Lessons From Our Fathers

by Brett & Kate McKay on June 12, 2008 · 24 comments

in Blog

Photo by Tobyotter

This past week we’ve been celebrating Father’s Day by running a series of posts about dear old dad. On Tuesday we asked our readers to share with us lessons imparted by their old man. Whether you were just hoping for an Outback steak or truly wanted to share some of your father’s wisdom, the response was phenomenal. We really enjoyed reading the lessons from your dads; they were both funny and touching. We’ve gone through the comments and have picked out some highlights:

On Manning Up

From Grapfx:

My father taught me to never be idle and keep yourself busy no matter what. Make sure things are fixed and everyone in the house is happy and safe. As sick as he was, he still helped out the neighbors, took care of his pets and raised my nephew. He also taught me about good music, Benny Hill, The Three Stooges, and all good things that are manly.

From Sam:

Whenever I struggled or failed, dad would always tell me “Stuck it up and go.”

From Pentagack:

Admit to your mistakes, even if it’s brutally painful. It’s better to be honest than to have to live with yourself as a liar. Just don’t be an ass or a jerk about being honest – use tact.

From Bryan:

My father showed me through example that it doesn’t matter what mistakes a man makes in life. What matters is if he owns up to them. When starting the quest to become a man your goal should be clear. To be the best that you can possibly be. And no matter how many years pass, no matter how much good you can accomplish you can always do better.

From Bill V:

If you need to be somewhere, but don’t necessarily want to:
- Show up
- Shut up (don’t whine about it)
- Get it over with
- Then do something you want to (redemption)

From Vance R:

When I was about 10 or 11, our Great Dane got out of the yard…I chased her for a few blocks until she stopped and tore up an older man’s pristine flower bed. The man came out and yelled at me, and told me to go get my father and come back to settle the damages. I finally got our dog restrained and took her back home, crying all the way.

I told my Dad the story, and we headed over to talk to the man. I don’t remember what they settled on (it was over 20 years ago), but my Dad calmly defused the situation. When he got back into the car, he taught me something about the art of negotiation and dealing with people while they are angry. Basically, he said in his unique fashion: “That man shouldn’t have started out with his ass on his shoulders.”

I learned that staying calm while arguing really does work out better for everyone. Now that I’m married and have a son of my own, that has come in quite handy…

From Chad:

My dad taught me that if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. It sure gets tiring, but he was right.

From Ryan:

My father taught me how to fail and persevere. Miss you dad.

From Jen:

My dad once offered my chatterbox sister $5.00 if she could go a whole day without speaking. I started bugging him to let me do it, because I could just go in my room and read with no trouble whatsoever. He said, “No, I’ll give you $5.00 if you can go a full day without feeling sorry for yourself.” I naturally responded, “That’s not fair!” So my sister made it a few hours, whereas I immediately lost my $5.00. So my father taught me not to feel sorry for myself.

From Corey W.:

“Never start a fight, but if someone starts one with you, kick their ass and deal with the consequences later. It will teach them a lesson and show everyone that you are not one to push – because you will push back harder.”

From DPM:

Only I choose who I am and how I act towards others. How they react to me is out of my control, but I am in total control of how I react to them. I choose to treat everyone with respect.
Pay attention to your personal appearance. Every day when I dress, I am choosing how to represent myself to the public. Even casual dress should be done with careful attention.

From Chris:

My dad taught me that it is important to keep a positive attitude, even when things are going wrong because your attitude can have a profound effect on how things turn out. Turning your life around, or making improvements will only occur when you have a positive attitude.

Along those lines, he also taught me that when life is not going your way, it is a sign of weakness to walk around with stooped shoulders, sighing a lot so others will see that you’re not having a good day. This is especially true if you lash out at others and take out your frustrations on them. The only thing you show anyone by behaving this way is that your lack self-control, and have a weak character.

The Love of a Father

From Showtime:

My dad always had one phrase that stuck with me. “You can fix anything but a broken heart.” I remember countless times bringing him a broken toy or action figure with tears in my eyes and then just watching him fix it. He would hand it back and tell me that phrase. Anytime I need help now I just call him up and he has the answer.

From Andrew Barbour:

My own father died about seven years ago, but I’ll share something he did that I will never forget. One Christmas, when I was about seven, I started having my doubts about Santa Claus, so I came up with something vaguely more sophisticated than leaving out milk and cookies and check to see if they had been eaten the next morning. In our fireplace (full of ash, but unlit on Christmas eve of course), I put a bunch of empty plastic gallon milk containers. Santa, if real, would crush them all with his big rear end.

Needless to say, when I came downstairs, all the milk cartons had been crushed into a big butt-shaped dent, and my belief in Santa Claus was impenetrable for the next three years. It never dawned on me during that time that it was my dad that did that.

Even though I don’t celebrate Christmas anymore, I will always remember what my dad taught me, and what I will bear in mind with my own son: It’s worth ruining a pair of pants to indulge your kid’s imagination.

From Barry:

My Dad taught me that your relationships with other people are the most important things in life.

He also showed me what it means to be a father by being there for me every day of my life. He didn’t get drunk or indulge in other vices, he worked his ass off every single day, he told me he loved me every day and gave me hugs every time he came home and before he left. I can now pass on what I have learned to my two boys and help them to grow up to be great Dads.

From DPM:

It is the role of a father to protect and defend his children, rationally. When times get rough when parenting, as they will, a father needs to be calm, learn all the facts, and act lovingly towards his children no matter what. Reacting emotionally and without details is always the wrong choice.

From Another Brandy:

During my teenage years, my dad repeatedly told me that he was my father, not my friend, which seemed to me at the time a completely asinine thing to say. Of course I wouldn’t be friends with such an out-of-touch asshole.

Looking back and comparing where I am emotionally and physically to my friends who had parent-friends, I can see that he was exactly right — and that’s what I strive to be for my children, a parent, not a friend.


Balancing Work and Family

From Corey W.

My father owned his own pharmacy for about 6 years (which he sold for good profit), between my ages of 11 to 17 (prime years for an adolescent). Many weeks he worked a minimum of 60 hours, leaving before the sun came up and always coming home late. However; in all of that, he would always make it to any sporting event or extra-curricular activity that was possible. Never complaining of how tired he was, just showing how proud he was of me. That to me, showed not only how you can balance a career and a family, while remaining successful, but also showed me that hard work and a pure work ethic will take you where you want to be in life

From Dean O.

My dad taught me to leave my work in the office when I come home. Everyday i ask him about work, he always replies, “it just keeps getting better all the time.” It really shows me what’s important (family) and what’s not (your job).

From Pentagack:

It doesn’t pay to be a (fill in your own high earning profession here) at the expense of spending time with your family. My dad is a doctor.

From Shakeel:

Family dinner is not optional. The time to sit down, turn off the TV, and talk about each other’s day, politics, or anything else builds unity like nothing else. If that means that dinner is served at 8:30 or 9:30 every night, so be it.

Relationship Advice

From DPM:

It is the role of a husband to never speak negatively of his wife. Any man who speaks poorly of his spouse to others is declaring himself a fool.

From Dean:

My father once told me, “Don’t ever date a woman whose father called her princess.”

From Pentagack:

Even if you’re not around a whole lot, your kids still have a chance of not getting terribly screwed up if you marry the right woman.

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

1 alex June 12, 2008 at 10:29 pm

I read this with interest, because some people don’t get to grow up with a father to teach them about life. Great stuff.

2 Bryan June 12, 2008 at 11:11 pm

Ahaha I’m glad to see I’m in the first few mentioned. I love what Deans Father said regarding what women to date.

3 Bryan June 12, 2008 at 11:15 pm

I know it might be a little too late but I have something to add relevant to this post. It hadn’t occurred to me until right now almost a week after I had posted it..That I wrote about my stepfather. Without realizing it. My father left my mother when I was three and I always regarded my stepfather as my father. I don’t really think I’m saying anything but I had a revelation and I thought it was best to write it out.

4 Max June 13, 2008 at 5:05 am

Not from my own father, but Father Theodore Hesburgh:
“The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.”

5 grapfx June 13, 2008 at 5:26 am

Wow, I made the list! My dad passed away last November sucumbing to his fourth bought with pneumonia in the past five or so years. He beat cancer, survived a stroke and was on oxygen. He would still walk four blocks to the grocery store to get milk, eggs, coffee and lottery tickets almost every day lugging his oxygen tank with him. I just introduced The Three Stooges to my two year old son a few weeks ago, to break the monotony of never ending Thomas and Diego videos, and has taken a liking to Moe, Larry and especially Curly. He is already impersonating them. He fell down wrestling with our dog the other day and when Mom asked him if he was OK, he looked up at her and said, I’m a victim of circumstance!” We couldn’t stop laughing!

6 lady brett June 13, 2008 at 6:49 am

My Dad showed me that he’s still a man (one of the very best i’ve known) when he cooks dinner for his family every day, and that i’m still his little girl when i build a house with him.

My Granddad taught me that family is about who you are and how you act (love, in a word). He’s the only real granddad i’ve had even though i’m not related to him by blood.

7 Rand Soper June 13, 2008 at 10:55 am

It was always very clear to us as kids that THE most important person in my fathers life was his wife. We all instinctively knew that if he could only save one person in a disaster, he would save our mother. How comforting it was to know that with all of my friends parents getting divorced and all of the trauma that brought to their lives, that my parents relationship was a rock, an anchor.

My kids know exactly how I feel about their mother. And I suspect that their children will know how they feel about their spouses when the time comes.

8 Mark June 13, 2008 at 12:01 pm

I just want to say that all this is so touching… there is still so much good going on, despite how hopeless the world sometimes seems, how rotten some parts of society have gotten due to materialistic obsessions, neglect, and selfishness in many parents. But when I see this, I can tell there exist the necessary roots of responsibility and love in our society that are taking hold and can grow to bring about the change for the better. That’s why sites like this popping up are a great sign of potential for much needed change.

I am very fortunate to be able to say that I’ve had an amazing dad that has taught me so much. His most important lessons would be his ability to work every day to support his family without complaint, and his dedication to the family despite countless difficulties. Basically, he embodies the death-to-self that is most noble in giving yourself to your wife, and dedicating yourself to your family. The man has done everything possible for my mom, and the family. And most incredibly, he doesn’t seek credit! He’s the definition of humility. He has done what he feels he’s supposed to do, and doesn’t feel any right nor need to brag.

9 Logan June 13, 2008 at 4:03 pm

Wow. Andrew Barbour, can’t tell a story about your honorable father without talking about yourself. “Even though I don’t celebrate Christmas anymore.” does that even have a place in this story?

Where do you live? I want to avoid the environment that destroyed your good genetics?

10 Antony June 13, 2008 at 4:06 pm

Hey Andrew- I’m glad you managed to make sure to note that you don’t celebrate Christmas.

[edited by admin]

11 Granata June 13, 2008 at 7:18 pm

Great story, Andrew! My dad did stuff like that for years. Boot prints, green cloth stuck on the flu, bells on the roof…it was great and had me believing for probably too long.

Another time, as my and my siblings’ 10th birthday approached, Dad planned and executed an elaborate chain of events over a period of a couple weeks that led to us digging what appeared to be an old chest containing a Civil War treasure (it was actually a bunch of polished stones and costume jewelry). The whole thing was put together with a lot of thought and planning. It was a great adventure.

Dad always did stuff like that to keep us entertained and full of wonder.

12 Mikhail June 13, 2008 at 7:38 pm

My father, a brutally honest, soviet-built man, will not rest until i become a proper man. I’ve discovered it takes a lot of patience, honesty, courage and reading of the literature discussed in one of the articles on this site.

13 Wrathbone June 13, 2008 at 10:57 pm

It took a psychotic RDC in boot camp to truly define what my father gave me. During a particularly rough run, I was falling behind. My RDC, crazier than a sh*thouse rat, who actually knew my father since they were both active duty on the same base, screamed at me at the top of his lungs: “YOU CAN’T QUIT! THE WORD ISN’T IN YOUR FAMILY’S VOCABULARY!”

Truer words have never been spoken. Dad taught me never give up no matter what the odds, always be honest, and there is nothing more trivial in this world than wealth and material possessions. Honor myself, my family, and my home.

14 Scott June 14, 2008 at 9:15 am

I am blessed to have had two great male role models growing up. One was my own father, who did what ever he had to do to make ends meet and put food on our table – sometimes it wasn’t easy. The other one was my late uncle, who was also like a father figure to me. Some other things they taught me – the importance of a good handshake (should be firm but not hard) and a good tie.

15 Jon West June 14, 2008 at 10:02 am

My father, Andy West, told me:

“You either continuously improve yourself or you atrophy.”

Solid advice, I think.

16 Anonymous June 14, 2008 at 6:02 pm

“Don’t ever date a woman whose father called her princess.”

I read that exact line in Esquire several years ago, except it followed up with this:

“Or whose father calls her ‘butch’.”

Either way, its solid advice.

17 Criffton June 14, 2008 at 11:04 pm

This is encouraging to those of us that don’t really have a father figure. I have had several step-fathers, some better than others, but even the good ones weren’t that wise, after reading through some of these stories. My father figures have been several clergymen and several authors, most notably G. K. Chesterton.

It hits hard to read some of these comments, and then also to realize that I missed many of the Father – Son learning experiences. There seems to be a class of men that have to figure it out mostly on their own.

Let’s hope that the Father makes a comeback.

18 Adam_Y June 16, 2008 at 3:19 am

My father – son, you should have more names than Satan, that way, when they come for you, you can say you are someone else.

19 Wayne June 17, 2008 at 12:57 pm

My dad taught me to NEVER abandon your family. He showed me how badly it hurts.

20 Wayne June 17, 2008 at 12:58 pm

Post Script: it was the ONLY thing he taught me.

21 tyler June 26, 2008 at 1:50 am

this is one of the best posts i’ve ever read. thank you.

22 Hunter February 6, 2010 at 12:32 am

Mine died of cancer 4 years ago, i was 12. Hard age, he wasn’t around a whole lot when i was little. My parents got back together when i was ten. I barely got to really know him when he died. He wrote me a death letter to be opened after he was buried. It had every life lesson a guy could want. From only trusting certain people, to not letting people walk over you. It changed my life. I started standing up for myself (I was the little scrawny kid that everyone picked on) so i started lifting weights, exercising, and learning how to defend myself, luckily i have never been in a fight, it just shocked everyone so badly that i stood up, they left me alone.

23 Ernie October 13, 2012 at 7:12 am

I used to get bullied by some kids in the neighborhood and I asked my dad to teach me to fight. He told me that I already know how to, it will happen when you learn to not be afraid. Eventually I did fight and me and those two boys are good friends. Dad tricked me in to finding the hidden lesson of what courage and confidence can bring.

24 Colin H Tomlinson May 24, 2013 at 1:29 am

If you’re away on business, send a picture postcard to your kids, even if it will arrive after you return.

Children rarely receive post – even less so nowadays – usually only on their birthdays, with Christmas cards generally being addressed to the entire family, so this is a real treat.

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