The One Thing I Didn’t Learn from My Dad (But I Wish I Had)

June 15, 2014


When I wrote this post for Mother’s Day about all the things my mom taught me, I knew I’d have to write a similar post for my dad on Father’s Day.

You know, to be fair.

And, you know, so I don’t get kicked out of anyone’s will. (Haha. I kid.)

But when I sat down to write a big long list of all the things my father taught me, I kept thinking of the one thing he didn’t teach me.

Not that my father didn’t teach me lots of things.

He did.

Like, he taught me that everything tastes better with bacon.

My dad made this: pork wrapped in bacon.

My dad made this: pork wrapped in bacon.

He taught me how to make a mean to-do list and his organizational skills, which all my coworkers make fun of me for, but the color-coded binder system WORKS, okay?

And, there have been more than a few times that I’ve found myself cracking some corny joke about getting “all my hairs cut” when I can’t help blaming thanking my dad for my cheesy sense of humor.

But there’s one thing my dad didn’t teach me that I really wish he had.

And that’s his ability to stay calm in the face of difficulty and believe that everything’s going to be okay.

My dad has faced a lot of hard stuff in his day, from unexpectedly having his little family of three turn into a family of six overnight to losing his business. But I’ve never seen him freak out or lose his cool. He just always seems to think everything’s going to work out in the end.

Meanwhile, I’ve made losing my cool a personal pastime. My first reaction to any situation is to assume that I’m going to die. Or at least end up with some serious kind of bacterial infection.

For the longest time, I assumed the reason why I didn’t have my father’s same outlook on life was because I just didn’t inherit that gene. Instead of getting the optimism gene, I got the OHMYGOD-I’M-GOING-TO-DIE gene. (I did, on the other hand, get his gene for prematurely grey hair. I’m assuming there’s some evolutionary reason for that. Like thirty-year-olds with grey hair are better at surviving in the wild.)

In the past few years, though, I’ve tried to change from this person that I am, the kind of person who assumes the worst, to the person I could be, a person more like my dad.

When I’m facing something difficult or challenging or possibly bacterial-infection-inducing, I’ll will myself to take a deep breath, stop freaking out so much and just believe that everything’s going to be okay.

It doesn’t always work.

But I do feel a little bit more like my dad every time I do it.

And that’s a good thing.

What life lesson did your dad teach you (or not teach you)?

I've blathered on long enough! Now it's your turn!

  1. On June 15, 2014 at 2:29 pm Ross said:

    I think fathers tend to teach by example. Sounds like he set the example so you must have got the OHMYGOD-I’M-GOING-TO-DIE gene.
    Ross recently posted..Father’s Day

  2. On June 15, 2014 at 3:28 pm sine said:

    This is great (even though now you’ve made me feel bad once again because I didn’t write my own father’s or mother’s day post). You know what, my dad might have taught me the same thing, but in the opposite way. He always really freaked out when his day got out of whack in any whichever way, which usually came to a culmination every summer when we packed up the car and drove South, and he was tasked with getting everything crammed into it (in what then seemed a huge car but when you look at one of those now it’s tiny), not made easier by the fact that he always did this at 3 am to avoid traffic (because THAT got him even more frazzled). I distinctly remember a few thrown items and bad words during that annual ritual.

    Anyway, I think he taught me that everything will be okay and to stay calm and not freak out in his own way. Because he freaked out and everything ended up fine anyway, so I learned early that there is no need to freak out. Funny, huh? Maybe this trait always goes back and forth between the generation? Perhaps you can only pass its reverse on?
    sine recently posted..On Writing and Cranking Out 1000 Words Per Day

    • On June 22, 2014 at 11:01 am Sally said:

      Interesting! My mom is kind of the big freaker-outer in my family. Or, at least, she’s really good at coming up with worst case scenarios. Seeing as hardly any of her worst case scenarios come to fruition, I usually do the same thing as she does. I’ll think up the worst possible thing that could happen and then convince myself that because I’ve thought of it, it couldn’t possibly happen. So, basically, I freak out but I freak out so that the bad stuff won’t happen.

  3. On June 15, 2014 at 5:56 pm Mariellen Ward said:

    My father didn’t make me feel confident. He was extremely confident — or so he seemed — but he, unfortunately, didn’t inspire it in me. He was often angry, and lost his temper, and scared me. Plus, he made a big deal out of it if I made a mistake, and turned it into a crisis. Not a great emotional environment for learning.

    I feel bad saying it because he did do quite a few things right, until I was about 16.

    But I’ve struggled my whole life because of this.

    Confidence is the one thing I wish I had learned from him

    Thanks for your honesty, as always.

    Mariellen Ward recently posted..The world is watching her

  4. On June 15, 2014 at 6:14 pm Alice Anne said:

    I think maybe what your father didn’t teach you (or mine me) was that he thought “oh my G-d” before acting calm. We fortunately have you to admit to the panic moment and then demonstrate courage. I love your blog name, but it is not really true. You are very brave, you just admit to the fear first.

    • On June 22, 2014 at 10:49 am Sally said:

      Unfortunately, for me when I’m nervous I get hives. So even if my Dad had taught me how to act calm in the face of fear, it would still probably be pretty obvious when I was scared as I’d be covered in big red splotches!

  5. On June 16, 2014 at 12:04 pm Amanda said:

    Although I am way better with money management than my dad, he taught that life is short, you can’t it with you so have fun while you can. My dad really made my childhood exciting and now am the same way. I want to make sure that my kids have a life of adventure too.
    Amanda recently posted..The Queen Mary

  6. On June 21, 2014 at 9:37 pm Priya said:

    I know what you mean. I’ve seen my dad stay calm in many you-shouldn’t-be-calm-right-now situations while I tend to freak out for the both of us.
    Priya recently posted..Priya’s Cookin’: Potatoes + NEW Bloggie Series

  7. On September 24, 2014 at 9:03 pm Ceri said:

    Ha! Funnily enough, the one big thing I did get from my dad was our ability to overworry and panic about EVERYTHING. I wish I had my mum’s calm and relaxing attitude towards things.
    Ceri recently posted..My Friend Asked Me Why I Stopped Writing. So I Told Her …

  8. On June 22, 2016 at 5:18 pm Sandra L. said:

    OK, this is totally unrelated, but I have to tell you.
    I follow another blog by a woman who travels, and the word “girl” is also in her blog name. I subscribe to both of yours. So yesterday, I got one of her blog posts, about choosing a travel partner.
    Well, somehow, I thought it was from your blog, and I wrote this ranting/raving/thought I was being funny comment on her post. Today, I discovered my mistake and also that she didn’t publish it.
    She runs a travel business so she probably didn’t want a ranty/ravy person commenting on her blog.

    Thought you’d appreciate it!

    • On June 22, 2016 at 5:53 pm Sally said:

      Also, of course, I feel the need to Google search all the other travely sites with “girl” in the title that have posts about choosing travel partners just so I can know what you were all ranty about. 🙂
      Also, you’re welcome to leave ranty/raving comments here. I rant/rave all the time, so I feel it’s only fair that I let other people do so, too! 🙂

      • On June 23, 2016 at 12:12 pm Sandra L. said:

        I basically wrote about how I had several offers from friends to accompany me on my recent trip to London. Friend #1 likes to drink and talk. And the more she drinks, the more she talks. I was afraid I would end up propping her up as I dragged her out of pubs. Friend #2, I love to pieces, but she wanted to wait a year and I didn’t. We’ve been on short trips to the NJ shore before and she would have been a great companion. Friend #3 said, “I’ve never been interested in visiting London, but I can buy a Fodor’s and read up on it. I’m sure there’s something I can do there.” What?!?! Why would you pay thousands of dollars to go somewhere you’re not particularly interested in?

        Also, I do not want to share a bathroom with anyone.

        I’ve traveled with my mom, but she doesn’t want to leave the U.S. and I don’t think she could handle what she calls “the lower standard of living in Europe.” Like the idea that the central heating isn’t on all the time in some guest houses. Or that there are automated light switches in the hallways of the places I stay.

        • On June 26, 2016 at 7:17 pm Sally said:

          HAHAHAHA. This comment reminded me so much of the time my mom came to visit me in London. She was also not impressed by “the lower standard of living,” as your mother calls it. It definitely didn’t help that instead of having her stay in a hotel, she stayed with me and my roommate and my roommate’s mom in our teeny tiny one-bedroom flat. At least I let her sleep in my bed while I slept on the floor… I should probably mention it was a bunkbed.


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