Lessons a Father Teaches…or Should

A couple of days ago was the ten year anniversary of when my Dad lost his battle with cancer.  He was a fighter to the end.  I am glad I can smile while writing this, thinking of his attitude during the battle.  As the battle was winding down, he was still teaching us…showing by example…how to face a challenge.  Even if it was the ultimate challenge.

Many of my memories of my Dad were of him “teaching”.  And yet I believe he did not view himself as such.

But I think that it is one of the roles a Father (and Mother) must embrace as they raise their children.  Teach.  Show.  Lead.  It is a responsibility.  As Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis once said, “If you fail in raising your children, nothing else really matters”.

There are times when the lesson is as obvious as a two-by-four upside the head…it needs to be because of the situation involved, or the age of the child.   And other times it is done quietly.  Almost as if nothing was said, like the “lesson” came to you by osmosis.  Or it was your idea…or a dream.

These teachings evolve themselves from the very basics as an infant,  through mere “suggestions” or reminders as a young man and then you have the “examples” given throughout our lives…by our choices…decisions…actions.  Often times they occur as a result of something, or a situation that has popped up like “Whack-A-Mole”.  (where you take care of one issue only to cause another to pop it’s little head up)  Then you have those little lessons that would be presented by Lifethe game we are all trying to win but no one knows all of the rules.  And of course simple acts such as riding a bike, changing a tire, shaving, throwing a ball or carving a turkey are more directed efforts towards teaching a specific skill…they are more task oriented.

My Dad was a coach.  Life. Soccer.  Baseball.  Even Basketball.  He coached teams which he had his own children on, and teams that didn’t.  Beginners  and advanced, more skilled players alike.  If he didn’t know things himself he would go to those that had the answers and learn from them…ask questions, or read.

I recall when I first began playing organized sports, at Our Lady of Fatima in Florissant, MO, my Dad said he wanted me to read something.  I had no idea what it was.  But he gave me a piece of paper, I believe it was printed on stationary from Prudential Insurance (my Dad and my Grandpa both worked for Prudential at one time or another).  It was entitled “What Does A Father Say To His Son Before His First Game?”  Dad said to me, I know this isn’t your first game, but I still think it would be a good idea if you read this…

So I read it…here it is (yes, I actually still have it) :

What Does A Father Say To His Son Before His First Game?

This is your first game, son.  I hope you win.  I hope you win for your sake, not mine.  Because winning is nice.  It’s a good feeling.  Like the whole world is yours.  But it passes, this feeling.  And what lasts is what you’ve learned.  And what you’ve learned about is life.  That’s what sports are all about.  There’s no telling how you’ll do.  You might be a hero, or you might be absolutely nothing.  There’s just no telling.  Too much depends on chance.  Or how the ball bounces.  I’m not talking about the game, son.  I’m talking about life.  But it’s life that the game is all about.  Because every game is life. And life is a game.  A serious one.  Dead serious.  But that’s what you do with serious things. You do your best.  You take what comes. You take what comes and you run with it.  Winning is fun, sure.  But winning is not the point.  Wanting to win is the point. Not giving up is the point.  Never being satisfied with what you’ve done is the point.  Never letting up is the point.  Never letting anyone down is the point.  Play to win.  Sure.  But lose like a champion.  Because it’s not always winning that counts.  What counts is trying.

…and then my Dad asked me if I understood it.  I probably didn’t really grasp it at the time, but didn’t want to “disappoint” him, of course I said I understood it.  I remember, he replied, “Good.  If I ever think you are not trying and playing to win, I will make you quit.”  And if you knew him, you know he would have made me quit. (and if you knew him you also knew how important he thought this was because he hated to lose!!)

There is more to that teaching than what I ever imagined.  So many truths are in it…ones I never knew about…ones I experienced often and some I experienced a few times…and still some I continue find hard to accept…

At the time Dad had me read this, I am pretty sure I thought he was talking about the game.  Baseball or soccer probably.

But now I am not so sure…

Not giving up is the point… 

Never being satisfied with what you’ve done is the point… 

Thanks Dad.  I am still learning…still trying.

Published in: on August 1, 2011 at 5:47 pm  Comments (4)  
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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Love this and the photo!


  2. Excellent, John!


    • many thanks Steve, your comment means a lot because of the type of father you are


  3. I really liked the article, and the very cool blog


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