In honor of my dad’s 66th birthday, I have compiled a list of important things I have learned from him (either because of his example, his words, or his actions) that I want to teach my own children. Here they are, in no particular order.
You don’t have to be perfect at everything you do, as long as you do your best. I vividly remember the first time I brought home a B-. It was really traumatic for me, and it was just on a test–it wasn’t even my final grade. I am by no means a perfectionist in all areas of my life, but I had always prided myself on performing well in school, and I knew that my parents, too, were proud of my academic achievements. Because of this, I was just sure that my parents would be disappointed in me. I remember running downstairs to my room in complete despair. My dad came down, knocked on my door, and when I gave him permission, came into my room and sat on the edge of my bed. He simply asked, “Did you do your best?” When I answered, “Yes,” he said, “That’s all I care about.” And that was it.
Even though you don’t have to be perfect, I DO have high expectations for you. My family have been pretty hard core fans of Brigham Young University since the beginning of my parents’ marriage. We are known for brainwashing our young very early on in life. So, naturally, everyone assumed that we would all attend school there. But my dad was fond of saying, “You can attend college wherever you get a scholarship.” This had an impact on me for a couple of reasons. First of all, although he didn’t care where we went to college, he expected us to go SOMEWHERE. Secondly, he expected us to work hard enough in high school to earn a scholarship. (Interestingly, although 4 of the 6 children attended BYU for at least a little while, only 2 of us have actually graduated from there. Thanks for being my BYU grad buddy, Krista!)
Dads should show their children how much they love their wives. Even though I was TOTALLY grossed out by the amount of affection my parents showed each other in front of us kids growing up, as an adult, I can see the wisdom of it. In an age where there are so many things for kids to worry about, I am so grateful that I never had to worry about whether or not my parents loved each other. They were constantly touching, flirting, and kissing each other in front of us. I had no doubt that they loved each other. Also, it taught my siblings and me that there is more to love than physical attractiveness. 6 kids and 35 years later, my parents STILL show a lot of affection, despite the fact that they have wrinkles and gray hair, and no longer fit what society would term as “ideal.” My parents have taught all of us that REAL love is not about what you look like, but how you treat each other. This is also evidenced by the fact that all of my dad’s passwords have something to do with how attractive he finds my mom.
***Quick anecdote: When we were in Utah staying with my parents last week, we were getting in bed, and Jeff asked me if my parents were asleep yet. I said, “Nope. I was just brushing my teeth in the bathroom by their bedroom and I could hear them giggling and flirting like teenagers.” I LOVE this about my parents. Now if only I could go back to my teenage self and tell her that her parents showing affection is a GOOD thing.
When your family members are involved in something important to them, it should be important to you, too. My dad has worked in the same job for 30 years. He doesn’t hate it, but he sure doesn’t love it. I firmly believe that the reason he has stayed in that job for so long, in spite of the fact that he is definitely not passionate about it, is because of the flexibility it has given him. He had the option to go to work really early in exchange for coming home really early. So that’s what he did. He often went to work at 4:30 am so that he could go to every single soccer game, football game, choir concert, musical, and dance recital we were involved in. This set the precedent for us that if we were available, we were to support our siblings, too. No excuses. Jeff and I were talking the other day about what my dad’s bucket-list sporting event would be. I said that it would probably be a World Series baseball game or an Olympic soccer game. But then I added the caveat that, in all reality, he would probably rather watch his grandkids play soccer than the US National team. My dad doesn’t really have his own hobbies–his family members ARE his hobbies.
Marriage should be an equal partnership. My mom once told me that my grandma (my dad’s mom) did a great job of teaching her 7 (yes, 7!) sons that there is no such thing as “man’s work” and “woman’s work.” My dad was certainly no exception. He has always been just as likely to clean the bathroom as mow the lawn. He changed diapers (although, the mere fact that my mom stayed home with her children means that this could NEVER be really equal). Even as an empty nester, he does laundry, mops the floor, and washes the dishes. Probably the only thing he doesn’t do is cook–which is probably good since he one time burned the corn he was attempting to cook on the stove. Thank goodness by that time we were old enough to help with the cooking a little more. I am grateful that my dad always made time for his kids when he got home from work, even though I am sure he was exhausted from working all day. He knew that my mom would need a break from the kids, and always did his part so that she could have a moment to herself.
You should always let the ones you love know how you feel. One of my favorite things my dad always did when we were growing up was sneak into our rooms before he went to work (because he almost always went in WAY before we woke up) to whisper “goodbye” and “I love you” to us. Even though I usually slept right through it, I do remember occasionally waking up and just being grateful that he took the time to let us know he loved us. He has continued this tradition even to this day, as he came in to tell Adeline and me goodbye every morning before he went to work while we stayed with my parents last week. It warms my heart that even though he’s been out of practice for a while (they’ve been empty nesters for several years), he still thought to do this for us.
No parent is perfect, but I think my parents are pretty darn close. I hope that I can do as well raising my children as they have done raising theirs. In a world where it seems that dads are overlooked and even deemed as unnecessary, I am grateful to have been raised by a dad who made me feel like I MATTERED, that I was NEEDED, and that I was POWERFUL. He still makes me feel that way. Man. I am so so lucky. Happy birthday, Dad!