What does it take to be a dad?
June 18, 2006 7:45 AM   Subscribe

What is the most important thing your father ever taught you, either explicitly or through example?

Just ruminating on beind a dad, and how to be a better one.

followup question: is there anything you learned from your father that is uniquely "father-ish" or are the lessons we learn from our parents largely independent of their gender? I'm not trolling or trying to whip up a cynicism-fueled storm of responses, or generate Paul Harvey moments, just curious about what people think about this .
posted by craniac to Human Relations (98 answers total) 96 users marked this as a favorite
Three sheets, wipe, fold, and wipe again.

You can't properly tuck in your pants without unbuckeling your belt and opening them.

Don't add more water to cement that is already setting up.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:51 AM on June 18, 2006 [1 favorite]

If anyone ever refers to you as a "bad drunk" stop drinking immediately and never have another.
posted by dobbs at 7:57 AM on June 18, 2006 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Follow your dreams.

(I saw what happened to him as a result of not following his).
posted by unSane at 8:02 AM on June 18, 2006

I'm fairly cynical about my father in a lot of ways, but hopefully these responses are in fact helpful despite that:

My father taught me (implicitly) that diet and exercise aren't enough to keep you from succumbing to stroke and heart attack if your job is killing you. When my work-related stress had been at that point for about five years, I left it.

My father taught me (implicitly) that authority comes from the use of fear, popularity, or knowledge. I picked knowledge.

My father taught me (implicitly) that just a very small handful of really special and unusual parent-child interactions -- "hey, let's go across town for no reason whatsoever and eat a hot dog" kind of stuff -- can form the basis for some significant childhood memories. I made my kids dinner entirely out of desserts once, as a result of this.

My father taught me (explicitly) that if you're going to go to the trouble of doing something, finish it.
posted by majick at 8:07 AM on June 18, 2006 [8 favorites]

By example, he taught me to chill out and have a high annoyance threshold. I remember this lesson hitting me one day as we were in some driving situation or other that would incite road rage in most people.
posted by kmel at 8:10 AM on June 18, 2006

If you make a mistake, don't dwell on it - there's nothing that can be done to undo it, so learn from it and (hopefully)
what you've learned will keep it from happening again.

I love this. It has helped me throught my entire life, and is possibly the single most important thing that I know. Thanks Dad!
posted by horsemuth at 8:12 AM on June 18, 2006

Here are a few things he taught me that I remember vividly:

--- Never try to change a tire on the shoulder of a highway.

--- Be very careful with guns.

--- Insurance sales is for losers.

--- It's worth it to pay more for good workmanship.

--- Being a self-employed professional is "the way to go."

To your followup question, what was different about my mother and father's parenting was that my father constantly lectured us---he enjoyed expounding upon his conclusions about life---while my mother never lectured. My mom was more into providing us with enjoyable and educational experiences (museums, movies, festivals, art galleries). I found my father's lectures irritating as a kid, but now that I am an adult and he doesn't lecture me anymore, I think back on his lectures kind of fondly.
posted by jayder at 8:23 AM on June 18, 2006

His entire life, my father worked too hard. Long hours at the office, years of study, saving, and serious work, and today he has, I think, about all he could ask for materially. He was literally dirt poor growing up, but he managed to acheive his version of The Dream through sheer determination.

He taught me that there is always room to work a little harder, to make the extra effort, and be a little more prepared --- that as long as there's anything else you can do, it's still in your court. Every time I'm frustrated and want to give up on something, I'm compelled to admit to myself that I haven't actually tried everything yet. I think I owe my father for that.

Just as importantly, he also taught me that in the end, money, a huge house, and a successful and prestigious career do not equal happiness. He taught me the danger of working too hard, and forgetting to think about what --- and who --- you're working for.

/sad musings
(Great question, though.)
posted by diocletian at 8:23 AM on June 18, 2006 [3 favorites]

Never get married before you're thirty.
posted by borkingchikapa at 8:28 AM on June 18, 2006

My father's mantra was "life is too short" ....to not do X, to worry about Y, to pass on opportunity Z.

He was an amazingly accomplished man who worked hard but always, always enjoyed himself. His attitude towards life was his greatest lesson to me.
I still miss him every day.
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:31 AM on June 18, 2006

Dad's only real explicit lesson to me, endlessly repeated, was "Accept responsibility for the consequences of your own actions." That is a good lesson, I think.

He also taught me how to shoot, how to garden, how to work on cars, how to fix anything around the house; and, by example over many years, the value of unconditional love.

When I went off to college he advised me, "Don't knock anybody up." That's good advice too.
posted by ikkyu2 at 8:31 AM on June 18, 2006 [1 favorite]

Always do the right thing (cf. Spike Lee).

Living by the maxim "go along to get along" will eat you up inside.

Always make time for the ones you love.

Don't let the bastards grind you down.

(That last one is the one I rely on the most.)
posted by GrammarMoses at 8:31 AM on June 18, 2006 [1 favorite]

My dad showed me how to be active in the local community (i.e. how to be a letter-writer, someone who causes trouble with the right people and gets things fixed), how to plant trees and vegetables, how to spontaneously experiment with cooking (on a budget, even), how to manage and invest a meager income and come out ahead, how to carry oneself in public, how to how to deal with stupid people (and how not to deal with family members).

Some of those are implicit, some explicit. There are probably other things.

He also taught me just how much people fear a loud voice and well-muscled arms. Sometimes, in an effete, elite educational environment or in the newsroom, knowledge of physical and mental intimidation tactics comes in handy, because most people there come from backgrounds where such intimidation was virtually unknown.
posted by limeonaire at 8:33 AM on June 18, 2006

My father taught me that you can't trust a man, ever, that if you think you made a mistake, running is better than owning up and taking responsibility for your actions.

Thankfully, my maternal uncles and my husband dispelled those bitter lessons.
posted by cajo at 8:34 AM on June 18, 2006

I guess I also learned a lot about art, theatre and high culture from my dad, too. (And from the catalogs my dad ordered for the house.) He went out of his way to provide us with those experiences growing up, I think, so we'd know other things besides the mundane experiences of our Midwestern suburb.

And along those lines, I also learned from him at an early age that teachers and school officials are regularly out of bounds, often wrong, and rather indoctrinated in a number of ways—and that a well-placed letter or phone call can get them in trouble. Not that they aren't trying, but that they can cause a lot of harm to a creative kid.
posted by limeonaire at 8:37 AM on June 18, 2006

Life is long enough for many careers; you will find many ways to fulfill your dreams.

Asking for help doesn't show weakness; it shows trust.

Laugh at yourself. We are all ridiculous.

Men like a woman with a tummy. It's sexy. (YMMV; my father believed this to be universally true.)

You fight the most with the people most like yourself.

Now matter how hot the weather, how late the dinner, or how cranky the kids, you should always make time to sneak up behind your wife/husband/partner at the stove and smooch the back of her/his neck.

Always carry a pen.

The four food groups are caffeine, nicotine, salt, and grease.


I miss him.
posted by Elsa at 8:38 AM on June 18, 2006 [4 favorites]

Don't be a rat.
posted by TonyRobots at 8:39 AM on June 18, 2006

a long time ago my father declined an offer from the phillies to go to college and become an educator ... his first job as a teacher paid less than his job selling paint at sears ... years later, the school district wanted to promote him to supervisor of the vo-ed school but he turned it down because it would mean less time with his family

we were the envy of a lot of people because our homes were bigger and more expensive looking than others in the neighborhood ... what they didn't realize that it wasn't because we were richer, but because we did a lot of the subcontract work ourselves instead of paying someone to do it

instead of going to the furniture store and buying stuff at full price, he scrounged around at thrift shops and found stuff that once fixed up would look much better

he encouraged us to find our own direction in life, even when it puzzled and sometimes distressed him ... he had long conversations with all of us and knew what was going on with us

to him, helping other people and raising his family were the most important things in life ... having a fast track career, expensive toys and a new car every couple of years wasn't even a consideration

i learned a lot from him
posted by pyramid termite at 8:40 AM on June 18, 2006 [2 favorites]

Paradoxically, I was also taught the not-always-true principle that the good of the collective outweighs the good of the individual.

However, he is not now and never has been a member of the Communist Party. :-)
posted by GrammarMoses at 8:40 AM on June 18, 2006

Through his constant faith in me and his willingness to step back and let me make my own decisions he gave me self-respect and through his example gave me the integrity to take responsibility for my own actions.

He taught me, implicitly, how to recognize a good man and by doing so set the standard for the men I would have in my own life.

He gave me and my siblings a bizarre and absurdist sense of humor that has buoyed me up in many of life's troubles.

There is so much else, but those are some highlights. One thing he told me, explicitly, while I was bemoaning how to handle an interpersonal problem at work, was that "Tact is being able to tell someone to go to hell and have them ask for directions." He was very tactful, and very worthy of respect. I am grateful for him everyday!
posted by nelleish at 8:42 AM on June 18, 2006 [1 favorite]

My parents taught me by bad example that reading up on a major purchase is smarter than just listening to the salesman's advice.

I learned the hard way (by being a dad, not from my own, but it was a pretty major insight since my dad was hardly ever around) that mom might've signed all the cards, might've actually done the shopping for presents, and my brother and I probably thanked just her most of the time for them, but dad was busting his ass to pay for them.
posted by kimota at 8:57 AM on June 18, 2006

Show up.
posted by patr1ck at 9:00 AM on June 18, 2006 [1 favorite]

My dad taught me that it is worth investing in good tools, and in general that good quality is usually worth the extra money. He also taught me to love reading and talking about ideas. More recently, he has shown me that life can get better as you get older - there is always something new to learn.
posted by teleskiving at 9:01 AM on June 18, 2006

I learned from my dad that lecturing is completely and absolutely worthless as a way of raising children, if you don't also get down in the dirt and experience their lives with them, and try to understand the world from their point of view.

In other words, once the child is old enough to reason, respect for you as a father must be earned, and is no longer automatic. And that this is a normal part of growing up, and doesn't mean your child is a delinquent.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 9:07 AM on June 18, 2006 [2 favorites]

I learned a lot from my father. Most of it I'm still learning today after he's been out of my life for more than 12 years. I'm 25. If I had any advice for fathers, it would be to constantly tell your kids know that you love them, and to never, ever tell a child that they 1) aren't yours 2) are your only child out of the four that call you daddy 3) make your life miserable 4) are stupid or 5) don't make you proud.

As an adult with a rounder view of adult type stresses, and alcoholism, I can understand a lot of his mistakes. This insight doesn't fix them.
posted by bilabial at 9:08 AM on June 18, 2006

That art is worth travelling halfway around the world to see, because nothing demonstrates the beauty of humanity like travel and art. And that is what's important in this short life.
posted by meerkatty at 9:12 AM on June 18, 2006

Catching fish is not about having expensive gear, or knowing some secret spot, or luck, it is mostly about putting in the time and staying at it. This is a lesson with a lot of applications beyond fishing.

Don't work a job you hate. My dad was a car mechanic who desperately hated working on cars. When a 6-year-old me would wander out to the garage to see what he was dong, he would run me off. "You are NOT going to be a car mechanic," he would growl, "Go inside and read a book." Today I am at the mercy of car mechanics, but I love my job as a college professor.
posted by LarryC at 9:13 AM on June 18, 2006 [1 favorite]

By example:
Don't go into the military, or if you do, don't go serve in VietNam, or if you do, don't sign up and go there again once you're discharged, or if you do, don't tell your children about necklaces made of human ears.
Don't get dishonorably discharged, since it makes it hard to find and keep a good job.
Don't do the kinds of things that result in a dishonorable discharge, since those things make finding and keeping a good job hard in the first place.
Don't drink.
Don't use drugs, including but not limited to cocaine, acid, and marijuana.
Don't beat your wife.
Don't beat your children.
Don't molest little girls.
Don't pack your children off to a fundamentalist church and expect them to take care of all the things that you as a parent are not.
If you've failed to heed all the above, don't then try to talk to your children about religion.

The positives eventually learned from all that:
Be kind. Be respectful.
posted by Tuwa at 9:14 AM on June 18, 2006

1. If you're going to do something stupid, don't get caught. But try not to do anything stupid.

2. Don't tie your shoelaces in your neighbour's melon patch (an extension of 1).

3. Cowboy films are awesome.
posted by ganseki at 9:19 AM on June 18, 2006

that women have always been the most powerful sex, even without "women's lib."

that you don't have to be an academic to be intellectual--never stop learning.

that you should always have a pet. If for some reason you can't, either spoil someone else's pet or the nearby wild animals.

that children have rights--kids are not property.

to do what's right, even if it's a pain in the ass. Anything else makes you a politician.
posted by whatnot at 9:27 AM on June 18, 2006

Don't have children.
posted by notyou at 9:32 AM on June 18, 2006

This is exactly what my father taught me:

Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I'd wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he'd call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love's austere and lonely offices?

"Those Winter Sundays" Robert Hayden
posted by ND¢ at 9:32 AM on June 18, 2006 [4 favorites]

My father taught me a love of and respect for grammar, and for clear concise writing (which is a bit odd because he works with spreadsheets all day). I remember discussing the horrors of memos written in passive voice with him way before I had learned what that was in school, and that interest actually helped me land one of my first real jobs (as an editor).

He also told me over and over again never to argue about something that you can look up. He gave me a love of research, of finding the right answer, of curiosity for curiosity's sake.

I learned, counter to his example, that assuming you know what's best for everyone around you, and not listening when they tell you otherwise, isn't noble; and it's made me wary of the "strong silent man" idea. Talk to the people you're trying to be strong for, dammit!

I learned that the "strong silent man" does get an amazing number of things done, but that the cost to one's health and relationships are absurdly, heartbreakingly high. I'm also starting to see that being one tough sonofabitch can almost pull you through those same difficulties.

I learned, from his example, that it's possible to fix important relationships that seemed unfixable, and to change paths for the better.

For your follow-up: I feel like my parents fell into fairly stereotypical gender roles when raising us, in that my father taught me structure and intellectual strength and my mother taught me to respect my emotions. The typical "dadness" my father displays tends to be, as someone mentioned above, delivered in the form of lectures or intellectual debates rather than heart-to-hearts. Which gave me a strong sense of my intellectual worth, but now, especially since my mom's gone, makes it hard sometimes to connect with him and just talk about our lives (to the point where he's explicitly said, "I don't want to hear about it," mostly jokingly, when I've had emotional quandries). I wish he could have connected with us more on a human level, rather than just as the moral-examplar "Dad" construct.
posted by occhiblu at 9:50 AM on June 18, 2006

Things my Dad has taught me:

- Chess.
- Genetics.
- C64 Basic.
- Hayes Modem Initialization strings
- The first stop in any newly purchased car should be a bookstore to pick up the Haynes manual for it.
- Any retail product made of wood can be handmade for less

Things I have taught my Dad:

- Don't lend your grown children your nice tools - you will never get them back.
posted by datacenter refugee at 10:00 AM on June 18, 2006 [1 favorite]

you don't need religion to be a good person.
posted by nitsuj at 10:08 AM on June 18, 2006

Three sheets, wipe, fold, and wipe again.

Whoa, some people wipe twice with the same paper? Toilet habits are a whole world of their own :)
posted by wackybrit at 10:13 AM on June 18, 2006

By bad example.

-Pay your bills in full and on time.
-Don't live beyond your means. (I'm not very good at this one.)
-Living with your parents past the age of 25 is inexcusable.
-Don't cheat on your spouse, especially not with strippers.
-Men never clean the bathroom, so get used to doing it yourself.
-Have the grace not to be pissed when, upon following the above advice, your 23-year old daughter makes more money than you do.

Fortunately, my husband is the exact opposite of my father. Except for the bathroom thing.
posted by timetoevolve at 10:24 AM on June 18, 2006

Dad taught me a lot of things, but by far the most important thing was to think for myself. When I was a kid, he wouldn't tell us who he voted for or what he personally thought about religion (or anything along those lines) specifically because he thought we should evaluate these things ourselves first and come to our own conclusions. This used to annoy me to no end, but after I'd grown up and moved out of the house I really came to appreciate it. He and I will talk about politics and religion now, and as it turns out I ended up developing a similar worldview even without knowing exactly what he thought about things.
posted by Aster at 10:36 AM on June 18, 2006 [1 favorite]

One of the things my dad taught me when I was young is that if there's ever a situation in which violence is a possibility, the first choice should always be to avoid it. There's no shame in running away from a fight. I should be ready and willing to stand up for myself, but only in self-defense and never aggression.
posted by ludwig_van at 10:45 AM on June 18, 2006

Fight at the slightest provocation.
posted by ed\26h at 10:53 AM on June 18, 2006

Treat everyone with respect until they demonstrate they don't deserve respect.
posted by buggzzee23 at 10:58 AM on June 18, 2006

Response by poster:
Things I learned from my father:

1. You can check out the haynes manual from the library and probably fix it yourself

2. Good hobbies will keep you sane

3. If you nurture a disrespect for authority and passively aggressively manifest it at work, you'll have lots of different jobs.

4. If you ignore your kids, one day they'll ignore you.

5. If you let your health go it will affect every single part of your life.

Things I am teaching my kids:

1. fussing around on the internet is the *most important thing ever*
posted by craniac at 11:00 AM on June 18, 2006

I learned a ton of great life lessons via bad example by my dad. These are all things he didn't do very well:

- it's ok to relax a bit around the house but don't be a freaking slob. When crap piles up take a few hours to clean every couple weeks

- be careful with real estate and take a big picture view when purchasing real estate. Also, discuss new home purchases with the whole family first.

- do research when buying cars and discuss it with your wife instead of just buying on impulse when you feel like it.

- wear pants when there are other people in the house. And no, an open robe doesn't count as clothing.

- learn from your mistakes instead of dwelling on mistakes for years and years talking openly about your extreme regret over a bad decision only to follow it up with more bad decisions of the same type. Instead, acknowledge the mistake, take the lesson from it to heart, and move on.

- exercise and a healthy diet prevents strokes and heart attacks

- don't yell at your wife or kids. NEVER tell your kids they are a disappointment.

- don't complain to your children that they are unappreciative for the things you provide over their entire lives then get caught shit-talking the first gift your son can afford to give you with his own money.
posted by mathowie at 11:07 AM on June 18, 2006 [1 favorite]

The most important thing I've learned from my dad is that someone doesn't have to have the same political/religious beliefs as you to be a good person.
posted by greycap at 11:16 AM on June 18, 2006 [1 favorite]

It's better to beg forgiveness then ask permission.
posted by Jezztek at 11:17 AM on June 18, 2006

"Whatever you do, don't join the military."

(My dad was a marine.)
posted by hydrophonic at 11:19 AM on June 18, 2006

If you can't turn around and effectively argue the other side's position, either you don't understand the argument or it's not worth arguing about.
posted by ottereroticist at 11:29 AM on June 18, 2006 [2 favorites]

Sometimes, it's just about a whale.

We've had an ongoing argument for at least 10 years now. He's convinced Moby Dick is about a dude hunting a whale. I'm convinced there's other symbolism going on. But there's something to be said about simplicity in art, and it seems when I keep that in mind I create better things. Even if he still doesn't "get" most of what I do.

Also, no matter how funny it is to your adult self, The Blob and other old B-movies are NOT funny to a three year-old, and will traumatize her for life.
posted by ruby.aftermath at 11:43 AM on June 18, 2006

- pay yourself first (by example and words)
- how to stand up for yourself, and argue, and to be appropriately seen and heard
- smile and say good morning or have a nice night to people you encounter
- throw strikes
- all you have to do is go to church on sunday, pay taxes, and die. the rest is up to you.
posted by dpx.mfx at 11:46 AM on June 18, 2006

I learned that I wished I had a better father, the kind that was good enough that if someone asked, "what did your father teach you," I could actually have an answer.

So I guess I did learn something -- I learned that I must be a good father to my two young sons.
posted by frogan at 12:08 PM on June 18, 2006

My father taught me that the one thing that can never be taken away from a person is one's integrity. You can lose your job, your house, your family, but you can always tell the truth. That's been an important lesson for me.
posted by Slothrop at 12:08 PM on June 18, 2006

Be curious, and always keep learning.

Appreciate quality.

Family comes first.

(This thread makes me want to go give my Dad a big hug!)
posted by everybody polka at 12:18 PM on June 18, 2006

Things my Daddy taught me:
  • If I am friendly, courteous, kind, and generous, most people will respond in kind.
  • Books open exciting new worlds and ideas. I will never be poor if I read.
  • I am a valuable and lovable person and such a bright, imaginative girl! I can accomplish anything I if I put my mind to it!
  • I should always remember the kids who aren't as lucky as I am, and I should help them out if I can.
  • French fries stolen from Daddy's plate taste better than any other french fries in the world.
  • I should love the important people in my life very much and let them know it often because someday they may not be there to hug.

posted by madamjujujive at 12:23 PM on June 18, 2006 [2 favorites]

- The importance of hiking and appreciating solitude.
- There's never a reason to lose your temper.
- Absent-mindedness can cost lives. Be attentive.
posted by RGD at 12:36 PM on June 18, 2006

I learned that money isn't the key to happiness, but that a good Sunday drive in the station wagon with 4 kids, and acquiring ice cream cones or even just cold Coca-colas at some point, can come really close. Especially if you stop at a place with a sign reading "Char-grilled bugers -- 50 cents" [sic]...

Thanks, Dad, for all the wonderful road trips.

(Dad's old joke: "If I take in a kleenex, will they give me a discount?")
posted by mdiskin at 12:37 PM on June 18, 2006

Worrying doesn't fix anything.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 12:38 PM on June 18, 2006

Sacrifice all for your family.

I only wish I could be the man my dad was.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 12:39 PM on June 18, 2006 [1 favorite]

My dad taught me how to die, and that maybe it's not that scary.

When he first went into the hospital, he was in a ward with four or five other men. I went to visit him, and one of the men had died earlier that day. I was freaked out, but the guy had died peacefully and my dad was comforted and didn't seem scared at all. He was almost excited telling me about it.

Later, they called me and told me he wouldn't last the night, so I rushed to the hospital. "Well, we're hoping for a miracle!" He told a joke with his last words. He went into a coma and died two days later, mostly out of stubbornness. He went out on his own schedule.

He was so brave and so strong.
posted by kirkaracha at 1:02 PM on June 18, 2006 [1 favorite]

My dad taught me how to be a kid, how to have fun, and how to be young-at-heart.

My dad taught me that people's differences should be celebrated, because that's what makes each person special. That even though you might have a disability, your little girl can still think of you as Superman. That your brain is the most powerful tool you control, but it isn't really that great if you don't balance it with your heart. That some people just take time to accept change, and that's okay. That you can't start looking for answers until you can formulate the questions.

Oh, and you're not really sick unless you throw up.
posted by sarahnade at 1:09 PM on June 18, 2006

My dad took me to the local library every Saturday and we got books.
posted by forallmankind at 1:28 PM on June 18, 2006

My father taught me that women are second class citizens, pretty much good only for cooking and sex. He taught my brothers other stuff. In such a (mostly) beautiful thread about how good fathers can be, it's still important to remember that your (or my) spur of the moment tempers can affect someone for life.
posted by b33j at 1:35 PM on June 18, 2006 [1 favorite]

Be honest.
There is nothing wrong with working retail or at a fast food place. A day's work is a day's work.
How to cook wonderful Chinese food and also how to fix stuff around the house.
That a husband should worship the ground his wife walks on.
Dogs and cats are wonderful companions.
How to bargain and get almost anything cheaper.
I have a great dad! :)
posted by FergieBelle at 1:35 PM on June 18, 2006

My Dad was very strong and quiet. He taught me that gentleness is true strength.

That we attract the right people to us - be kind, and you will know kind people.

That all you need is the Golden Rule.

That family comes first.

That the best use for being clever is being true and loyal and working to find the best solutions to things.

That reason and persistence work better than being heavy-handed.

That I could do anything, even if I was "just a girl".

How to grow anything... from an orchid to an orchard.

That if I saved, I would be able to have the things I needed.

I have values that would be more at home more than a century ago. I wouldn't change that. I miss my Dad every single day.
posted by vers at 1:35 PM on June 18, 2006

My father died when I was young:

By his absence, I learned

Ask all of the questions you'll ever want to ask now, while there is still time.
posted by clarkstonian at 1:36 PM on June 18, 2006 [1 favorite]

A real man doesn't need to demonstrate his seriousness by acting out and is always honest and unselfish. He is not afraid to be sentimental and he is not afraid to change his mind if learns more.

The only measure of manhood is how well you can live with yourself and it is no account what anyone else says.

I am not yet as good a man as my dad. He has a fundamental integrity.
posted by sonofsamiam at 2:17 PM on June 18, 2006

There is no longer any reason to get married other than attorney's fees and tradition. The fees far outstrip the value of the tradition.
posted by 517 at 2:20 PM on June 18, 2006

I cannot afford a bargain.

The want does not give me the right.

Lefty loosey, righty tighty.

Food to your fork.

If you open it, close it.

If you borrow it, return it.

If you break it, fix it or replace it.

If you use it, put it back.

Lombardi time! (10 minutes early is right on time.)

What I had, I gave. What I kept is lost forever. Give 100%.

Be quick, but don't hurry.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 3:04 PM on June 18, 2006 [1 favorite]

5 minutes ago, my dad taught me the following:
No matter how fucked up our relationship has been, hearing my Daddy say he's proud of the man I became is enough to make me cry.
posted by Optamystic at 3:16 PM on June 18, 2006 [1 favorite]

Lombardi time! (10 minutes early is right on time.)

Wow. I have been searching far and wide for an elegant way to express this concept to others. Thank your Dad for me!
posted by frogan at 3:18 PM on June 18, 2006

My Dad taught me:

Religion is for rubes, think for yourself.
Play is good, be interesting, do interesting.
posted by Meatbomb at 4:39 PM on June 18, 2006

You don't have to follow any religion. But you have to respect every single one.
posted by ruwan at 4:52 PM on June 18, 2006

Many terrific contributions here! (Some of) my dad's lessons, all taught by example:

A gentle man is no less a man.
There's no honor in taking the easy route.
Find someone — anyone — and share what's on your mind.
Choose your words carefully. If your words will add nothing, shut the hell up.
posted by rob511 at 4:57 PM on June 18, 2006

Stand up straight and look people in the eye.
posted by MsMolly at 6:06 PM on June 18, 2006

What a great thread. My Dad taught me to:

1. look ahead. see what needs doing and do it.
2. take care of things you own
3. keep things where they belong (like tools)
4. keep learning
5. how to carve roast beef and grill chicken
6. that being a pack rat is not good. (ironically, he is, I'm not)
7. have good table manners
8. be polite and nice to people
9. be considerate of people
10. appreciate fried chicken livers
posted by yoga at 6:13 PM on June 18, 2006

forgot one - how to cut the grass and plant and maintain a rose garden and to appreciate trees.
posted by yoga at 6:14 PM on June 18, 2006

When I was little, I would often complain about being bored ("I'm bored! This is boring!"). My father would always say something to the effect of "there is no such thing as being bored; there are only boring people." As a little kid, I thought this was a stupid and corny statement, but over the years I think I've been profoundly affected by those words. "I'm bored" is not even something that crosses my mind nowadays. I'm just always searching for stuff to keep myself occupied, rather than dwelling on the feeling of boredom.
posted by roomwithaview at 6:24 PM on June 18, 2006

A few things I learned from my Dad:

To love the theatre.
To save money.
To have a good attitude.
To be friendly.
To crack jokes when the going gets tough.
That you can have political views, disagree with people, and still be friends with them (my Dad *married* a Republican! We tease Mom, but we love her)
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:54 PM on June 18, 2006 [1 favorite]

Things my dad taught me:

How to splice film. He gave me a rack of 16mm prints and a splicer and sat me down in front of it every day after school for about a month. It's nothing I've ever used -- professionally or even as a hobby, but it makes me happy to remember the tactile sensation of editing, especially in this day and age of digital everything.

That good artists rely on tools -- even tracing. And that practice can overcome skills.

He taught me how to hotwire a car -- a skill that's faded from my memory (and probably doesn't appy to modern cars) but was tres useful growing up

He taught me how to mix and apply Bondo, how to make plaster molds, how to make rubber make-up (sores, lesions, etc).

He taught me lots and lots of things like that, all before I was in fourth grade. What it taught me about parenting was to treat my daughter, and talk to her, in a way that shows I respect her intelligence and that I believe there's nothing she can't do.

Basically, he shared all the things he knew how to do that he thought was cool as soon as possible. And that always made him the favorite parent.
posted by Gucky at 7:17 PM on June 18, 2006

"there is no such thing as being bored; there are only boring people."

my mother always said that if i was bored, it was my fault
posted by pyramid termite at 7:51 PM on June 18, 2006

Cursing, yelling and sometimes wacking are essential parts of the repair process, be it a dropped screw, a stuck nut, or two things that came apart and will not go back together.
posted by madajb at 8:05 PM on June 18, 2006 [1 favorite]

My dad taught me to never be afraid to travel far away and how not to look like a tourist. Because of his example I will travel as much as I can before I have children and as soon as they are old enough I will take them with me.

He also taught me that saving money is important, but knowing how to use money is even more important. Invest. Buy a house that will appreciate in value. It is worth putting money into your own ideas.

You'd be surprised what you can purchase at a yard sale and return for store credit.

I think he also accidentally taught my brother and me how to curse in at least two languages.
posted by Alison at 8:18 PM on June 18, 2006

Love your family, fiercely, no matter how bad things are.

Take the time to cuddle the kids in your life.

A Daddy's hug may not make it all better but, it sure does help.
posted by SuzySmith at 8:59 PM on June 18, 2006

My dad was not a nice person, at all. But there were benefits that came from the eight years that we coexisted:
* I learned to love sailing;
* I learned to appreciate and enjoy all types of music, and if he never said anything nice to me he did let me know that I could sing;
* I learned that old cars have quirks and that once you learn the quirks, you can make an old car do anything;
* I learned the importance of finishing a project -- this after my dad spent three years restoring a racing yacht, then selling it for $200 the same day it touched water, because he wanted to buy beer to celebrate -- and I learned never to make snap decisions, because I'd regret them later.
* I learned how to deal with drunk people. This is surprisingly useful.

Fortunately my stepfather kicked ass and I was lucky to have a normal human being around during my teens. Thanks, stepdad-guy.
posted by tracicle at 10:03 PM on June 18, 2006

Well, I've been reading these comments. And I've been thinking of my dad. He shot himself in the head a few years ago, and I've been wondering what he taught me as an adult. My dad used to tell me how I was his hero. That always embarrased me.

Anyway, my dad taught me a few Goofus things, like don't get addicted to alcohol, 'cuz it makes you stupid and pretty much ruins your life. Also, don't marry the most psychotic chick you can find at an AA meeting, 'cuz ultimately she'll drive you to suicide.

But it sucks to think of your dad as Goofus. Here's some Gallant things he taught me.

He taught me how to hit a baseball. Baseball is my first sports love. He taught me that.

He taught me how to shoot a gun. Now, I'm not going to find big gun fans in this group, but shooting at a target that won't die really is pretty fun, and a little relaxing.

He taught me how to fix things. He also taught me how to ride a bike. These two are related. I don't ride my bike much, but I like to fix it. I'll never be as handy as Dad (he pretty much single-handedly built a retaining wall for my grandfather, and by himself built a small deck on my mom's house that's still in use), but I don't fear learning how to fix things myself. I guess in some sense, he taught me how to be PhD in astrophysics.

So in the net, my dad was an alcoholic who had really bad taste in women and ultimately crippling depression, but in the net, I'd say he still turned out to be a pretty good father.
posted by dirigibleman at 11:51 PM on June 18, 2006

*Keep your promises.
*Exercise regularly or play a sport.
*Understand that money isn't everything, but having enough always makes life easier.
*Take care of your parents as they get older.
*A good education is one of the most valuable things you could ever possess and do everything to make sure that your child receives one.

Upon reflection, my mother also espouses similar ideals.
posted by shoseph at 12:30 AM on June 19, 2006

-"Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you."
-Sing corny songs and be excited, even if it's dorky. It's -fun-.
-How to camp. To go camping often.
-How to fish. To laugh when you don't catch anything but a chipmunk grabbing the marshmallow on your hook when you release your cast too soon and it flies backwards into the bushes.
-How to shoot, but never a living thing.
-That honest, hard work goes further than talent.
-Love is compromise, and sometimes giving in, and sometimes making dinner when Mom's down.
-Polynesian culture is -cool-.
-Pack light.
-Don't ever expect your grown children to pay back their debts to you -- and be okay with that, because they're yours, and you still love them.
-Remember your parents, especially when they get old and live far away.
-You only live once.
-Family is more important than anything else in this life.
posted by po at 1:14 AM on June 19, 2006

If you fall on your face, at least you are moving forward.
posted by Chickenjack at 8:54 AM on June 19, 2006

How not to be a dad.
posted by julian_ at 10:00 AM on June 19, 2006

That race, money and education weren't what made one person better than another and to be respectful and kind to others regardless of their race, level of education or economic status.

Throughout my life he has occasionally reached over and vigorously patted my knee and said with a smile "you sure are a fine feller". Just that, I think, has been the most important.
posted by Carbolic at 10:47 AM on June 19, 2006

My Dad taught me
- How to swim at a very young age
- How to sail and how to waterski
- A love of the ocean
- How to have fun in life - essentially, work hard, play harder
- To never let coins pass through my hands without giving them a quick once-over. It's amazing how often people pass on treasures.
- It's important to have friends
- Being a packrat is not necessarily a bad thing. (I found some amazing documents he saved for decades and decades after he died)
- Laugh.

What I wish he'd taught me
- That if I'd asked the many questions about him that I wanted to, he would have gladly shared
- To know when it's time to say good-bye.

What a great thread. I miss you, Dad.
posted by SoftSummerBreeze at 2:42 PM on June 19, 2006

My dad taught me that knowledge is everything. That the world only gives you so much with regard to education and that it's up to you to want more and go look for it.

Also to not drink a lot of cocktails and not to waste water by showering for too long.
posted by Skyanth at 11:57 PM on June 19, 2006

My dad once told me that marriage is not a 50/50 relationship. You have to give 100% all the time.
posted by gfroese at 9:10 PM on June 20, 2006

The importance of sitting up straight.
Clockwise tightents, counter clockwise loosens.
How to canoe.
The importance of experiencing different things.
Nobody cares for excuses.
Work is more fun without politics.
Call home if you're going to be late.
If you're going to present a problem, be prepared to present a solution.
posted by furtive at 7:03 PM on June 22, 2006

How to cook, and the importance of properly maintaining an iron skillet.
posted by furtive at 7:24 PM on June 22, 2006

You know a girl likes you if she runs to see you.
posted by zackdog at 8:36 PM on June 23, 2006 [1 favorite]

i love this thread so much.

as for my Dad...

.love is life. it's everything. even when it's painful. when you really and truly find it or decide on it, actively choose it, that's that. you don't abandon it, you live with it, you hurt over it, you remember it, you change because of it. it will determine the course of your every day, and that's okay. and when you leave life permanently, at the end, it will be what defines you.

.indeed, how to season a cast iron, and the basic principles of good cooking (it's skill building and methods/approaches as well as tools, not rote recipes, though those are fun to collect, yeah).

.the northeast us (particularly new england) is wonderful. it feels like home.

.mistakes in life make for great stories years from now. as long as you're past them by then.

.work hard, save like hell as early in life as possible, and you will be wise and healthy indeed in later life.

.even if it's a crisis, you have to calm the hell down. "not to worry" is one of those phrases he says so often to me (and i'm a spazz) that it's like a go-to stress reducer permanently in my mind. and cheaper than valium!

.look where you're going, don't trip (he's tripped and broken his leg or foot at least 4 times. always the same side too!)

.math is fun. science is fun.

.god is everywhere. in science too, maybe even more so. thus "tolerance" isn't a feel good meaningless bullshit buzz term so much as acknowledgment of the world's true complexity and simultaneous unity.

.cats are great.

.girls are every bit as good as (in fact i often get the feeling he believes, in general, they're better than) guys.

.it's okay if you don't like sports. it's also cool if you're clumsy; hell, it's practically required to be part of this family.

.if you're smart or gifted, you have a responsbility to the world and yourself to work hard and not squander your talent.

.daily routines and spur of the moment risks are equally necessary. it's all about balance.

.it doesn't cost much to live well if you're willing to be creative, open-minded, and take some time to do research.

.macs rule and windows drool. ;)

.talking on the phone is never as good as being together in person.

.a good dining experience can as good as, and maybe even better than sex.

.depression isn't as rare as you're afraid it is. you are not alone.

.yardwork, manual labor can be stress reducing and satisfying.

he also taught me to appreciate his dorky yet wry sense of humor. my sister and i both inherited it. i adore him.
posted by ifjuly at 2:18 AM on June 29, 2006

Just because there is a crack in your ass doesn't mean your legs are broken.
posted by furtive at 4:25 AM on June 30, 2006

My father taught me that you have to have dreams worth fighting for.
posted by jeremias at 8:47 PM on July 8, 2006

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