Fatherhood is almost a lost art. But not in the house where I grew up.
One of the world’s best dads raised me. So for those who celebrate their own fine fathers, as well as for those seeking role models to emulate, I am passing on today some of the important lessons I learned from my dad.
Endurance is the Name of the Game
I don’t think I ever saw my dad quit anything. He has amazing stick-to-it-iveness. Whether he was working away on his 1915 Model T or teaching me to drive a stick-shift (no, that neck brace he wore was not my fault), he always persevered until he reached his goal.
He endured because that’s what men do. He plowed through multiple university programs, earning degrees in pharmacy, dentistry, and orthodontics. Only many years later, long after all that studying, did he discover that he is dyslexic. Dad just laughed and said, “I wondered why it was always so hard to read.”
His life hasn’t been easy. But he has weathered his setbacks by altering his course and forging ahead. Which leads to the next lesson Dad has taught me.
“Flexibility is a Sign of Maturity”
This is one of Dad’s favorite sayings. This pronouncement (in a silly British accent) came whenever a course correction lay ahead. Dad has mastered the art of dealing with disappointments and changed plans and the unpredictability of human beings. While he always expects the best of people, he is able to live with what he calls “the best they have to offer.” He is flexible.
One remarkable way Dad showed flexibility occurred when his back failed him. After years of success in orthodontics, Dad had to sell his practice. So he retrained himself in computer-assisted drafting. He launched his own business in that new field. He even went on to teach college classes in it. Later, he renewed his pharmacy license and worked at that, too.
Now as I start a new business of my own later in life, I draw inspiration from my father’s stellar flexibility.
Flexibility lets trees bend in a storm without breaking. But trees have to do more than just bend. They also need to grow.
Keep on Growing
Realizing that my dad was still growing up dawned on me slowly. As a child I saw him as a static figure, a finished adult. Gradually I gathered enough memories to be able to compare Dad Today with Dad a Few Years Ago. And I noticed that he was changing—for the better.
His temperament mellowed. He tried new approaches to parenting. (I especially liked the one about him taking his daughters on dates!) He learned from his friends—wise, fun, and godly men who spurred one another on. He studied his Bible, trusted God more, and became more Christ-like over time.
Of all Dad’s traits, his willingness to grow has been the most encouraging. It gives me hope that maybe I, too, will someday grow up into someone to be admired, just like my dad.
Still, there’s one more thing you and I can learn from him.
Say Something Nice
Dad is quick to encourage people. Uplifting words sort of well up from within him, as if he has a reservoir of love for all human beings. He regularly bestowed pertinent praise on us kids, and he didn’t stop when we became adults.
He has always spoken of my mother in positive terms (how many men do that today?), and he still compliments her on her latest hairstyle and on how well she cares for him.
Even strangers benefit from Dad’s encouragement. He looks them in the eye and praises them for something they’re doing right. He speaks his appreciation for neighbors and nurses, waiters and repairmen.
I am tempted to think G.K. Chesterton was speaking of my father when he said,
“A really great person is the person who makes every person feel great.”
Not on a Pedestal
Up on a pedestal is the last place my dad would want me to put him. Dad and I have both seen each other be rather imperfect people at times.
Yet after watching so many men in our world fail so badly at being fathers, I am ever more grateful for the miracle of being born the daughter of a great father.
My Mother: a Hurricane and a Rainbow