Today is my Dad’s birthday! In honor of his birthday, I thought it would be nice to share some lessons I have learned from the best Dad in the world.
Education is Valuable
My family when I graduated with my Master’s degree.
My Dad has always valued education, perhaps it is because he is an educator. He has always wanted my brother, sister and I to get as much education as possible. And we have all followed through. My brother has his undergraduate degree plus another degree in meteorology. My sister is in the final stages of her PhD. A few years ago I completed my Master’s degree.
My Dad has a PhD that he completed when my brother, the oldest of the three siblings, was a toddler. It has served him well through the years. There is value in learning the discipline it takes to get through an undergraduate, Master’s or a Doctoral program. College is not for everyone, but it would be challenging for most people to find a job they truly love without a degree.
For most of my childhood I can always remember my Dad working hard, but also being home and at school events, etc. My Dad was, and still is, an educator. He spent the majority of his career as a professor at a local college teaching accounting, spending many years as head of his department.
Even in retirement he is still working, not because he has to but because he enjoys it. He has conquered the tech curve (with a little help) and teaches an online personal finance course for the college where he spent the majority of his teaching career. He and my Mom also enjoy finding items to sell at their booth in a local antique mall.
In addition to his job, my Dad has written a college textbook, served on the city council for over 20 years and served as an elder at our church for many years. I’m not sure how he manged to balance all these responsibilities and manage to be at home too.
Learn to Talk to People (The most important lesson)
Just in case you don’t make it through my entire list, I wanted to make sure you saw the most important lesson I learned from my Dad. I vividly remember the trip where my Dad taught me this. Growing up, my Dad and I would make the hour drive out to Weatherford to get haircuts. My Dad had been going to the same barber since he was a boy. Who can say they had the same barber for 50 years?
These car rides would give my Dad and I a good chance to talk. He would tell stories about growing up and other things that were going on. On one of those rides, he told me one of the most important things I could do was to learn how to talk to people. Most people who know me now would have a tough time imagining I was a pretty shy kid. My Dad shared how he had been shy growing up too and taught himself (forced himself sometimes) to talk to people.
He modeled this learned behavior well. Growing up I still remember how he worked the room when we would go to different functions. When we were at city functions, he would go around talking to various people he had met throughout the years. Not like some slimy politician but as a genuine friend and neighbor. I still see him doing the same thing when we go to worship services or other events where there are lots of people.
This lesson particularly has made the biggest impact in my life. Because I learned to talk to people I have been able to do a lot of things in life. At the end of high school I pretty much talked my way into a scholarship at a local college. When living in New Hampshire, I used a connection from a friend and my skills in conversation to land my first real job that I had absolutely no background or training in. Having learned to talk to people I was finally able to wear my wife down and convince her it would be OK to date this nerdy guy who was her best friend. Now I have no problem getting up in front of hundreds of people and talking, its just part of who I am.
Live Within Your Means
A family trip to Disney World.
I probably could have learned this lesson better, but the importance of living within our means was a lesson that my wife and I learned from our parents. For the majority of my childhood our family was a single income family. My Mom didn’t go back to work till I was in 6th grade or so and my brother started college. Even then she was a substitute teacher working similar hours as her children.
We lived a very comfortable life in a nice house on 2.5 acres. My parents didn’t drive new cars. In fact the last new car they bought when I was a child was a 1978 Oldsmobile station wagon. I remember it being a big deal when Dad would come home with big ticket items – a VHS tape player, our first microwave, a 2nd small TV. All of those things probably give you an idea of how old I am…they were a big deal. Today, we might pop down to Target to buy any of those items when they wear out.
My siblings and I never wanted for anything growing up. We were raised by frugal parents who now enjoy the fruits of living within their means. They buy sensible new cars about every 5 years so they don’t have to mess with maintenance. Every year they take at least one big trip. They take road trips on a whim. Almost every Sunday they take the whole family out for lunch. My parents aren’t wealthy but they are comfortable and wise. A great model for my family to follow.
Disagreements are Private
Growing up I can’t remember ever seeing my parents disagree. Sometime when I was in high school or college I can remember them disagreeing about something, and even at that age I was surprised when I saw it. That is still the only time I have ever seen my parents have a real disagreement. Did they have disagreements, probably so, but I never knew about them.
It wasn’t until I got older that I realized not every child was blessed with parents who could keep themselves under control. I would talk to friends who laid in bed at night listening to their parents screaming at each other and fighting. Now as a minister I hear from kids all the time about the tragic example their parents are setting for them.
I was (and am) very blessed to have parents who provided a secure, loving home that was free from the trauma that so many of my peers suffered. Most likely my parents had disagreements and arguments, its a reality of being married to the same person for a long time. There are things that kids just shouldn’t have to be exposed to and I appreciate my parents for that wonderful blessing and example.
My Biggest Encourager
My Dad has always been a great encourager of my siblings and I. When we are doing great things he let’s us know, when we are stuck in a rut he gives a little push, when things are tough he has words of wisdom. I know men who are close to my Dad’s age who still talk about the hurt the words of their fathers caused all these years later. I am blessed to have never experienced that.
Sometimes support and encouragement took time and effort, not words. Growing up all the kids played golf with my Dad. Mom did a lot of the driving to various tournaments, walking the course with us as we played. Dad was our golf coach as were growing up. We even built a chipping green on part of the property so we could practice at home. I still remember the time at home when I hit my Dad in the leg with a shot that I shanked. He didn’t scream, didn’t yell, just told me to be more careful and walked it off.
Be a Real Man
My Dad and his first grandchild, our 5 year-old.
If I took all these life lessons, and a few more, I would sum it all up by saying my Dad taught me what it really means to be a man. Society provides so many false perceptions of what a man is. My Dad modeled for me the importance of faith to God, love for spouse and love for family. A real man in my book is a man who loves God, clings to his spouse and provides love and nurturing for his children. Society can have their role models, I’ll take my Dad any day.
That’s really what “Dad is Learning” is all about. Everyday I am trying to learn more about myself and this role I have been blessed to take on as husband and father. I never pictured myself as the father of two little girls, but God has a funny way of giving us the things that we really need. I want to build up in my girls a rich and loving life experience that will allow them to achieve anything they desire in this life. My wife and I often pray that God helps us prepare our girls to do great things.
If you’re still reading…thanks! This was a longer post than I usually write, but I have a lot to say about the greatest guy I know. I could have kept on going for a while, but who wants to read all that. Another day perhaps…
Love you Dad…and Happy Birthday!
A quick goal update…
I got back on track this week after a little blip last week. We had a quick weekend road trip for my cousin’s wedding and I had 2 cans of soda yesterday…one at a special lunch and another that my wife encouraged me to have as we were both having a horrible time staying awake for the drive home after our special lunch. Other than that I really can’t think of any soda I had all week. I skipped having a can at several events where I normally would have. I remain especially proud of the progress I have made in avoiding fast food.
The treadmill desk and I still have a wonderful relationship. I must be a weird person because driving to work I look forward to getting walking and working. The year is still young, but I stay on track for a 1000+ mile year of walking and working. I see a new pair of work shoes in my future.
Go out and make it a great work week!