My dad is big on talks.
A man raised in Nigeria under the kind of strict parenting that favored the rod (or in his case, a switch) over thoughtful conversations, he's enjoyed being able to share his worldview with his three children.
Sitting at the long glass dining table that served as his office desk, my dad would put on his reading glasses, lean back in his chair and bellow for whichever child needed to hear the lesson he had brewing that evening.
I hated it when it was my turn. Filibustering Congressmen have nothing on my dad -- I would stand and fidget, moving my weight from one foot to the other, as he launched into story after story: tales of supporting his family "back home" when he was my age, why a solid education was incredibly important, why one couldn't let discrimination get in the way of their goals... Really, the list covered everything from good hygiene to financial literacy.
After an hour of more of lecturing, he'd see his audience had had their fill of wisdom for the night.
"I know you think we talk too much," he'd say as he ended his speech, "but you'll look back and say, 'Hey, he was right.'"
And you know what? ... He was right. In honor of those long evening talks, a part of my adolescence I'm surprised to say I sorta miss, here are a list of the five Papa Akitunde lessons I find myself calling on in my adult years:
1. "Tomorrow isn't promised anybody."
Procrastination and I are tight -- we're BFFs, in today's parlance. My dad tried to nip this tendency in the bud by repeating this phrase to me. The message: Do what you can sooner, rather than later, because you'll never know if that opportunity will be there when you're finally ready. It's what I hear when I delay writing an article, or replying to an important email.
2. "The friends you play with in the sandbox aren't always going to be the ones you're going to be playing with in the boardroom."
My dad and I are the social butterflies of our family. But while my dad has an easier time reassessing friendships that have run their course, I agonize. During a conversation about how hurt I was that a childhood friend and I were growing apart, he said that golden line. And it's true -- friendships morph and change, and that's OK. I can appreciate who that person was to me when I was younger, and recognize that part of our relationship had gone as far as it was going to go.
Bonus: "If you have more than two best friends, you're in trouble." This especially bore out in the he-said-she-said days of middle and high school where I would find myself pulled into "friend" after "friend's" drama, but who were MIA when I needed them. My dad always stressed the importance of knowing who your real friends were versus "Hi and bye" friends.
3. "Always look good no matter where you're going -- you never know who you're going to run into."
My dad has lived this rule far before I came on the scene -- seeing pictures of him when he was younger, there was never a hair out of place or a wrinkle to be found on his wide-lapel leisure suits. It's a lesson he passed on to me, though I fought it for years, being the tomboy that I was.
He styled my hair in ways that rivaled most moms when I was in elementary school, taught me how to press my jeans (back when that was cool) and taught me it's far more important to be comfortable in an outfit than be on trend.
4. "Give people enough rope to hang themselves with."
This is one of my most repeated Papa Akitunde maxims. It means be generous with second and even third chances, but know when to cut a person out of your life when they do more harm than good.
5. "Show someone how much you care today, so you won't have regrets when they're gone."
My dad's office is filled with documents, photos, notes, and books he's acquired over the years. It also has some sad memorabilia as well -- obituary notices and funeral programs of friends and acquaintances who have passed away.
Showing someone how much you care through actions, more than words, was a lesson he shared with my brothers and I when we were kids, and with increasing frequency as he gets older. "You don't want to be crying at a funeral, saying, 'I love you, I love you,' when someone's dead and gone," he'd say knowingly. His message is clear: Enjoy and make use of the time you have now before it's too late.
See Dad? I was listening.
Lori Lavender Luz learned a lot from her father (including how to make a funny face, as seen in this 1970s family Christmas photo). "We both know that repeating things ad nauseum to kids annoys them now but they’ll thank us for these words of wisdom someday," she wrote. Read more: "Top 9 reasons: I'm my father's daughter because..."
Before they shared a love of square-dancing, Barbara Shallue credits her father for showing her the joys of reading after declaring she was bored when she was 7. "'Bored? Here, read this,' he said, handing me an old, mildewed copy of Black Beauty, 'You'll never be bored again.' I'm not sure if those were his exact words, but ... I was hooked, and as long as I've had something handy to read (and I try to make sure I do), I've never been bored again." Read more: "Why I'm My Father's Daughter"
"Dad was a country-boy at heart and had a folksy way of speaking," writes Mary Dell Harrington. And she shares some of his favorite -- and lesson-filled -- sayings. Some of our favorites? "Even a blind sow can find an acorn from time to time" and "'Hard to get all your raccoons up one tree' -- [it] was his way of saying that he understood the frustration of not achieving goals, whether they were mine, his corporate ones or those of a hunting dog." Read more: "Fatherly Sayings For Father's Day"
Pam Houghton's father's absence after her parents' divorce wasn't ideal, but it was far from an "awfully depressing Lifetime Movie of the Week." Houghton learned what kind of man she wanted to marry from observing her father, and later, the other fathers she met. "I made sure the family I married into had a strong tradition of sticking together -- where dads didn’t bail," she writes. "Dads who reap the rewards of being there for their kids and helping them grow into happy adults." Read more: "Ordinary fathers"
"As a high school basketball coach my father fought for the right of girls (including his daughters) to play basketball," Pat McKinzie-Lechault told Huff/Post50. "I grew up during an era when athletic girls had no role models. When others teased, 'Hey, jock,' I cringed, but never lost my self-esteem. You never loved me less because I grew up in skinned knees instead of nylons. You encouraged me to be myself even when it meant being different and pursuing a career usually sought by men." Read more: "Father’s Day Accolades to an Inaugural Title IX Dad"
Sharon Greenthal sees her father everywhere: in her face, her voice and in her housekeeping: "I clean my house and he’s by my side, straightening and wiping and spraying -- both of us incapable of sitting among clutter or mess even for a few minutes. Up he would jump when he finished eating, rushing to do the dishes..." Read more: "I Am My Father’s Daughter Because…"
Father's Day is always "bittersweet" for Linda Wolff, as it serves as a reminder that her father is no longer here, but she enjoyed writing some of the lessons she learned from her dad, including: "Money doesn’t grow on trees, so don’t be wasteful. However, he didn’t mind spending on nice meals and a beautiful ambiance." Read more: "21 Things I Learned From My Dad"
Wine blogger Anne Louise Bannon reflects on the role her father player in her love of wine. "Dad’s love of learning, in its own way, spurred my interest in science. And he never doubted that I could get my brain around a difficult concept... When I began writing about the wine industry and found myself on a steep learning curve when it came to the science and the process, boy, I was ready to tackle that one head on..." Read more: "A Father’s Day Toast To My Dad"
Caryn Payzant's father taught her a valuable lesson: "My dad has shown me that real men are compassionate, thoughtful and carry a hankie. "I learned from my dad that it was OK, even for men, to feel deep emotions and let them show during tender moments of both joy and sorrow." Read more: "My Dad Is A Real Man: He Cries"
Connie McLeod's business as a television repairman with local commercials led her to advertising. But his larger than life personality and love of life was an even greater gift: "Dad and I both loved the movie Mame and her quote, 'Life’s a banquet and most poor suckers are staving to death!'" Read more: "Large and Purple"
Lois Alter Mark is proud to be a "daddy's girl": "My experiences with my father taught me that there’s nothing more valuable than family, that a sense of humor is vital, and that I can do anything." Read more: "Yes, I’m A Daddy’s Girl"
Elizabeth Barnhart father was her world as a child, and now, at 81, serves as her role model. "I just hope I will be as successful forming a new life for myself post-divorce as my dad was creating a new life after his retirement," writes Barnhart. "It’s a lot to live up to, but he has given me the confidence that I can do it. Read more: "I Am My Father’s Daughter"
The daughter of a Navy officer, Karen Austin (pictured at 12 on the right) can now appreciate the many military-inspired lessons he gave her. "Each time I fold a top sheet into a military corner, I think of my dad," she writes. Read more: "Life with Father: Ship Shaped"
Sometimes the lessons we learn from our parents are from experiencing their flaws firsthand. Initially sheltered from her father's alcoholism -- his "only flaw" she writes -- Kathi Prien writes thoughtfully about his battle and how it affected her. "I don’t think the child of an alcoholic can ever be comfortable drinking," Prien writes. "I drink socially and enjoy red wine with dinner. If I over-imbibe, I pay for it, not only with a headache, but with feelings of guilt and shame." Read more: "I’m Glad I’m Like My Dad But It Scares Me, Too"
Me: Dad, I have to leave for school now. Have a nice day. Dad: Wait. What’s the password of the day? Me: Be smart! That memory perfectly encapsulates the biggest lesson Cathy Chester's father imparted on her: the importance of curiosity and education. Read more: "Gifts From My Father"
Sisters Karen (pictured in the boat with their father) and Wendy Irving reflected on each of their favorite memories of their father, and the traits they've picked up from him. "As we wrote this post," they write, "Wendy and I realized that we’d each absorbed a lot of traits from our father. While he could be a rigid disciplinarian, and a stickler for safety (including bear safety and boat safety), when he let his guard down, he could be like a big, burly kid, who delighted in practical jokes (as long as they weren’t on him)." Read more: "For better or worse, we’re our father’s daughters"
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