This coming Sunday is Father’s Day. I’ll be honest; Father’s Day has been varying degrees of difficult for me over the last 10 years. In my adulthood, my dad and I (that’s us on the left — bowl cut circle 1984!) have had a tough, up-and-down relationship for a variety of reasons (that I won’t get into because I have a therapist I pay to listen to such things!). In the last eight months, however, we’ve managed to develop the most genuine, sincere, and respectful relationship we’ve had in years. How? I think there are two big reasons: 1) we’ve forgiven each other for things that happened in the past and 2) we haven’t tried to recreate the relationship we had before, instead focusing on getting to know each other as people now. It’s far from perfect and I still miss the relationship we used to have, but it has been a relief to let go of the past and to focus on the future.
With that in mind, in honor of Father’s Day, I decided to share the top five pieces of advice my dad has given me over the years. (He has actually given me a lot more than five, but much of it would probably rub the general population the wrong way — he is a Communist-leaning lefty with a taste for psychedelics, after all.) Share your favorite bit of fatherly advice in the comments.1. Question authority. Growing up, my dad drove a ’70s Volkswagon bus (with red, green, and yellow Rasta curtains, FYI) covered in bumper-stickers. One of those bumper stickers said “Question Authority,” a way of thinking my dad instilled in me from the minute I was capable of talking back. I didn’t always appreciate how he would demonstrate questioning authority; one time, he asked in front of my entire school at an assembly if it was necessary to stand up for the Pledge of Allegiance. But as an adult, I realize following this advice has benefited my intellect and helped me advance my career.
2. Patience is a virtue. This actually is a very popular saying, but my dad added his own twist to it. He always said/says, “Patience is a virtue cultivated in the soil of deferral.” As a kid, I had no idea what he was talking about. As an adult, I realize the saying is a bit redundant, but perhaps that’s the point; patience is a virtue that is worth cultivating, but you can’t rush it. It’s one I’ve had to cultivate and nurture and then cut back and let grow tall again, year after year, in order to maintain our unpredictable relationship. I think anyone with difficult but loving familial relationships can relate to that sentiment.
3. How to drive. No, really, my dad taught me how to drive. My mom is a total white knuckle driver who hates being being on the road and always sits as close as possible to the steering wheel. So when I turned 16, my dad taught me how to drive in his van. Stick shift, baby! And, as a result of his excellent and, of course, patient tutelage, I have never gotten a speeding ticket or in even the slightest fender bender.
4. Stand up for what you believe in. My dad has always been someone to defend the underdog, no matter how the consequences might affect him personally. He has always believed in speaking up — and loudly! — for those who either don’t have a voice or whose voices are at risk of being silenced. Because of him — and my mom — I do, too.
5. Always at least try to see someone else’s side. As a teenager, I, like many girls whose veins were pulsating with rebellious hormones, was frequently engaged in conflict with my mom. I found her nagging, annoying, and, well, wrong about everything. My dad, even when he knew she was in the right, never took the lazy but authoritative stance of “Just listen to your mother!” When I would complain about her, he would listen thoughtfully to my side and then argue on her behalf in this magical, non-confrontational way that made me see her perspective too. Many a mother/daughter fight was solved by his enlightening point of view. As an adult, when I’m in conflict with someone else, I always make an effort to look at the situation from their point of view. It’s not always successful — sometimes you just can’t see eye-to-eye — but my dad taught me that putting forth that effort to see both sides can, at the very least, only strengthen your position.
So, tell us: what’s the best piece of advice your dad — or another father figure — gave YOU?