In Honor of Father’s Day
My dad was an Eagle Scout and always loved the outdoors. Thus, there are many life skills I’ve learned from him – how to fish, pitch a tent, start a fire, pack a backpack (everything gets rolled), and his secret motto for cooking meat: “First, you pound it.”
But it’s the life lessons that have stuck with me more than anything. In the spirit of Father’s Day approaching, here are two little life lessons that have shaped who I am and deepened my gratitude for my dad.
Forgiveness and Ice-Cream Make Everything Better
My dad taught me how to drive. It was traumatic for both of us. I would not say that I was a natural. Shortly after I received my license, I obtained permission to take my nine-year-old sister and her friend for ice-cream down the street.
The ice-cream store was about half a mile away. I did not notice anything unusual as I drove there. Yet, as soon as I had parked and taken the girls out of the car, I noticed a foul odor. All of a sudden, smoke began pouring out of the hood. Someone who lived nearby called the fire station.
Before I knew it, firefighters arrived on the scene and began hooking up huge water hoses. I was afraid the car might explode, but I did everything I could to keep the girls calm. At this point, all the people in the neighborhood began gathering at the scene.
“It’s going to blow up!” someone yelled.
My parents arrived. “Is the car still there?” I heard my mom ask a cop. Where did she think the car was going?
A few minutes later, the firefighters began unhooking their equipment. What was going on? One of them approached me.
“Excuse me, Miss, did you leave your parking brake on?”
“No!” I said. Wait, did I?
There was snickering amongst the crowd, disappointed that they weren’t going to see a real car explosion that night. “No, it was just a parking break.” “Teenagers,” they muttered as they returned to their houses and regularly scheduled programming.
My mom was a nervous wreck. My dad surprised me by how fast he got over being mad.
I remember being really scared and then surprised that my dad wasn’t more upset with me. He explained that leaving my parking brake on was careless, but that no one had gotten hurt and I had learned my lesson. He hoped that I would go on to become a better driver.
I went on to smash into my neighbor’s mailbox, cause a fender-bender during a rainstorm, and receive a speeding ticket over the course of the next year – all of which were my fault. We did not eat ice-cream after each incident. I did pay for any damages I incurred and my dad forgave me each time.
While I had always been a really responsible kid, that year I learned a lot about driving safety and about taking responsibility for my actions. Each time I screwed up, my dad told me he thought about taking my car keys away. But he said he realized it wouldn’t serve any purpose. He said I had to learn on my own by making mistakes and figuring out how to fix them.
This has been one of the greatest life lessons for me – that we all make mistakes, but have the ability to correct them or resolve to do better the next time.
P.S. I’m a really good driver now.
There Are Many Ways to Get to Your Destination
I’ve never had a good sense of direction. Ambition? Yes. But physical ability to get places? No. I am convinced there is a gene encoded in your DNA that helps you understand navigation and remember where you parked. I do not have this gene. I sing the praises of Google Maps and GPS every day.
I think it all goes back to not grasping map skills in fourth grade. I sat at the kitchen table with my dad late at night with my map skills workbook crying over the challenges of north, south, east and west and how to get from point A to point B to point C.
My dad very patiently helped me to gain a better understanding of the concepts and, thanks to him, I made it relatively unscarred through fourth grade map skills. But years later, when I was a twenty-something trying to carve out my direction in life and I sought my dad’s advice, my dad brought up our map skills lesson.
“Remember map skills?” he asked. “Well, there are a lot of ways to get where you want to go,” he said. “Sometimes, you have to try different paths. And sometimes, you have to take a step back. But then you take two steps forward.”
I have never forgotten this. My dad has been a mentor to me throughout my life. He is an extremely articulate, intuitive man and often comes out with inspired observations. His statement about taking one step back and then taking two steps forward remains one of the most profound things he’s ever said to me. It can be applied to all aspects of life.
If we learn anything through experience, it’s that life is not a straight line from point A to point B to point C. There is no certainty that things will turn out the way we plan. For example, there are no guarantees that following a linear career track will lead to promotion or that taking your vitamins will keep you healthy all the time.
While we may do our best to be proactive, things come up that we don’t anticipate – obstacles in our careers, illnesses, and unexpected events. Sometimes we have to change course and take a different path. When times are tough, I like to remember my dad’s advice.
After all, I’m a two-steps forward kind of girl. 🙂
What kinds of life lessons have you learned from your dads or role models? Please share in the comments!
Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads out there, especially mine!
Check out: Stand Up For Yourself Like Miss Piggy: Life Lessons From My Mom – It’s a funny one!!
Ice-cream photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sea-turtle/2127290187/