by Delano Squires
June was a good month for my father. Both of his children were home for Father’s Day and he celebrated a birthday shortly thereafter. While our relationship has had its fair share of mountains and valleys, my father has taught me many life lessons that have had a lasting impact on me as I have matured. While applicable to many different types of relationships, I hope to remember these nuggets of wisdom if I am fortunate enough to become a father.
1. Play D
As a young man, I often wished I had some of the freedoms of my peers. I wasn’t allowed to go to parties or many other social events like other kids in high school. My father also made sure that I contributed more to the household than consuming food and electricity. At that time, I didn’t enjoy living in a strict and structured household but I have come to appreciate the discipline he instilled in me as I’ve matured. The Bible says that a father disciplines a child that he loves, whereas an unloved, unclaimed child is allowed to do whatever he/she pleases. Ultimately, when children don’t feel loved at home they search for love in other places, often with negative consequences.
2. Tap the Mine
I’ve learned that some people easily and readily make the most of their potential and natural abilities. Others only scratch the surface of all they can accomplish. The latter group are like mines, with precious material trapped deep within but unable to access their full value on their own. My father was my miner. His extraction process was at times uncomfortable and unpleasant (see Lesson #1), but he saw potential in me and committed himself to not letting me waste it. He pushed me to strive for excellence in every endeavor and never allowed me to make excuses for failure. He expected a lot from me and I, in turn, have come to expect a lot from myself.
3. Leave a Legacy
In a recent interview with P. Diddy, the interviewer questioned the media mogul about the example he is setting as a father, given the fact that he has six children by three women. Diddy conceded that while his children deserve more personal time from him, they are all well taken care of financially. The entire interview was indicative of the way our society often measures men according to their earning potential, possessions, titles, degrees, and other indicators of financial and social status. While these things have their place in my own life story, I often tell friends that my greatest impact as a future father will hopefully be in the lives of the generations that I have the privilege of helping to create. My goal will be intergenerational prosperity, but the legacy I want to leave is more than just money. For instance, I am more thankful for the examples of character, integrity, wisdom, and dependability that I saw in my father than any expensive gifts that he could have given me. My hope is that I’ll be able to do the same thing for my children.
4. Don’t forget your anchor
One thing I love about my current church is the number of men who are active in service and ministry. These brothers remind me of the central role that faith has played in my father’s life. In fact, I was extremely fortunate as a young man because almost all of the men who were most influential in my life were Christian brothers. They, like my own father, taught me lessons that were both spiritual and practical in nature. As I’ve developed my own relationship with God, I often remember them when I think about what it means to be a Christian man in an increasingly secular world.
5. Spy Games
All of us are being watched by siblings, friends, co-workers, spouses, and others who are close to us. They take notice of the way we carry ourselves and treat others. They also want to see whether our private practices match our public proclamations. This does not mean one must live a perfect life. People can forgive mistakes but they are much less forgiving of hypocrisy. I learned that it is important, particularly for parents, to be examples that you would want your children to follow.
This list is certainly not exhaustive and it doesn’t fully account for all of the life lessons I learned from my mother and the other influential women in my life. These life lessons simply help me navigate the rugged terrain of everyday life. They are useful at work, with friends, and in relationships. My hope is that I will one day be able to pass on a few pearls to my own children, but until then I’ll keep using the ones that have been left for me.
BMWK, what are some of the most important life lessons that you’ve learned from your parents, friends, and loved ones? What life lessons do you intend to pass on to your children?
Delano Squires is currently a graduate student in Race, Ethnicity, and Public Policy at the George Washington University. His focus is contemporary African American culture, urban education, and child development. Follow him on Twitter @Mr_Squires.