06/10/2014 12:09 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

10 Notes For Parents From My Dad, the Music Man

My dad didn't play the violin -- he played the fiddle. In fact, there was nothing he couldn't play. I'm sure he could make any instrument sing; he needed only five minutes and a paying customer.

He taught me so many things, but what I remember most was his gentle way with children. He was a storyteller, a guitar player and a chaser of monsters and bad dreams. He taught me a lot about life through his music so I wanted to share some of his wisdom with you. Happy Father's Day to all the dads who put a song in our hearts and a smile on our faces.


1. Play On. I was by no stretch of anyone's imagination even half the musician my dad was, but no matter what happened, he told me to play on. He reassured me that no mistake was fatal and as long as you keep going, you will still bring joy to those around you. The same is true for parents. We're not perfect and we don't have to be. We just need to keep trying and never, ever give up.

2. Improvise. My dad liked to keep it fresh by making each performance new and a little unpredictable. There is no job I know where the ability to be flexible and change things up is more helpful than in parenting. Smile and improvise and your kids will learn resiliency while you learn acceptance.

3. Stay In Tune. There is nothing fun about a band that is out of tune. My dad taught me that it is really important for parents to stay in tune with their kids too. Life is busy for all of us and it would be easy to lose touch a little with the kids from time to time. In fact, sometimes teens are even known for begging their parents for more space. Staying close enough to show you care without crowding out others is a great way for any family to make beautiful music together.

4. Be creative. Routines have their place, but so does crazy creativity. Did you know that reluctant readers often read for hours if you read in a tent? Thinking outside the box, or even making a fort in a box, can be some of the happiest memories we make, so like in music, don't be afraid to get creative.

5. Practice, Practice, Practice. My dad taught me that if I skip practicing one day, I would know, two days and the rest of the band would know and three days and the audience would know. He was right. Parenting is a little like that. We need to keep working at it and learn from our mistakes. Support each other and share our insights so everyone has a better experience.

6. Once More, With Feeling. There are technicians and there are musicians and the difference is soul. Technical proficiency is great, but it's warmth and emotion that move our hearts. It's important to check off certain boxes as a parent, good food, enough exercise, extra-curricular opportunities and even music lessons are wonderful, but it's also important to be silly, laugh until you cry and sometimes even cry until you laugh. Let them know you are a whole person and that you see them as whole as well. Trophies can be terrific, but eventually they just sit on a shelf. A mental health day watching an I Love Lucy marathon creates a bond that never gathers dust.

7. Everyone Gets A Solo. Some musicians are strong and others are not, but my dad taught me that everyone needs a chance to shine. Teaching our kids that when one does well it reflects well on the whole family really builds your family team and empowers everyone to bring out their best.

8. Stay Together. Like being out of tune, a band that can't keep the same beat is exhausting. We all sound better when we give everyone a chance to keep up and keep our family moving forward. Sticking together helps kids build empathy and compassion for each other too.

9. Everyone Is A Roadie. Sometimes there can be some heavy lifting in life. It's not easy, but it's necessary. Just like in his band, my dad insisted everyone did his or her share to help out. It wasn't always a glamorous job, (I can assure you wrapping amplifier wires around your arm is dusty and dull), but it is necessary, so help each other out and you'll get where you want to be.

10. Listen. Listen to each other, actively. Musicians always listen to those around them and my dad taught me the same is true for parents. We need to listen to our families, not just hear them. Use their body language, words and tone of voice to fully understand what they need us to know. That's the best way to truly understand each other.

Happy Father's Day!

This post is part of HuffPost Parents' Father's Day series, exploring the lessons our dads taught us about parenting.