Sunday, June 19, 2011

Stuff My Dad Taught Me

I give a lot of props to moms on my blog, but sometimes the credit just has to go to dads. This is specifically on Father's Day, but that's not why I'm writing this; I think it's important to give credit where credit is due.

My job is very challenging, both physically and mentally. My dad spent a good deal of time in my childhood grooming me to be a good daughter, a hard worker, and just overall a good person. I like to think I'm a good person, anyway.

A hard lesson for a kid to learn is silence. The importance of silence in the social world is vastly underrated. Not only this, but also attentiveness. When I was young my parents brought me to a lot of social events where I was the only person in the room under thirty. I was told to basically not speak unless spoken to, and generally answer questions succinctly. This wasn't because my parents didn't want to listen to me talk (they already listened a lot as it was), but they were teaching me that the best way to be remembered as a good listener was to let other people do most of the talking. Keep your stories short, your smiles large, and your fidgety tendencies under control and you will go far.

My dad did this weird thing with my brother and I when we were both very small. He brought us outdoors into the summer heat (several summers' worth of heat, actually) and built a playhouse with us. We didn't just sit in the shade and watch him - oh no - we participated! We got our own tiny sets of steel-toed boots (complete with demonstration of the power of a nail-gun) and work gloves. We hammered, sawed, and constructed with the best of them. At the time it was such a pain to go outside - too hot, too much work, all the other kids got to stay inside, why not us? - but most of my memories of those summers is of working with my dad, and working so hard to earn his respect.

At my job I do a lot of strange things. The other day I was helping someone construct a ballast-water sampler, bolting a fiber-glass bathtub to some weird wooden frame, and putting big bolts through tiny holes. I thanked my dad in my head for all the times he summoned me outside to watch him work. I also now find it hysterically awful if people won't "lower themselves to constructing something by hand. Pff.

During my rebellious teen years my Dad was amazingly supportive. I was the angsty teenager, he was the silent giant. My dad was a rock; he made time to talk to me when I couldn't articulate my feelings, he talked with me until the right words came. My dad was there.

Dear dads: drag your children outside. Yank the cords on the television while they still have some imagination left. Drag them to the kitchen and show them how to cook. Listen when they cry, especially girls. Girls look up to their fathers. You don't have to talk much, just enough to show them you mean business. Take your kids outside into the sunshine and show them how to work with their hands; how to create and grow and build higher. Anything is better than nothing. They may roll their eyes now, but in five or ten years they will thank you. Really.

Thanks, Dad.

Happy Father's Day.

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