A few months ago, I featured a post titled “Ten Things I Learned From My Mom.” I’ve spent the last few weeks reflecting, and decided that I also wanted to feature a similar post dedicated to my father. I’m fortunate enough to have two loving parents that I am very close with, and I hope some day that I can take everything I’ve learned from them, and apply it to my own parenting techniques.
1. Kick ‘Em Where It Hurts
In first grade, I came off the school bus hysterically crying. My dad met me at the top of our driveway, tried to console the sobbing little human peeking timidly up at him from underneath her bangs, while clutching her ninja turtle lunch box. After he asked me what was wrong, I explained that another boy on the bus had been saying mean things to me. My dad told me to nicely ask the boy to leave me alone, and to tell the bus driver if he didn’t listen
The next day, Dad met me at the top of the driveway. Again, a sobbing little human stormed across the street and flew into his arms. When my dad asked me what happened this time, I told him that the boy on the bus had put his hands around my neck and squeezed really hard. Infuriated, Dad told me the next time the little boy touched me in a way that made me uncomfortable, I had his permission to drive my foot between his legs as hard as I could.
A few days later, my dad was sitting at his desk at work when the phone rang. It was the principal of my elementary school, calling to tell him that I had kicked a little boy between the legs on the playground. After confirming that it was, in fact, the boy from the bus, he told the principal that he had given me permission to do so, after the little boy had tried choking me.
My dad’s reasoning? In a world where strangers are constantly hurting and even abducting little girls, why should I teach my daughter to politely ask a boy trying to blatantly choke her, to leave her alone?
Needless to say, the principal and the little boy both understood the message loud and clear.
My dad hung up the phone and whispered, “That’s my girl.”
2. Take your time getting where you’re going
I graduated college when I was 22, and after four years of college I racked up enough student loans to keep me in debt until I’m 70. After returning to Australia to complete my student teaching, I came back to America, and did what most college graduates are forced to do upon entering “the real world”…I moved back home.
In what “real world” are we living in, where nobody is hiring, and college grads are sitting on top $80,000 dollars in student loans? Keep in mind that I wasn’t sitting around eating Cheetos, and watching reruns of Americas Next Top Model. I worked three jobs, paid my own bills, and on top of that, made student loan payments every month. I was fortunate to have a very understanding father, who was comfortable letting me live at home until I built up enough of a financial pin cushion, where I could afford my bills, my loans, AND rent. Rather than giving me the boot when it was convenient, he gave me time, encouragement, and understanding. Now I’m living the good life my own apartment, close to the center of town, and I consider myself to be very financially stable and independent for a 24 year old
3. There IS a man worthy of your attention…just not that one…OR that one…
Every father’s nightmare. I always joke that I am going to have a son, so I can teach him how to treat women. He’ll go out there and show all of his friends how to properly treat women, thus starting the domino effect of great future boyfriends and husbands. You’re welcome, world.
Huddle in close, I have a secret to share with you. I’ve had my fair share of relationship horror stories. I know this seems far fetched, but the truth is, I dated some doozies. I might be getting some phone calls after this, because I’m still good friends with MOST of my exes. Sorry, guys! But the GOOD news is that MOST of you have gotten your acts together since our dating days.
My dad referred to one of my relationships as “the thing that wouldn’t die,” because it just kept going, and going, and going. Every time my family thought it was over, I decided it was a good idea to forgive and forget.
Most of my male friends growing up were afraid of my dad, and I didn’t blame them. My dad must have a jerk radar, and he definitely emits a “mess with my daughter, I DARE YOU” vibe. I wouldn’t want to date me if I were a guy, and I’m glad I never had to go through the process of shaking my dad’s hand the first time.
4. Just keep digging.
My senior year of high school, I was chosen as the volleyball captain. You would think the captain would have it all together, right? Wrong. During a particularly important game, every ball that came my way hit the ground. I couldn’t blame it on anyone but myself. I just couldn’t get it together. My coach made the decision during the first game to sit me on the bench, something he hadn’t done all season. I wasn’t upset with him. I completely understood, and it’s what I would have done had I been in his position. However, I was devastated with my performance. A very large part of me wanted to run to the nearest locker room and hide inside one of the tallest lockers until the game was over, but instead, I watched the rest of the game from the bench.
The next day at school, I was called down to the main office midday. Sitting on the secretary’s desk was a beautiful bouquet of flowers. Our secretary giddily told me that my biggest fan had dropped the flowers off for me. I opened the note, and only once sentence was written on the inside:
“Just keep digging.”
I still have the note from that bouquet of flowers, and I look at it from time to time. It helps me remember that sometimes you’re not going to be able to pass every ball that life throws on you, but you HAVE to keep digging
The next game was my best game of my entire high school career, and it just so happened that two college scouts were visiting to watch me play.
5. Make your free throws.
Basketball was one of the first things my father and I really bonded over. Well, aside from playing NSYNC on repeat in his car for three weeks straight, those were real bonding moments as well. Growing up, we spent countless hours shooting a basketball around in the driveway. It was OUR thing. You know that game horse? You have to make the shot that the person before you made, and if you miss, you get a letter. The first person to spell H-O-R-S-E, loses. Well, Dad and I changed it to L-O-S-E-R, that way the winner could victoriously call the other person a loser. My father and I aren’t particularly good losers. We’re even worse winners. Before there was horse, and loser, there were free throws. I remember Dad meticulously explaining the importance of making your free throws. We stayed out in the driveway for hours, practicing concentration, holding the ball, lining up, and following through.
When you step up to the line to make a free throw that is YOUR moment. The gym hushes, everything stills, and it’s just you, the ball, and the hoop. It’s a lot like grasping once in a life time opportunities. It taught me to always focus on my dreams, to line myself up with what I want out of life.
It taught me to follow through.
6. Memories Are Greater Than Things:
My father has always been a man of simplicity and efficiency. He’s never needed the nicest car or the biggest house, or the smartest phone. Growing up I didn’t necessarily understand this. Why buy a smaller house, if you can afford to buy a bigger house? What’s interesting is at the ripe age of 24, if you ask me what my favorite parts of growing up were, I couldn’t even tell you what kind of car Dad drove. What I can tell you, is that he took me on the most AMAZING family trip to Hawaii when I was fifteen. It’s where I learned to surf, it’s where I saw my first beautiful sunset, and it’s where I first realized how emotionally and mentally connected to the ocean I was. When I was 17, Dad took me on a trip to Universal Studios. Aside from my traumatic experience on the Jaws ride, it was spectacular. It was just the two of us, best friends, exploring a park of make believe and movie magic. When I was 21, Dad flew to Australia for two weeks to visit me while I was living abroad. After a month and a half without my family, the excitement I felt when I walked out of my apartment and saw him walking toward me was so uplifting. We spent an incredible weekend in Sydney, where we actually climbed the Sydney Harbor Bridge. Three months later, broken hearted, I returned back home. I had not seen the rest of my family in five months, and I hadn’t seen my dad in three months, but I was crushed to be leaving Australia. Little did I know, that my father had flown out to surprise me in San Francisco. Instead of enduring a 5 hour lay over, he and I would spend the next three days exploring California together.
When all is said and done, I would rather have the memories of every single special moment with my father, than any materialistic item in the world. Things are often tossed aside. Things cause us to be wasteful. Things break.
The experiences we’ve had together are stored safely in the deepest spaces of my heart, not a moment was wasted, and they are truly unbreakable.
Fresh off the boat in San fran
7. The Value Of Money
I have always worked hard to earn the things I want in life, because I grew up watching my parents work hard. I have never allowed ANYONE to make me feel like I don’t deserve the things I have, because that would be directly insulting the people in my life who taught me how hard I would have to work to make them possible. At the age of 20, when most kids were spending their summer vacation on the beach or at house parties, I was working 70 hours a week to pay for the traveling I would be doing while studying in Australia. During my senior year, when most of my friends were out having fun, I spent every night Monday through Saturday waiting tables at a ski lodge to pay for my airfare and expenses, so I could return to Australia to teach. I pay my own rent, I pay my own bills, and every month I make student loan payments to pay for my education.
Is that to say my parents don’t help me when they feel it’s necessary? Of course not. I am so fortunate to have parents who recognize when I need a boost, and I also realize that is a privilege, not a right. However, I am also proud of how hard I’ve worked, and have never let anybody make me feel like I shouldn’t be.
8. Family will always be there to make you laugh
I have a huge family, and we’re all a bunch of pranksters. We all share the same sense of humor, which makes family gatherings a blast. There is never a dull moment at Christmas. Every year, we add new hilarious tales to our repertoire, and every year, we tell and retell these stories.
They never stop being funny.
-There’s the one with the colostomy bag
-There’s the one where my grandmother put vanilla pudding on her hamburger thinking it was mayonnaise.
-There’s the one where my cousin and I turned all of my aunts pictures upside down because we know how neat she likes to keep things.
-There’s the one where I called my dad a douchebag.
-There’s the one where my dad finally told his sister that he hates the chocolate covered cherries she always gives him at Christmas.
-And there’s the one where EVERYONE gave my dad a box of chocolate covered cherries for Christmas, because we now all know how much he hates them.
My dad has raised me with a great sense of humor, and as much as he dishes it out, he can definitely take it.
9. Give Back To The Community.
While working full time, my dad also managed to somehow be at every single one of my athletic fund raisers. In a sea of volleyball and basketball moms, there stood my dad in the middle of the pack, selling cookies to raise money for our volleyball gear. Some kids might have been embarrassed to see their dad at their high school with a bunch of moms selling baked goods, but I loved it! Every time that I saw him there selling cookies like the proceeds would be going toward his new big screen TV, I’d walk up to him and high five him. I was so proud to be able to point over to the table and say, “Look! That’s MY dad.”
After having raised a handicapped son, my dad volunteers every year for the Special Olympics. Last year, Blake, Dad, and I all volunteered together. Blake and I took turns keeping score, I photographed the event, and Dad kept the clock. His dedication to the community has inspired me to volunteer at multiple places, including the Special Olympics, and at a local homeless shelter making bagged lunches.
10. That’s life.
Sometimes, things happen in life that you just can’t change. It’s a hard pill to swallow when you’re seventeen and your boyfriend cheats on you, or you need a full brake replacement that ends up costing more than your rent. It’s easy to bury your head in your pillow and scream for two hours, but it doesn’t accomplish a whole lot. Things happen that we have no control over, and that’s part of life. You can sit around feeling sorry for yourself, or you can get out of bed in the morning knowing that there are people out there who are in worse situations than an ended relationship or a car repair. My parents have said to me thousands of times, “Your brother would have traded one of his good days for one of your bad days,” and sometimes I have to remind myself of that.
You have to take control over your own life, because if you don’t, your hardships will cause you to lose your mind all together.
^Left – My dad holding my brother
Right – Me & Dad dancing