A few weeks ago Claire was part of a Father’s Day service at church and she wrote and read this at church. We had requests to post it, so for better or worse, a 15 year-old’s perspective on her father!
TOP 10 THINGS I LEARNED FROM MY DAD
Fathers are one of the core places that we form ideas from, whether they are good ideas, or ideas of what not to do, fathers shape our lives, for better or worse. I am one of the fortunate ones to be born into a family with one of the good dads. One of the dads that helps me become a better person, protects me, while giving me independence, and listens to my thoughts and feelings and takes those into consideration.
However, being a good dad means that your child may not always agree with your decisions (especially related to chores and saying no to things!) But these actions by a dad show love and care. They teach us that the world is not a fair place, and sometimes we don’t always know what is best for us. Call it building character, discipline, whatever you will, but it is a crucial part to being an excellent father.
I would like to share the top 10 lessons that I have learned from dad so far. Many may seem humorous, but when you look beneath the surface, there is a greater lesson.
10. Duct tape can solve anything
From a young age, when something was broken, out would come the duct tape, and a quick easy repair made. Duct tape had many uses, innumerable uses. Dad showed me that. This philosophy soon rubbed off on me, whether I realized it or not. At homecoming I found myself in a hand-made duct tape dress, and I have made myself many a duct tape ball, and now I almost always keep a roll of duct tape in my backpack. Although dad has moved on from duct tape to greater things, that mentality from duct tape still stays with me. This gift of creativity from my father is a unique and useful quality, and I plan to find many more uses for duct tape in my life.
9. Scam off your kids
When you want to teach your kids responsibility, there is nothing like giving them the money they will need for everything and tell them to manage it. This was the system that my dad came up with three years ago. As a result, when I recklessly spend my money on something and I’m left lunchless, he will give me a pay advance- but, there’s a catch. I have to pay him a service fee. Or the time my sister Emma and I had our own mini business making and selling dog treats, dad charged us for electricity for the oven. These little things seemed ridiculous to us, and to our mom, but they are a great lesson in responsibility and accountability. I have learned not to take things for granted because of his little fees and charges.
8. Imitating singers with high pitched voices does not gain you popularity within the family
Dad also has a habit of singing along with rather sappy singers on the radio every once in a while, mostly to annoy us. These impressions are usually met with moans and groans from the back seat of the car. This lesson could be interpreted in many ways, tolerate people, or accept them for who they are, but I think the real lesson is be able to let loose, be free, have fun, and have no worry about what others may think of your little meandering into the wild and sometimes obnoxious side.
7. Even if photo documentation seems a bit excessive now, someday you’ll appreciate it.
Or maybe not. Who knows? In either case, Dad makes it a daily habit to photo document anything and everything around the farm and family. He’ll then compose a blog entry and post it for the world to see. Needless to say, we have countless photos of spring flowers, summer sunsets, fall harvests, winter icicles, family events, and hard labor around the farm. These photos really capture the spirit of our farm and family. It’s a way of showing how far we’ve come (the before and after pictures of remodeling projects or gardens). It can be a fulfilling experience of WOW! Look how far we’ve come. Or it can be a reflection of what went wrong. It’s a wonderful method of self reflection, and recording of memories for generations to come, or just for us in the future.
6. Being a nerd is not bad
Dad is a prime example of this. You’ll know exactly what I mean if you saw his middle school basketball picture. He is the tall skinny kid with the big glasses, the shortest shorts, and the highest socks. In high school, he was a sousaphone player for the marching band. Nowadays he is our computer guru, and fixes problems, and sets things up for the whole family and neighborhood. Dad also has a few strange hobbies including avid interest in Henry Wallace and collecting license plates. Coupled with high intelligence, an avid interest in Ebay, and a degrees in geology and English make him a top of the line nerd. Needless to say he has passed it on to his kids, and we appreciate it. Nerds run the world, they make a difference, so we all need to embrace any inner nerdiness that we may have.
5. Never set dates on when do it yourself project will be completed
This one is more something that he learned from me, that I in turn learned from him. Since we moved to the farm, we have been constantly remodeling our house (before this remodeling, it had been redone in the seventies. Let’s just say that it was far from attractive.) Until last month, my sister and I had shared a room since she was born (approximately 13 years and 9 months ago). At a young age, I was promised my own room by the age of 10, then it was 12, then 13, and then 14, and then maybe never. I of course, being a teenager, was rather bitter about this promise had been broken. As a result, my parents never put a time frame out for any project (at least to me anyway). In this way, I became extremely grateful when something was accomplished. And I do finally have my own room.
4. Family is not a democracy
This lesson was often learned the hard way, usually in some argument, or me whining how life wasn’t fair. Or even asking for a simple vote. On certain issues, yes, we could vote. But on other issues, the true nature of the family government came out- family is a dictatorship. A benevolent dictatorship, but a dictatorship nonetheless. This means, that in order to sway decisions in your favor, you have to get on the good side of the dictators. This could involve helping out with whatever task they are doing, or doing chores without being asked, or just being nice. This taught me that life isn’t always fair, and that you don’t always know what’s best for you when you are a kid or teen, and that those dictators will be there for you, to protect you and keep you safe.
3. Debate arguments do not hold up against the word of a father, no matter how logical
This relates to the concept of family not being a democracy. Last year, I became avidly active in debate, and I love it. But, when I tried the techniques (unconsciously of course) out on my dad, well, let’s just say it didn’t work. Because in debate, the argument, “Because I said so and I’m the dad,” doesn’t work. So he would automatically win any argument that we may have chosen to embark in. Of course I had no response to that, no matter how logical my argument may have seen. Debate may have useful skills for the rest of my life, but for home arguments and decisions, it does not have a place. Here too, the dictators rule the decision making process. And at this point in my life, it’s not a bad thing.
2. If you happen to have children, you might as well use them
Sometimes I wonder if my parents had children solely as farm labor, until I realize that we moved to the farm after they had children. So then I think we moved to the farm because they had children to help out with the work. But really, they have us trained pretty well in a variety of different farm chores. Doing all that hard work does definitely not seem like fun 80% of the time. But when I reflect upon it, it has also shaped who I am. There is something about hard work that changes something in a person, although it is difficult to pinpoint what exactly. I think a good general synopsis of that change is that it adds a different perspective to things. In any case, I am grateful for this perspective, despite the amount that I may gripe and complain.
1. How to start the car, but not how to stop keep it going
Recently, my dad taught Emma how to drive the stick shift car. He showed her how to start, about the delicate balance between letting out the clutch and pushing down the gas. Soon after, she had the car running down the driveway. When they began approaching the cluster of farm buildings at the end, Emma realized that she had not been taught where the brake was located. This relates a lot to the role a dad plays in your life. He helps you get started, and nurtures you, helps you through the tricky balances of things early on, but he’s not going to tell you how to finish your life, or what to do with it, just like he didn’t teach Emma how to stop the car. A dad has to know the balance between launching and controlling a child’s life. The car incident also shows that life can be scary. Letting a child figure out something for themselves and exploring their own life is the mark of a truly wonderful father.
We do not choose our fathers, but if I did have a choice, I would choose the one I have.