5 Life Lessons I Learned from my Dad

My Dad has a milestone birthday coming up and in trying to think of a meaningful gift for him, I thought I’d write about him and how his values have shaped my life.

So, to honor my Dad on his special birthday, I’m going to share the 5 most important life lessons he taught me, that I hope to pass along to my kids.

1. If you want it, work for it. Growing up, our family wanted for nothing. We always had a nice house, went on vacations, had air conditioning, and we definitely had plenty of toys. However, despite being lucky like that, my Dad did teach me that if you really want something, work for it. If there was something I wanted that my parents didn’t feel like just giving me, he told me to go work for the money and buy it myself. So, I would vacuum the house to get extra allowance. I’d bake cookies and sell them to friends to make extra cash. I would babysit (even though I HATED that) and I got a job in high school as soon as I could. So while I’m not the person who squirrels away money for a rainy day, I also NEVER spend more than I have because of Dad’s lesson. Want something? Work for it. Then enjoy. Even though I spoil MY kids, I am working on passing this lesson along to them, as well.

2. Go for the gusto and savor life. My Dad wants to enjoy life, so he does. He works hard and then he indulges in the things that make him happy. Pursuing enjoyment is a noble calling. He taught me to eat great food, travel the world and go to exciting places. Seek out fun so you can laugh heartily. Go to the movies often and be entertained. Dance. He still likes to dance with my Mom. I’ve learned by watching him. Life is too short to sit back and wait. So, start savoring.

3. Don’t be afraid to try it. While I remember sitting at the kitchen table for hours refusing to eat vegetables and not being allowed to leave until I had, I did eventually grow up and come to appreciate trying different things. You never know where your new favorite food, movie, book, city, restaurant, exercise class, or idea is going to come from if you don’t experiment and explore. (Except for the Octopus Ice Cream I ate in Mexico once. That was a very bad decision.)

I was very upset when I was 10-years-old and my Dad came home to tell us we were moving to a place where they didn’t speak English. It was unfair! It was inhumane! It would interfere with my budding 10-year-old social life! Dad said “Try it, you’ll like it.” Once we moved to Puerto Rico and then Mexico, I did love it. I learned Spanish. Ate weird food. Met new friends from around the world with different perspectives. I saw true poverty. I came to appreciate what I have. Some of the fondest memories in my life occurred after I got over the fear of the unknown. I wish I could offer the experience of temporarily living in another country to my kids. While we don’t have the opportunity to move overseas, I can encourage them to try new things and explore the world.

4. Loyalty. To my Dad, loyalty and doing your duty means everything. He’s very loyal to family, he was loyal to his employer for so long, and he’s definitely loyal to friends. Sure, there may be disagreements. There may be minor arguments. But that’s what family and friends do. Despite that, you know you can count on him to be there when and if you need help. There’s strength and comfort in knowing that.

5. Dress to impress. As a surly teen, I HATED it when my Dad would make us kids dress up when we were invited along on his business dinners or went out to eat in nice restaurants. (Since we lived overseas, my Dad often took the family along when he was entertaining business people from the States who had come to visit.) Of course, his idea of dressing to impress and a kid’s idea of dressing to impress were completely different. “What do you mean I can’t wear this ripped surfer T-shirt to dinner?” I hated the dress pants he made me wear that made my butt look flat. Now, I would kill for pants that made my butt look flat but then, it was hardly cool. However, it did teach me the important lesson for later in life that if you want to be perceived as successful, you must put your best face forward … or your flat butt, if you have one.

So, Happy Birthday, Dad! Enjoy your day. You’ve deserved it. Love,


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Tags: Parenting Tips · Traditions

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