As I have mentioned before, I was pretty much a wreck as an adolescent. In just about every way I was a mess. To the extent that I am now a productive member of society, I have to give my parents a great deal of credit. I posted the Monday after Mother's Day about what she had done to bless my life as an adolescent (and beyond). Today, I want to do the same with my father.
1. Dad provided a core, a rock-solid foundation for me. His absolute adherence to his moral code and faith provided an example for me when I needed it. I never doubted whether he was honest and had integrity. I never doubted that he was faithful to my mother. He wasn't perfect--and that's the great thing he taught me. You don't have to be perfect to be good.
2. Dad loved my mom. There was never a question in our minds about where Dad's first loyalties were directed. Mom came first always. I never heard my dad criticize my mom or fight with her. I know they had disagreements, but they discussed them alone and quietly. I do remember once that my dad made a sort of sarcastic joke about a meal mom made. It wasn't all that bad even, but it wasn't very kind. As soon as he said it, he looked mortified and he apologized to us, taking great pains to help us realize how wrong he'd been. I learned a lot from that moment. I grew up knowing that there was nothing that would bring retribution so swiftly and surely as being disrespectful of my mother. It's hard to overstate the security that my dad brought to our family because of this. I remember being shocked once at a friend's house when I heard his dad belittle his mother. I just didn't know that happened. At our house it didn't.
3. Dad insisted on unflinching honesty with himself--and with us. I think this is one of the greatest things anyone ever gave me. As I see the sadness people inflict on their own lives because they are self-deceptive, I'm so grateful my dad refused to do this. If I ever wanted to do something, and it wasn't for the right reasons, or I was deceiving myself, dad wouldn't let me get away with it. He allowed me to make stupid decisions, but he didn't allow me to make them based on being dishonest with myself about my motivations. This is such a gift, and one I think adolescents need.
4. Dad loved me enough to push me to be my best. He didn't accept my natural tendency toward laziness and taking the easy way out. He insisted I try things before refusing them. He made me do things I didn't want to do even though I stormed and raged. This has blessed my life in so many ways. Turns out that a lot of life is doing things you don't like. So learning it while I was young was a good thing.
5. Dad was my teacher. He taught me all the time--about life, about God, about the physical world--about everything.
6. Dad loved me enough to be my parent. Not my peer, not my buddy, not my advisor. He was my father. He corrected me when I was wrong and encouraged me when I was right.
7. Dad tried and tried and tried. I was the first child. It takes a while to learn to be a parent. Dad always tried new ideas. If something didn't work, he'd try something else. He was always trying to be better, to do better.
8. Dad gave up his life for his family. In a literal, if quiet way. He had a job he hated for 20 years because he wanted to provide a good life for his family. It ruined his health, but he got up and did it every single day. I admire that so much. He didn't have a lot of hobbies or outside interests. He took care of his family and he served in his church.
9. Dad loved me. In so many ways and on so many occasions, he showed me loved me. He wasn't afraid to say that, but he also showed me over and over.
As I said above, Dad wasn't perfect. He's the first to acknowledge that. But again, you don't have to be a perfect parent to be a good parent. Dad did the best he could--and I think it was pretty good. I'm very grateful he was at the helm during my tempestuous teen years. And I hope I can be
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Thoughts about raising and teaching adolescents. You can read the complete series here. (What in the world are Middle School Mondays?) Click here.
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