I have been thinking about my father lately. When I remember my childhood now, I often think more about the things I took for granted at the time than of all my childhood adventures. For example, I never had any doubts that my father loved me, it was just a given. And this, of course, is how it should be for any child. I know I received plenty of instruction and discipline as a child, but I hardly remember any of it now. Instead, it is my father’s example that stays with me to this day. I learned so many things simply by watching him every day…from life lessons to little things, like tying a tie. I know for a fact that no one ever taught me how to tie a tie. But I know how to do it today because I watched my father tie his tie every morning before he went off to work.
My father was already nearly fifty when I was born. He grew up during the Great Depression and learned early in life the importance of hard work and of doing his best. He tried to instill the same values in me. Of course at the time, I didn’t appreciate the significance of my dad’s wisdom, but as I became an adult my memories of him became all the more precious. I say memories, because my father passed away while I was still young. And though I didn’t have the opportunity to know my father from an adult perspective, I can’t imagine what my life would be like today without having had his love, discipline, and example during my early years, an example that I still draw on today.
I spent most of my time with Dad…when I wasn’t playing of course. I loved to go with him on his sales calls and errands—I liked the lumberyard best. When he worked on his many home-improvement projects, I was always underfoot wanting to help, and graciously, he would let me, although it usually made more work for him. Even when he did paperwork, I was again underfoot with my own make-believe desk and a handful of very valuable junk mail, which I pulled out of the trash, pretending to be a businessman. I watched him when he shaved, shined his shoes, put on a tie, and I lobbed more questions his way than even Jimmy Connors could return. And last but not least, I was always there when he raided the ice box for a snack—homemade ice-cream was my favorite.
Not only did I learn by my father’s example, I also learned that it’s not just brief snippets of “quality time” that children need, but rather just plain old time…and lots of it. I know my father was a busy man. He had lots to do and I’m sure he dealt with lots of stressful problems in his life, as all adults do. But to this day I am impressed with the graciousness with which he included me in his many chores and activities. I never felt unwanted or like I was in the way. I always felt like it was just great to be with my dad and that he felt the same way about me as I was “helping” him.
What lessons do children learn from our example? Are we gracious and generous with our time, allowing our youngsters to copy our activities, and learning as they go? If so, then you are laying a foundation for your child that will last a lifetime.