What to Write in a Father’s Day Card: the 10 Most Practical Life Lessons I’ve Learned From My Dad (So Far)
My dad has a work ethic that goes beyond obligation or duty. All my life I’ve watched him approach every role and every project he’s taken on with a focus so deep that it was a source of tension in my parents’ marriage (though not an insurmountable one because my mom’s frustration at my dad’s long hours and single-mindedness when he was working was always balanced with pride and appreciation for his dedication). I’m not sure if this skill/characteristic/power was something I learned or something I inherited, but I’m so grateful I did. My dad had a long and productive career as a lawyer, started a business, and in 2020 he published his first work of historical nonfiction. His example has taught me that careers are not a straight path, that we can do our best work at any age, and that the satisfaction that comes from setting goals and meeting them can give our lives richness and meaning.
2. Come prepared.
“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only inadequate gear” is one of my dad’s favorite mantras. He taught us to pack for all possible weather conditions, and this approach to life extends beyond just outdoor adventuring (something he happens to be great at). Knowing what tools are available and having access to them at the right time is a key component to solving most of life’s problems.
3. Read the label (i.e. ask questions).
I used this photo because I have a specific memory of asking my dad what was in our breakfast cereal and him showing me the phone number on the back of the box, walking me over to the wall phone and sitting for an extended time while we waited on hold to ask the representative my question. My dad is all about finding out where things came from and how they are made. My mom teased him about giving us six page answers to simple questions, but his curiosity rubbed off on me, as well as his knack for making use of things like phone books and hotlines. Google was made for my dad, and his powers of discovery are unstoppable to this day.
4. Stay informed.
My dad’s father was a survivor of World War II. His experience shaped my dad’s childhood and instilled in him an awareness that the world is a big place, and that things that happen in other places are real and relevant and affect our lives even if we don’t see them happening. He knows deep down that history repeats itself, and his commitment to keeping abreast of current affairs as well as continually educating himself about history is one of the things I admire most about him.
5. Embrace risk.
When I was 11 we moved from Chicago to Utah so that my parents could live near the mountains and so that my dad could start a business. He worked with researchers who had developed a bedside medical device aimed at improving early detection of heart attacks and worked very hard to bring it to market. He raised money, hired people and invested heavily himself, both financially and with plenty of sweat and even some tears. While he didn’t end up in control of the company, he learned a great deal from the experience and went on to put that knowledge to work helping other business owners make decisions when he returned to his law practice. I had no idea at the time that I would one day end up a business owner myself, but I think watching him try and essentially fail but still come out of the experience ready to keep learning and growing and working helped give me the confidence to try.
6. The worst can happen, and it doesn't have to ruin you.
My mom was diagnosed with cancer in 2012, and she died in 2019. Watching my dad go through the experience was almost worse than dealing with my own feelings about our terrible, impossible loss. But it has been a privilege to witness him face his grief head-on and find a way to not just keep going, but to thrive. He has a new partner now who, importantly, also lost her husband of 50+ years around the time mom died. The two of them have supported each other in their grieving and healing and created a new partnership that has allowed them to live in a new reality that includes the memory of the people they lost, incorporating each other’s families and expanding the capacity of everyone involved for love, joy and connection.7. Lick your plate.
My mom loved to tell a story about a time when she invited my dad to join her and some of the other residents in her medical program for lunch in the hospital cafeteria. She looked over and saw that, having finished his piece of cherry pie, Dad was licking his plate with gusto! It's a habit that continues to this day, and my mom once gifted him a tiny spatula and a holster to wear it in so he could bring it to restaurants. Dad knows how to get the full value of experiences and opportunities, and it’s an approach to life I’m glad to embrace and teach my kids.
8. It's all fun and games.
My dad has always been one of those “fun dads” who knows how to make things silly and therefore more palatable. He still does the thing that little kids love and teenagers hate of answering questions with other questions with obvious answers (do fish swim? Is the pope Catholic? Do bears **** in the woods?). He is affable and goofy and audibly snorts when he laughs (he even smacks his knee sometimes, I’m not exaggerating) and I strive to embody his playfulness in my own parenting.
9. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
My dad is the king of pancakes, waffles, and scrambled eggs. Cold cereal is still one of my favorite things to eat (in fact I’m eating some right now!), which I think says a lot about what a champ he is at this most important of repasts. The older I get the more I appreciate his approach to cooking in general. My mom was all about the twelve course dinner party and studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. I have been inspired plenty by her love of quality ingredients and flawless technique, but my dad has always excelled at getting simple food on the table that everyone wants to eat which is actually a more relevant skill set to my current life with two toddlers. I’ve been busting out some of his old hits lately (Cheese Corn is frozen corn microwaved with cheese on top–what’s not to like?) and they are hitting the spot.
10. Family is everything.
My dad is not a martyr by any means, but I can honestly say that every decision I’ve ever known him to make has been with his family’s best interests in mind. I know that can’t be truthfully said about every parent out there, and I’m so grateful that I hit the jackpot with a dad who has always centered his life around my mom, my brother and I. Now his grandkids are getting to enjoy the benefits of this amazing quality, and they couldn’t be blessed with a better Poppy.
Thanks for reading friends! If you are looking for Father’s Day cards or gifts, check out this collection of thoughtful ways to tell your dad what you’ve learned from him.