Lessons I Learned From My Father

I'll be the first to admit, I don't talk enough with my dad. I moved miles away when I turned 18 to go to college, and apart from the occasional visit, we haven't really seen each other often since. Most of our communication these days is through my mom - she will update me on what's going on there, and update him on what's going on here. Neither of us are much in the way of talkers, especially not on the phone - which I find a bit ironic since he worked in telecommunications for a number of years. He can set up a phone system in his house with a phone in every room (even on the roof when he was in the process of making repairs), with each family member having his/her own extension, and use it as a house-wide paging system to notify the family when dinner is ready, and that's where it ends. I have many fond memories of my father, some which are more fond now that I've gotten older and can appreciate his efforts, even if I would fight him on them at the time. So, since it's Father's Day, here are some lessons (humorous and serious) that I learned from him growing up. 

Music is important

Music education was a big deal growing up. There was always a number of instruments in our home, especially a piano, which we were encouraged to play. Once I started lessons, my father would sit next to me using a metal rod meant for staking plants to point out the notes as I played them, then turn the sheet music for me when I got to the end of the page. He taped music notes to the keys to make it easier for us to learn to read sheet music. He was the one driving me and my youngest brother to and from piano lessons (and later flute for me, bassoon for my brother), Saturday theory classes, recitals, concerts, competitions, coming to band concerts. I grew up loving music, learning to appreciate all genres, and enjoying playing music on my own. After my daughter was born, my parents gifted us a piano so I could pass on our family's love of music, and both of my children enjoy playing on it from time to time, exploring the different sounds it makes. 

Never stop learning

At the start of the school year, my father would make me and my brother bring ALL our books home so he could review our learning material. Often he was (humorously) disappointed in what we were learning. "That's it?" "What is science? This is too general." "They always leave the best stuff out of history books." "Oh, Poland only got one paragraph." (My parents were born, raised, educated, married in Poland and moved to the North American continent in the 80's near the end of the Cold War.) Homework wasn't an issue, we were usually on top of that. However, after dinner, after homework, after piano practice, my father and I would sit at the kitchen table as we worked on additional schooling in areas he felt were lacking. I always fought him on it - I was too tired, but we aren't learning this yet, do I have to? The best though was in 7th grade, when I was invited to go to Australia as part of a student ambassador program for a two week trip. We went to the meeting about it, and my dad - looking at the hefty price - said WHAT? NO. I could send you to Poland for a year for that kind of money. I said OK, sure! So we crammed as much Polish language learning (reading, writing) as we could, and I spent 8th grade living with my aunt and uncle, ending my trip with a three week sailing camp on the Baltic Sea. My father taught me to never do the bare minimum and is one of the many reasons why I'm inspired to homeschool our children. 

Other people's opinions of me don't matter

Girls/women (moreso than men) tend to do a psychological/verbal/emotional bullying in the form of exclusion, alienating, judging, teasing, slander, name calling - something that I later realized doesn't end long after I took my last exam. I have come across one too many (even one is too many) adults who use the same tactics. I remember coming home crying about how other girls were treating me at school - I was often the target, and the reasons were endless. My dad would tell me "When you finish school and go to college, none of this will matter." I mean, of course it mattered, it still hurt, it's still part of my childhood memories, but he does have a point. I survived not being the popular girl. I found friends who liked me for who I was, who truly cared about me, who didn't judge me for what I wore or how I looked or because I was different. Ultimately this is something I carried on into adulthood, this whole idea of "you do you, don't care what other people think." I am not a people-pleaser. As long as I am true to myself, stand up for what I believe in and don't focus on trying to fit in, I will continue to make friends with people who are genuine, who appreciate and accept me for who I am, who are there for me through thick and thin. T. Cole-Whittaker wrote a book What You Think Of Me Is None Of My Business. I haven't read it, but I like the title. Of course, this doesn't only pertain to bullying - if he was doing something embarrassingly silly, I would panic "DAD, they're looking at us!" My dad would say "Who cares?"

Learn to laugh at yourself

Along the lines of not caring what others think, he's also a joker. Goofy. Silly. And when I was a kid, embarrassingly so. One thing that stands out though, is when I was mad at him. He did this thing where he would smile, frown, smile, frown, smile, frown - and he kept doing this until I couldn't hold it in any longer and would bust out laughing. Of course, I was still mad that he wasn't taking me seriously, but it did ease the tension. Seriously though, I could do a montage of all the goofy pics I have of my dad. 

Go outside

Some of my fondest memories include our annual lengthy camping trips in Heber Springs, AK, and some of the years we would go hiking, either in the Rockies, or the Appalachians, or even the Tatra mountains one summer when my youngest brother and I were visiting family in Poland. At home, he'd always kick us outside to "get our vitamin D", or he would take us on long bike rides (10- 15 miles at least) on the weekends. Don't waste a nice day sitting indoors.

Always have something to work on

The only way you'd catch my dad sitting still is if he's watching a movie with the family or he's too sick to function. Less than two weeks after gallbladder surgery he was back to working and doing repairs around the house - he just strapped a pillow to his abdomen. He always has some home-improvement project going on, something he's fixing, something to make or modify. There is no such thing as boredom in my family - if we were bored, my parents were quick to find something for us to do (like chores, or helping out in the kitchen). Always find something to do, something to keep you busy. Life's too short to sit around doing nothing.

These are just a few of the things I've learned. Are there any great lessons you learned from your father - if so, please share in the comments!