When I was 13 years old, my family attended a family camp. One of the activities was to climb to the highest peak of a nearby mountain range. I decided to do this climb with my parents, even though I am terrified of heights. As we got closer and closer to the peak and the trail narrowed my fear was overwhelming. Another hiker offered a rope for us to tie around my father’s waist and mine. This gave me the courage to continue to the summit. As we descended I became more confident and less fearful. I untied the rope and eventually told my father I no longer needed it.
Looking back on that experience I came to realize it was a perfect analogy of how fathers help us along life’s paths, giving us the support we need and teaching us the lessons we need to learn in order to become independent and confident adults. Four important lessons I learned from my father growing up were the importance of education, the need for serving others, having a strong work ethic and having fun as a family. These lessons can strengthen any father and child relationship.
Although my paternal grandparents never graduated from college, my father and his two brothers all graduated with advanced degrees. This example was never lost on me. I was encouraged to explore and search for my own strengths and to always put forth my best efforts. He always showed great confidence in my ability to succeed. Once, after visiting my chemistry class to give a presentation, he discovered that the teacher did not think I could succeed in her class. He assured her I was completely capable of doing well. After that incident I felt more confident in my ability and the teacher seemed to raise her expectations. Knowing that my father placed a high value on education helped me to value it as well.
My father taught me to help those who are less fortunate than me. As a child I remember our family being a secret Santa for a family in need. We would purchase toys, clothes, food and other items to be delivered to the family. We had a lot of fun doing the shopping and wrapping and especially the stealthy drop off.
A few years ago during a visit to our family, my father mentioned that his friends were going to miss him. Every morning he takes a long walk around downtown Salt Lake City. He had befriended some of those who were less fortunate and would purchase them breakfast each morning. This made a huge impression on me as well as on my children. They still talk about Grampie’s friends. He truly exemplifies the bible verse in Matthew 25:40, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
Most Saturdays growing up, our family had some work to do. Whether it was weeding, washing the cars or working on a project, we were expected to do the job and do it well. Often he would stop what he was doing to demonstrate how to properly pull a weed from the roots, wash and dry a car or wash a window. Eventually I could do the job without his help.
When it came to larger projects we were each given an assignment, taught how to fulfill it and then left to complete the work on our own. One year we spent many an evening painting the interior of our new home or staining the trim boards. As a teenager, I am sure I didn’t appreciate spending so many evenings working, but I loved being able to point out to visitors of our new home the beautiful trim boards and cabinets that I helped stain.
As the saying goes, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” My father took the time to have fun with us. I have fond memories of being thrown into the deep end of the pool by my father, of toboggan runs for our sleds in the winter and days spent on the beach in the summer.
Often we traveled to National Parks, amusement parks and to visit new cities. On one trip we stopped to see the Yuma, Arizona prison. It must have been over 100 degrees in that desert. The motor home we rented didn’t cool off again until that evening. Our family still laughs about that stop my dad wanted to make. Through that experience I learned the ability to laugh at myself.
The influence of fathers on their children is great. By taking the time to teach your children by word and deed, you lay the foundation for a successful future. All the time and effort will be worth it as your children learn to let go of their reliance on you, just as I learned to let go of the rope on the summit of the mountain.