Editor’s Note: To celebrate Father’s Day, we asked some moms we dig what was the greatest lesson their dads taught them that they abide by in raising their own children. Here are the first batch of responses. Watch for more Thursday. – KMcK.
Lessons Mom Learned: Quiet strength
My dad was in the military for 45 years. When I tell people this, they assume he’s a tough, take-no-crap, authoritarian type of father, but that’s not at all the case. He was strict when my two sisters and I were kids, for sure, but not in the screaming, yelling type of way. Rather, my dad is quiet and genial … until the moment he’s not. Then he tells you why or how you’re doing something wrong in a firm, strong and well-thought out manner that makes you immediately shape up and change your ways. He’s sort of like Clint Eastwood, if Clint was a 5-foot-9 Norwegian from North Dakota.
I try to emulate his way of being quietly strong when I discipline my kids, taking a moment to evaluate what’s going on before I yell or overreact. I try to tell them what they’re doing wrong in a low, powerful voice. I try. But while I don’t always succeed, I definitely have my father to thank for showing me that the strongest person in the room isn’t always the loudest.
Lessons Mom Learned: Observe then get involved
Dad taught us we should observe, and more importantly that we should care about what was going on in the world around us. He also taught us, by his example, to be good citizens who engaged in public service. But as we got older and started developing our own points of view, we didn’t always agree on the direction of that public service. When my political views started to diverge from Dad’s, the arguments at family get-togethers could get loud and quite spectacular, as my children can attest.
Dad taught us how to drive, he taught us really inappropriate jokes, he taught us patriotism and the importance of casting our vote, he taught us to respect the office of the President even if you don’t agree with the man in that office. He also taught me that I should always drink alcohol more slowly than any guy who took me out on a date.
Lessons Mom Learned: Live and thrive on less
Growing up on a farm in a family that lived through the Depression means my father knew a thing or two about living on less. What I didn’t know was how much that approach was going to provide a strong foundation for the life I created with my own family. For years, one of the ways my husband and I were able to “afford” a life where we both had plenty of time to share in the care of our two children – -he was in charge some afternoons after school and I the others — is because we kept our expenses low. Now my daughter, age 23, is leaving on a multi-month trip to the far east that she has self-financed, in part because she too has learned the power of savings.
Thank you, Dad, for a gift that has allowed us ways to finance our hopes and dreams.
Lessons Mom Learned: Country roads, take me home
Growing up in rural Oklahoma, there were endless miles of open roads surrounded by exquisite sky. So, during difficult times, while other fathers delivered speeches or advice, mine simply led me to our station wagon, rolled down the windows and stepped on the gas.
He knew that fresh air and nature helped settle the nerves. He realized that wind in our hair and the sound of a humming engine could lead to perspective … focus … calm. Together, we silently collected our thoughts and then methodically “sorted it through.”
Today, when my melodramatic teenager sobs over a friendship gone bad, or my fifth grader forgets to do his chores (again!), a self-righteous tirade sounds so … irresistible. But thanks to my dad with unconventional crisis-averting strategies, I learned an alternative: to bite my tongue, take deep breaths, and go for a long, long drive.
Lessons Mom Learned: Have a little faith
My dad has always put faith in my good judgment. Even on the occasions I challenged that faith (some New Year’s shenanigans and broken furniture come to mind), his trust in me never appeared to waiver. Dad’s confidence in my decisions – especially given his practical and cautious nature – gave me the courage to take some big leaps in my life. He encouraged my pursuit of an acting career out of college. He supported my leaving a job that made me miserable in my 20s when my husband and I had no income (and didn’t blink when we announced our first pregnancy while both in graduate school). He’s marveled at “my whole Internet thing” and the little show I started that’s become a massive enterprise. Thank you, Dad. I hope I can pass down this encouragement of my own kids’ self-efficacy, and give them space to explore with the confidence that I believe in them, like you have with us. Still too early to tell if I passed down the family schnoz. Happy Father’s Day!