Things My Father Taught Me

by Lara on October 21, 2011

My dad turns 60 next week.  I sent a card but didn’t quite know what to do for a gift, after suggesting several vacation destinations that are, admittedly, merely places I selfishly want to visit.

My dad hasn’t always been the dad I have often wished him to be.  Father of the Bride he was not. “Daddy’s little girl” isn’t how anyone would describe us, mainly because my dad is a man of few words and controlled emotion.  Friends have compared him to a fortune cookie, however, because when he does speak, it is usually something infinitely wise and philosophical.  I sometimes struggle to apply what he says to the context of any given situation, and many of his lessons have taken years for me to decipher.

I figure the best gift I can give my dad (besides a vacation to Bora Bora…hint hint), would be to let him know that his wisdom has been shared, that some of it has “stuck” to the mind of his sometimes slow, often challenging, always questioning daughter.

  1. Don’t be afraid of the deep end.  I was a fearful child.  Even after learning to swim, I was convinced I had to stay in the shallow end, so I could find my feet if ever I needed.  Dad told me, “If you know how to swim in the shallow end, you know how to swim in the deep end.”  I’ve applied this lesson outside of the pool: if I know something, I know it–regardless of what might be intimidating circumstances.
  2. Time is your only obstacle.  As I get older, I understand what he means: time is the most coveted of life’s gifts, because we have no control over its passing.  My abilities or my inabilities cannot hold me back from something I want to accomplish, if only I use the time I am given.
  3. Don’t assume anyone is smarter than you.  I think my dad still harbors dreams of me being famous, because he thinks this is what I want. “Those people aren’t smarter than you, Lara, they just went for it, and you haven’t.”  I still don’t think I have fully grasped this one.  I have a tendency to play down my own capabilities, but I “hear” him say this to me all the time.
  4. You must “learn to fish”.  You know the old saying about teaching a man to fish?  To my dad, this isn’t an optional thing.  The man has never bailed me out of anything (including overdue sorority fees, or worse, weeks in college when I had $20 on which to feed myself).  At the time I believed these were acts of great cruelty, but in reflection, I know they were acts of great love.  It must have been the hardest thing in the world for him to say no, but he firmly believed that I must learn to fish.
  5. Yes, you can.  “I can’t drive a stick shift.” “Yes, you can.”  “I can’t pass statistics.” “Yes, you can.” “I can’t find a job.” “Yes, you can.”  Maybe it’s been possible for my dad to let me learn to fish because he believes in me so much.  He has been my silent cheerleader: quietly sitting on the sidelines, but never, ever missing a game.

Most of all, my dad has taught me that people don’t always love you the way you think you want them to, but if you’re lucky, as I have been, they love you the best way they know how…which is likely better.  Like you, like me, my dad is imperfect, but decidedly irreplaceable.

Happy 60th Birthday, Dad.  I love you.

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Jocelyn @ Enthusiastic Runner October 21, 2011 at 12:51 pm

Great post! I love this…its amazing how much we learn from our parents.


Cindy October 21, 2011 at 1:23 pm

What a thoughtful post! I used to be in the same boat with number 3 – of course this person knows xyz and I don’t so I should just not say/do xya, then I realized that (1) even if they thought they knew that didn’t make them necessarily right; (2) sometimes/often times if someone does know more than you, they will usually want to tell you about it because everyone loves talking about how smart they are and then you can learn just be listening to them!; and (3) sometimes it just doesn’t matter, sometimes it’s fun not to be the person that thinks they know everything!


Lara October 21, 2011 at 4:45 pm

Very good points! I especially like your second point…we’re all here to learn from each other, right?


Roz@weightingfor50 October 21, 2011 at 4:06 pm

Hi Lara, what a lovely tribute to your Dad. Happy Birthday Lara’s Dad! Wishing you both many happy years of wisdom and joy ahead.


Lara October 21, 2011 at 4:46 pm

Thank you, Roz!


anneliesz October 21, 2011 at 5:50 pm

These are great life lessons he’s given you. He sounds like quite a deep water fish. (one of my aunt’s adages for her son who is quiet and profound when he speaks).


Andrea@WellnessNotes October 21, 2011 at 7:32 pm

What a wonderful post! I think children telling you that they did listen and “got the message” is the greatest gift you can get as a parent! It’s also nice to see when they “get you” a little bit more as they are getting older…

Happy Birthday, Lara’s Dad!


Lara October 22, 2011 at 7:18 pm

Thanks Andrea! 🙂


Susan October 22, 2011 at 4:39 am

Happy birthday to your dad!

I think when we become adults we start to realize how our parents have impacted our lives in ways we weren’t able to understand or appreciate in the early years. I know I have. Even the things that are difficult about our parents end up teaching us a lot. You brought up some great lessons your dad has taught you! I feel like I’ve learned some lessons reading your post today, though I can’t say I’ll pick up fishing any time soon ; )


glidingcalm October 22, 2011 at 11:43 am

what a cool dude!! Happy Birthday to your Dad!! He seems amazing.

p.s. tan towels are DOPE.


Eden October 22, 2011 at 3:17 pm

Aw, I loved reading this!
I’m such a daddys girl. But I think it has a lot to do with my mom’s death when I was 13. Its a hard age to lose a mom, but my dad did a great job trying to be both mom/dad.
This is why its been really difficult for me this past year with my dad’s terminal brain cancer. I know my days with him are numbered. But he’s taught me so much through all this. He taught me how fear is the number one thing to hold me back, that I should never strive to work for other people (ie, start my own business, be my own boss), and that life is too short to waste on counting calories!
Anyhow, I feel like your dad taught me some lessons through this post too!


Lara October 22, 2011 at 7:22 pm

Thanks, Eden! You are lucky to be a daddy’s girl, although I realize it has come at great expense. It sounds like he is a wonderful man <3


Pamela Fong October 23, 2011 at 9:47 am

Lara, this is one of the nicest gift I have ever read to a parent. Happy Birthday Richard…Love you both….AP


Lara October 23, 2011 at 11:58 am

Thank you, AP! <3


Lindsey Pitts October 23, 2011 at 10:44 am

This made me cry….and I remember being 7 years old, hearing some of these things, and your reaction to them then- and now 🙂 Happy Birthday Richard!!


Lara October 23, 2011 at 11:58 am

Thanks Linds…I’ll pass along the birthday wishes!


Deb (SmoothieGirlEatsToo) October 26, 2011 at 2:47 pm

That is such a wonderful tribute to your Dad and I’m sure that he treasures it.

Yes, it may have seemed cruel at the time, but him ‘not bailing you out’ was the best thing he could have done for you. My Dad gave me the gift of not telling me (until years later) that he thought I was making a mistake by taking a year off between college and dental school. If he had done that, I would have felt the need to justify my every move and prove that it wasn’t a mistake. Instead, I got to regroup and recharge and get back to school fresh and ready. I’m glad that your Dad is so wise too 🙂


Danielle October 28, 2011 at 7:36 pm

It’s unfortunate that I didn’t read this until now, but I’m glad I did eventually. First, happy belated birthday to your dad. Second, I understand what you mean about not being loved the way you thought you should have been. My dad is quiet too and grew up, not only in a different time, but a different country. When I became aware of some of the relationships that some of my friends had with their fathers, I must admit that I was jealous of them and a bit disappointed in him. Now I know better. I know how lucky I was, and am. I’m glad you’ve discovered the same :).


Rene November 7, 2011 at 7:36 pm

Lovely post. 🙂


glidingcalm October 23, 2013 at 12:58 pm

happy birthday to your DAD! LOVE THE PICTURES TOO!


Floey October 23, 2013 at 1:02 pm

Love this post. It actually reminds me a lot of my relationship with my dad, especially, “a man of few words and controlled emotion.” You hit the bulls eye with that one.


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