it’s fairly cyclical. You’re born, you grow up, have kids of your own, and hopefully you’re able to pass on some information to them. You’ll probably even have to deal with asshole teenagers of your own someday (karma for your adolescence, if you want to see it that way). Eventually, they’re going to want to listen to the things you have to say, so you might as well teach them the right things. Kids deify their parents, and mimic their every word and action. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, if you want to venture into clichés-ville. That’s a lot of responsibility to bear. Set a good example. Make sure you are (when you’re around your kids, at least) acting like you want your kids to act, and you’re saying things you would be OK with them saying. I STILL don’t usually swear in front of my parents, and that is a result of how my parents spoke when they were around their kids.

I could go on and on with these lessons, but for the sake of the four people who read anything I write, I won’t. I like to (half)-joke that The Simpsons is responsible for the type of person I am today, but in reality it is all due to my upbringing and my parents’ desire to raise someone like me. They’ve did pretty well, if I do say so myself. I hope, for the sake of society, I’m not a father anytime soon (I’m reserving the right to act irresponsibly until I am 30), but when I am I hope I can be one-tenth the man my dad is.These lessons, and so many more, will hopefully get me there.

Happy Father's Day

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