Let me be the first to point out that I'm no parenting expert, psychologist or self-help guru. In fact, I'm not an expert on anything in particular. I'm just a regular guy who loves muscle cars and vintage motorcycles, and my loving wife and kids. Like most of you younger dads out there, I'm just trying to navigate through life while raising two daughters in this crazy world of ours. This bi-weekly column is simply a collection of my observational commentaries on balancing family life, hobbies, friends, health, and how my daughters somehow influence them all... Like Father, Like Daughters
Growing up the only boy in a family with two sisters, I quickly learned to navigate the unique peculiarities common to the fairer sex and somehow I survived the confusing period of my adolescent years.
Luckily for me, my dad was a great role model who, among other things, helped me understand that one of the secrets to getting far in this world isn't "figuring out" women, but rather knowing how to treat them.
Fast forward 20 years or so and I find myself in my dad's position; surrounded by kids and a wife. I'm definitely thankful that I had a great role model to impart unto me some priceless lessons about being a father (of daughters) which I'll impart on to you. Needless to say, if I had sons, these points would be on the top of my list of lessons to teach them as they ventured into manhood.
Consider these thoughts for a moment.
1 - Son, no matter what you think you'll do for a living, you'll end up a professional waiter. Funny as that may sound, somehow he was right. Never mind the fact that I have a great day job (not at a restaurant), but the moment I get home I become a professional waiter. I wait to use the washroom in the morning and I wait to use the washroom at night; I wait for piano lessons to be done; I wait for soccer to be finished; I wait at the dentist; I wait at the mall; I wait in the car; I wait and I wait and I wait. Over the years, I have painfully learned the importance of being patient and I believe that it has taught my daughters to be patient and tolerant with others. Patience, I believe, begets compassion and isn't that what seems to be missing in this world?
2 - Son, it doesn't matter how factually correct you are, if they don't "feel" that you are right, you'll still be wrong. If you have all the facts lined up, how can you be wrong? Apparently very easily. Try debating a factual point with an emotional nine-year-old girl and an irritated wife. You will lose no matter how right you are. My father taught me that trying to impose a point of view, based on calculated facts, to my sisters, my mother, my wife or my daughters will only win me a cold shoulder and the silent treatment. By the same token, my father also taught me that no matter how factually wrong you are, if they "feel" that you are right, you can't lose! Now, I can't explain the psychology behind that... but somehow it works!
3 - Son, I don't care about the result. I only care about your effort. In our results-driven world, it's very easy to forget about the intrinsic value of "effort," especially since it's the effort that inevitability begets the result. My dad always hammered into me the idea that results without effort are valueless since such results don't usually last. He believed that the real value of any outcome is sustained by the effort that was put into it. I've adopted the same principles in both my professional and personal life with a surprising degree of success. With my daughters, I promote that idea in all their endeavors from school to sports to music. I tell them often that I don't particularly care about the "achievement" column on their report card, I only care about the grade in the "effort" column. Surprisingly, in addition to a consistently high grades, I've found that they've gained some extra characteristics along the way: perseverance and fortitude.
4 - Son, take a position on something and make a stand. If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything. "Be a man, take a stand and defend your ideals!" was a common piece of advice that my dad used to tell me when I couldn't make up my mind on any given topic. This coming from a man who stood up and challenged the school board trustees over inappropriate books taught in my sisters English curriculum. This also from a man who helped start two private schools simply because he didn't agree with the public school system. "To be a father is to be a leader and a servant at the same time" he used to tell me. "Your daughters want you to be their hero, their protector and their guide in this crazy world, even if they don't act like they do."
"'If you don't," he'd warn me, "they will find someone else who will, and then your problems will begin."
Take a stand or be strung along by pop culture and pop psychologists.
5 - Son, if you have a happy wife, you'll have a happy life. Therein lies what seems to be my dad's secret to 40-plus years of happily married life. It sounds like a silly bumper sticker, but it really makes sense. If you have a spouse who is unhappy and miserable for whatever reason, it would certainly make your life just as unbearable. Therefore it behooves me to really put an effort in and try to make my wife happy. A happy union between spouses reinforces the feeling of security and helps the kids develop a confident personality.
Now I'm sure that there are many arguments that could be debated by experts regarding the value and outcomes of these lessons. However over the years, I found these lessons to be as invaluable as they are simple. And while I didn't quite understand them growing up, I can see now the wisdom behind my dad's principles and how his lessons shaped me as a person and how they will continue to form and shape my two daughters as they grow into adulthood.