What Dad Taught Me
by Matthew Alexander Sloane
In considering how to be a good father, I’d have to speak from no experience, because I don’t yet have children. Even if I’ve cultivated a sort of “inner-father” to myself after leaving home.
So, in honor of Father’s Day, I want to share what I learned from my father that I choose to emulate—today and in anticipation of having children of my own.
Here’s the top 10 of what I say to myself… thanks to my dad.
1. Play and sing the music you like—even if your kids think it sucks and hate you for forcing it on them in the car during roadtrips. It may just turn out to be on their ‘favorites’ list one day (ie. James Taylor, John Denver, Jim Croche, Simon & Garfunkel, The Eagles, and the entire soundtrack to ‘Saturday Night Fever’).
2. Practice public speaking—even alone in your living room. I once saw my dad talking to himself one school night—holding a book in his hands, sitting on the couch. The image is burned into my brain because I remember being truly frightened, thinking he was crazy. Now I do it all the time ; )
3. Let your children find their way and hope they go farther than you, but don’t expect it. I’ve never felt pressured to succeed by my father. But any time I ask for advice, he’s there to share his experience.
4. Give your children opportunities to see you at work, especially when you get to play at work. My father did marketing for the NFL-sponsored “World Football League” for a few years and took me games in New York, Montreal, and Germany. I got to stand on the fields, sit in VIP seats, and eat all the hot dogs I wanted.
5. Have a few jokes up your sleeve. Rinse, wash, and repeat. My father loves to laugh. He and some of his friends could always be counted on for some funny stories and repeating the same jokes over and over. It wasn’t just the jokes that were so funny—what really cracks me up now is remembering him cracking up over a joke he had told a hundred times before.
6. Get a babysitter and take Mom out for dates. My parents still go out to movies and shows and concerts. I don’t know if they call them dates anymore, but they are some of the most culture-hungry people I know. I never minded being left at home with my brother or a sitter when I knew my dad and mom were out, just “being” together.
7. Offer to hang out with your kids for no reason. On Saturdays, my dad would sometimes be heading to the post office and ask me if I wanted to go just for the car ride. The older I got, the less I said ‘yes.’ But whether I went and just sat there silently or didn’t go at all, I always loved that he asked.
8. Keep swimming, even when your gut hangs out. I always thought my dad had a funny looking shape to his body. Like an apple on sticks. We’d go swimming in the summer or on vacations and I’d feel embarrassed by his tummy. But he never seemed to care. He loved to swim and sit in the sun. I have to say, I hope I can let “looking good” be lower on my own list of priorities one day.
9. Play an instrument for family gatherings. My father used to play the guitar and sing at my uncle’s house on Christmas, on vacations to Frost Valley, at home… Today, there’s something about acoustic guitar that totally pulls my heartstrings. I’m sure it’s in my blood and bones that
hearing a guitar represents family to me.
10. Keep improving yourself. For most of his career, my father changed jobs every 2 or 3 years. Not to get away from anything, but to keep challenging himself, try new things, and continue to get a pay raise along the way. Some of his best advice to me, which comes in very handy as I’ve become an avid learner, is to “make sure you are practicing what you are learning. Otherwise, you’re not learning.”
– is a deeply personal issue that everyone decides for himself. Sometimes the price is high, sometimes low. But this is not very important for life. Life is an interesting thing. And the price on Viagra – too.