When I got my first job at the age of 14 working at a local hardware store it was my first time I knew my father was preparing me well for the aworld beyonnd his house. It was at this job that my manager taught me his first rule of management: “Never tell an employee to do something you have never done.” Well, duh I thought. This made perfect sense. Lead by example. That was how I had always been raised. Whenever my siblings and I were told to do chores or yard-work, it wasn’t while my father (or mother for that matter) was lounging around in the sun, or watching TV; it was because he was there doing work right along with us. My father easily wins the award of one of the hardest working people I know. I learned very quickly that through hard work you can achieve your dreams, but you have to do the hard work first. Never make someone else do your hard work because then you never really learn what work is.
Though I did learn that one needs to work to live, my father also showed me that one should not live to work. Life is not simply the pursuit of money or pleasure, it’s the pursuit of understanding. Through fostering my need to build and learn how components work together by supporting my Lego addiction; through teaching me that patience brings fantastic results by helping me build model rockets and shoot them off; through constantly introducing me to new science fiction and fantasy classics from his impressive library in order to expand the realm of my dreams, Dad has always pushed me to further question and explain and understand the world around me; to look at it with a critical eye and to never just accept something because I am told to. I am sure some days he wished he had raised a more obedient child 😉
Though he has always promoted less traditional means of education, my dad is also a supporter of receiving a formal education, but he understands that the education process is not easy for everyone and that some people take time to find their own stride in school. This has always been critical, as myself and my siblings have very different approaches to formal education, and all the while my dad (and mom) have adapted to our individual attitudes instead of pigeon-holing us into one approach towards education. There is not one correct way to learn, as long as you learn
On top of all this, my dad has always, and continues to be, “there.” Whenever we kids had band concerts, Dad would go. Whenever we needed to be driven somewhere on the weekends, Dad would drive us. At night, after coming home from work, Dad would relax, but with doors open, always ready to engage with his kids.
Most importantly, whenever I needed to be told to shut up, Dad would tell me. Whenever I overstepped a boundary, Dad would let me know. As a child this happened more, and as I grew older, Dad appropriately backed off, sharing his opinions or feeling on the matter, but realizing he would not always be able to dictate my interactions and eventually I would have to start learning lessons the hard way: by feeling the repercussions of my actions, not always able to hide behind a loving father. Whenever my ego received a metaphorical bruising, Dad was there with the ice pack, making sure I was OK, but making sure I understood the lesson I just learned.
Parenting is one of those things that crosses cultures in my opinion. Children need good parents, no matter what country they live in. There is something about the parent-child bond that reinforces life’s lessons more so than in any other fashion. I am lucky to have had the parenting that I have had, and when I look around at life here in Kenya, or back in the USA, I wonder where all the good parents have gone. Many of the problems that we face could easily be extinguished if parents just did their job: love their child and teach him to treat others with respect and dignity, no matter their walk of life or train of thought. If anyone is confused by this, or if there are any fathers out there who aren’t sure if they are doing a good job, just let me know. I would be more than happy to introduce you to my dad, because if more dads were like him, we wouldn’t be facing half the problems we face as humanity today.