Things You Wish Your Father Had Taught You

dennis-hallinan-silhouette-of-father-and-son-fishing-at-sunsetThis week at the unsanctioned summertime version of the Spears’ City Group / Men’s Book Discussion Club (held at an undisclosed location in Norman), our conversation was all over the place.

As we were winding down, we talked about family vacations when we were kids, and why our dads were always so mad on them. I remember wanting to get an up close view of my stepdad hooking our travel trailer up to the back of the Ford Brougham. I also remember being sent away for being in the way.

It makes so much sense now, though. We had a broken screen incident on one of the kids iPods (it wasn’t in it’s protective case for some reason) about an hour before we hit the road and that set my attitude for our 7 hour drive 3 weeks ago. I was mad, they all knew I was mad, and they’ll probably remember dad being mad on vacations.

Then the conversation (back at the book discussion club now) turned to those moments in general that our kids are going to take with them. How we see those tender father / son or father / daughter moments coming and then just watch them go. Either just out of reach because we’re too tired, have too much on our minds, or we let them go because we’re angry or frustrated or just don’t want to make the effort. It’s sad seeing opportunities pass by and not taking advantage of them.

We talked about those things that we want to be able to pass on to our own kids, about those things we wished our parents had taught us.

As we were walking to our cars, Tim Benoit and I even went so far as to say, “In two weeks, when we meet again, I’m going to ask you what you taught, coached, and/or mentored your kids about these past two weeks, and I expect you to tell me something good.” I plan on following up with him, too. I hope he does the same. We should start a discussion group on the City ideas for teaching and coaching our kids.

But that got me thinking about not only the things that I learned from my dad or my step dad, but things I wished I had learned. It also got me thinking about skills that I hope to pass on to my kids. I even brainstormed a list. Here’s what I came up with. I would imagine that there are Youtube videos available for most of these that I could watch ahead of time.

Things that seem cliche dad things to pass along and I could do today (or tomorrow if it’s late):

How to use a pocket knife / knife sharpener

How to play poker / cards

How to throw a ball

How to throw a punch *

How to build something out of wood *

How to shake hands

How to shave

How to tie a tie

How to grill a hamburger * / chicken breast (James Elledge is a good resource on the Chicken Breast cooking advice)

Annoying things that can turn into learning moments if I catch myself and am patient:

How to fix a leaky faucet

Hot to change a tire

How to fix a flat tire on a bike *

Other small repairs around the house

General Maintenance that I could do faster myself:

How to mow the lawn *

Other yard work

How to change the oil on the car

Things that would take a bit more planning, but could do in a couple of weeks:

How to camp (buy a boy scout handbook. Chock full of ideas). *

How to catch a fish *

How to clean a fish *

How to cook a fish *

How to get that fish smell out of your hands

Life / Business Skills

How to balance a checkbook

How to manage a todo list

How to take good notes

How to make income outside of your paycheck *

Don’t be afraid to say, “no.”

Relationship/emotional advice

How to disagree

The sex talk (some folks in our church have some great advice and stories on how they’ve done this)

It’s ok to be sad when you’re sad

It’s not always all about you

Some pain is good

Put down your phone when you’re talking to someone

Put down your phone

How to argue

How to handle a Thunder loss

How to reconcile

How to fail

How to put down your phone

How you’re a human… and a sinner… and you need forgiveness and a savior as much as your kids do

This list makes me hopeful and sad. Hopeful for the future, but sad at the missed opportunities as recent as bedtime last night. Some pain is good, though. Right?

As I read over it, I see a lot of practical things that I’d love to pass on. There’s a lot of ideas that I haven’t thought of yet, but will present themselves if I allow myself to see the moments as they come and am open to them.

The hardest thing about this list, though, as I look back through the early parts of my own story and think about the things I wish I had been taught, is that it really comes down to the teacher / coach / mentor / dad sharing himself.

Sure, it’s great to be able to change a tire when the time comes… and it will and all good doomsday preppers know the benefits of being able to build a fire (need to add fire to the list), but in a child’s eyes none of that is nearly as important as the man himself.

A father’s story is more important than the skills passed along, but the two seem to go hand in hand.

I can’t imagine teaching someone how to catch a fish without telling those stories about the ones that got away. Or how to sharpen a knife without telling how you got that ugly scar on your ring finger… or having the sex talk without talking about your own lust and loneliness and sin and shame and… that ugly scar on your heart.

And your own need for a savior.

I love being a part of a community of people that talk about their own sin in the present tense. About their own inadequacies in parenting. About their desire to be better. About their willingness to be a part of a community willing to help each other along.

I love being a part of a community that preaches the gospel to each other by acknowledging their own brokenness. I love being a part of a community that preaches the gospel to their own children and to mine… And to me.

And if anyone knows how to get out that fish smell, let me know.

* Denotes an idea Edmund is on board with.

George Thomas