Life Lessons My Dad Taught Me

As I stumble through the daily parenting of my own 3 children I often think about the stuff my Dad taught me. Most of it was great and, well, some of it was questionable. Anyway, I thought it might be fun to share my top 20 favorite life lessons my Dad taught me. Since this is a family oriented site I would like everyone out there to know that I took great pains to clean up his advice. My Dad's version included a lot more profanity.

1. Be the doctor don't marry the doctor. My Dad is a closet feminist. Sure he comes off as a sexist pig and he is the king of inappropriate comments.  What most people don't know is that my Dad told me nearly every day of my life that I should be the doctor not marry the doctor.

2. Is this the hill you want to die on? My Dad has a temper, which my husband says our one-year-old has inherited, and, if I were to be honest, probably didn't really skip a generation either.  Despite that my Dad has always told me to pick and choose my battles. Sometimes that hill just isn't worth dying on.

3. Experience is what you get when you didn't get what you wanted. You didn't get what you wanted? Too bad. Learn from it and maybe next time you will.

4. Read with your kids and they will learn to love to read. It doesn't matter what you read to them. Kids just love having that special time with you. My Dad read me everything from Charlotte's Web to Stephen King novels. This might explain a few things about my personality.

5. It's never too late to go back to school, but it's a whole lot harder when you are older and have a family to support. When I was in college my Dad decided to go back to graduate school. It took him nearly 10 years to finish his PhD, but he did.  Seeing him graduate was probably one of the proudest moments of my life. I have immense respect for anyone who has a family and goes back to school.

6. Parental advice isn't always correct. When I was in Junior High my Dad told me not to take typing class because I would have a secretary to do all my typing for me. This was the worst advice I have ever been given by another human being. I type badly every single day because of that advice.  I have never had a secretary and if I ever do get one, I am sure they would tell me to type my own damn e-mails.

7. Dads are just as important as Moms. As a Mom I like to think I am pretty damn important.  The reality is, however, that Dads are just as important as Moms.  Dads are really the unsung heroes of the parental unit. They get shafted on Father's Day and are given all kinds of crappy Daddy duties.   You know what I mean by Daddy duties, right? It's a polite way of saying "Hey Dad, we need you to kill something or clean up a dead thing."

8. You can do whatever you want with your life after you finish graduate school. I wanted to go to cooking school after college. My Dad cried so I went to graduate school instead. My husband, however, is still bitter that I didn't go to cooking school. But, not to worry! According to life lesson #5 there is still time for cooking school.

9. It's not about the destination, but the adventure you have getting there. My Father has a terrible, and I do mean terrible, sense of direction. Life has, therefore, always been about the adventure because we just never knew if we were going to arrive at the destination.

11. Every child is born a scientist. My Dad told me this and then he went on to curse me.  He said he hoped that my children asked me as many why and what questions as I asked him.  As a child I thought this meant he thought I was smart. In reality he was looking for payback.

12. Not all step-mothers are wicked. I had one Step-Mother who was pretty evil. I am pretty sure I once caught her polishing apples.  I had, and still have, a second Step-Mother who is amazing.

13. Marry your best friend. When you do finally decide to make that contractual and spiritual arrangement with another human being make sure they are your best friend. This won't guarantee that everything works out, but it certainly helps.  

14. Enjoy your youth. According to my Dad getting old sucks. There was actually a few chosen swear words in front of sucks when he told me this. Then he went on to add that your golden years is  just fancy way saying you have to pee every 20 minutes.

15. Good Dads tend to worry a lot about being good providers. Being a good provider has always weighed heavily on my Dad. With age, I have come to learn that this is common to most good Dads. They work long hours and even on weekends. They are not worried about balance, they are worried about keeping everyone fed.

16. Enjoy your kids when they are little. This is the only time they will think you are awesome.  Once they are older they will start to see you for who you really are. You will be sad and miss the 4-year-old version of your kids. After a while, however, you will start to get immense pleasure from embarrassing them in front of their friends.  This somehow eases the pain of losing your awesome status.

17. If you do a good job your kids will fire you. They will leave you and start their own lives.  Not being needed will be painful. On the plus side you will suddenly have a lot more disposable income.  The increase in your net worth will soften the blow that your kids don't need you that much anymore.

18. Failing at something does not make you a failure. A lot of things you do in life will fail. It will blow, but failing does not make you a failure. So when you do fail or fall pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and keep going.

19. Keep your sense of humor. Life gets complicated. You can't prevent people you love from getting sick or dying.  But a good dose of laughter can help you through those dark days. It's life, baby, and you aren't going to get out alive.

20. Life is short so say what you want to say now. Every time I talk to my Dad he tells me two things. The first is that I am the biggest pain in the ass.  The second is that he loves me anyway.

Thanks for all the life lessons Daddy! See, I was paying attention. Oh, and by the way, I love you too.

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Newest 5 Comments

@ Shannon. Alex suggested I tell you this for #10:

10. Spouses make great editors most of the time. Sometimes, however, you get what you pay for.

My Dad's answer, however, would be more like this:

10. Genetics can suck. You will never be tall like a supermodel. It's also evident that you inherited my bad math and chemistry genes. Sorry, kid. It just looks like you are going to have to study harder.
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Being a dad, I might have a few:

- Never avoid work. Hard work is the best friend you'll ever have. "Learning should be fun" is a crock. Anything worth knowing is worth working for. You know that clever guy in the teen TV show? The one who passes work off to others, and always has an excuse? He's on the fast track to prison or the grave.
- That thing you want to do? It should be more important to you than it is to me. You need to be doing to stuff to get it done. I'll only be helping.
- You can expect to live to be a hundred years old or more. There's time to do a lot of the things you dream of, if you take care of the foundations while you're young. You're young until you are 40.
- We're lost. We're lost in San Francisco. It's not bad, since being lost in San Francisco is better than knowing where you are practically anywhere else.
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