As Father’s Day approaches, I’m taking time to reflect on what my Dad taught me. My Dad was and is a Great Dad, even though I haven’t lived under his roof since 1995 and only get to see him a half dozen times per year. The lessons he passed on to me are simple and powerful.
Like many well-meaning Dads—me included—he was successful at some things, not so great at others, and occasionally felt like a miserable failure. Every Good Dad I know is his own hardest critic. It’s part of what drives us to be excellent: the constant desire to improve for the sake of those whom we love.
What He DIDN’T Teach Me
When we think of Dads, often we think of typical guy things: sports, power tools, beer, golf, fishing, and BBQ grills. Those are the images commercial retailers want us to have so we can spend lots of money on Father’s Day gifts.
My Dad didn’t play any sports that he’s told me about. He likes to watch college football, but otherwise we were a sports-free house as I was growing up. He showed me some basics like how to catch and throw a baseball and that was about it as far as sports training. This has worked out well for me, since I’ve never had much interest in playing sports, although I do recognize and appreciate good athletes for their hard work and sportsmanship.
He also wasn’t much of a handyman. We didn’t do any father/son projects like building a tree house or changing the oil in the car.
He didn’t drink much while my brother and I were growing up. I can count on one hand the times I saw him have a glass of wine with dinner.
We did go fishing, and he was pretty good at hauling in crappie, blue gill, and the occasional bass. But this was something we learned together mostly as a family. We were not “Bass Masters” by any stretch of the imagination.
Neither my Dad nor I play golf. The closest we got was the putt-putt green.
What He DID Teach Me
As far as practical stuff, my Dad taught me the joy of reading, studying the Bible, and music. He also showed me how to play chess and Monopoly, and he let me win often enough to stay interested and get decent. He also taught me about having the courage to walk away from a situation when you know it’s wrong. He learned this lesson himself at great personal cost. Although he never sat down with me to hash out all the details, I’ve picked up enough from observation and conversations throughout the years to know that sometimes being right makes you almost wish you could live with being wrong. However, there are no compromises when truth is on the line. I’d like to think I’ve lived up to his role model in that way.
He also taught me that in spite of our best plans, life often turns out differently than we anticipate, and that’s okay. Different results do not equate to failure.
Ultimately, the best thing my Dad taught me is that my spiritual walk is the most important thing in my life. Today is a glimpse of what’s coming forever. With that in mind, I know how I should treat the people around me each day and where my goals should always be leading me.
Putting Lessons Into Practice
As an aspiring Good Dad to my kids and husband to my wife, I am tasked to be a role model. There are days I don’t want to be a role model. Sometimes I’m grouchy, tired, lazy, self-centered, and act like a jerk. The words I say and actions I choose can heap misery on my family.
My Dad had the same struggles, I’m certain, but I’d never knew it since he was a master as a role-model of patience, kindness, and smiles. I’m sure there were days he wanted to quit his job and go fishing or sit on the couch and read a book. I know he endured sleepless nights of diaper changing, feeding, and wiping up barf. Just as I did many years later with my own children, he probably wondered what he’d gotten himself into when deciding to have kids. I think this is where his love of coffee began as well. Yet through all of this, I never got a hint that he was tired, stressed, or unfit for the task. His love for my Mom, my brother, and me was always clear when we talked, played, ran around, and worked together.
A Champion Dad
Whatever skills, joys, lessons, or tasks my Dad succeeded or failed to teach me, he taught me that a Good Dad loves his family. We can have a multitude of minor successes and failures in life, but loving my family well is always the most important job I have.