I’m sitting here writing this right after Fathers Day. Just like most of us, I spent some time yesterday thinking about my dad and the role he is playing in my life, and how I want to play quite a similar role with my kids. I’ve been trying to figure out what exactly he did and how he did it. It’s easy to say things like Dad has always been there for me, or he’s world’s greatest. I’m sure most of us have the mugs to prove it, but I want to go a bit deeper than that. I feel like of course dad was there when I needed him. Most dads would be. I want to think about what he did when either I didn’t notice he was instilling some lesson, or even when I just flat out didn’t want him around, and he just wouldn’t go away. What did he do when it wasn’t blatantly obvious that helped me and my siblings become the people we are?
I think the best way to summarize the answer is that my dad made sure I never needed for anything. You always hear people describe a parent or something and they’ll say “So and so made sure that we never wanted for anything, he provided for us.” There were plenty of things my parents made sure I wanted for. I know I’m switching back and forth a bit between saying things like Dad or Father and parents. For me in describing things like this it is hard to decipher between mom and dad sometimes. Some times Mom would even play a bit more of the disciplinarian role because dad was at work. Sometimes that discipline would take the shape of “Wait till your father gets home!!” but she is a tough little lady. Anyway I got off track a bit there. The point here is that I want my kids to want things I can’t or won’t provide. I want them to understand that personal accountability is something to strive for. I want them to understand that a work ethic isn’t something that you can just decide you have one day. I want the kids to understand the sense of pride one gets when pouring your heart and soul into something. I also want the kids to understand how to deal with failure. I want them to understand that the world isn’t fair, and that the world also owes you nothing. All of this sounds like it would take the mother of all after school movies to instill in the kids. The way my parents taught it is through example.
When I was going through my confirmation classes many years ago, my dad wrote me a letter talking about this very subject. He talked about how it was his job to help shape my character and actions. He talks about setting an example. He talks about how that one time we got pulled over for speeding, he did it on purpose so he could show me how to interact with a police officer. That was a fun discussion. I think about all this now, and it was these examples that taught me so much when I wasn’t even paying attention. It was things like watching my parents become involved with the community and joining the Lions Club. It was watching them work at project concern through church to help the less fortunate. It was holding the door for the elderly person, or burying our American flag properly when it had gotten into disrepair. There are countless examples that can be given of the small seemingly insignificant steps they took to go about things the right way. Whether it be taking care of the chore that needed to be done after working 12 hours, or taking the time to talk with me after an especially hard day. They took the hard road. Consistently. That’s what I want to pass on to my kids.
I’m sitting here now and I’m blessed with 5 kids that I get to help raise. They may not appreciate it now, but I hope at some point they are able to look back and realize they never needed for anything either.