The Best Thing My Father Ever Said To Me

A thousand years ago the Shmata Queen yelled at me because I hadn’t gotten a colonoscopy. Even though she took great pleasure in stories about my digestive distress she told me she thought that I was being ridiculous because I hadn’t given some doc the chance to explore my nether regions. I explained that I do things in my time and on my schedule to which I received some sort of growl that sounded like “men” and assorted mumblings that probably weren’t complimentary. I of course responded with a hearty, “I love you too dear.”

Somewhere before, in between or after this conversation my parents expressed their frustration concern regarding my desire to do things on my schedule. Now you’ll forgive me for the lack of precision regarding the chronology here, but the reality is that it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter because this is how I have been my entire life. My mother likes to tell the story about how when I was around a year they thought that I might be deaf.

Apparently I didn’t always respond to them when they called my name and they began to grow concerned.  So my father conducted his own test of my hearing. He stood behind me and banged on some pots and pans. According to family legend I turned my head and glared at him as if I was irritated that he had interrupted whatever I was doing to entertain myself.  Important side note for those who are new to the blog. When I was five I got in trouble for doing something and was sent to my room. Not long after I was sent there I came back out and challenged my father to a fight, with the premise being that if I won I would be allowed to come back out.

In case you are wondering he failed to entertain my idea and I remained stuck inside my room.

Fast forward from 1974 to the present. My new friend Leon sent me a link to a very interesting article. Let me share the beginning with you:

YOU believe, because it is one of the last self-evident, incontrovertible truths, that raising a child is one of the most influential jobs in the world.

And that’s why you will find what comes next so difficult. All those extra bedtime stories read, violins purchased, chess clubs driven to, trips to the museum made, cosy fireside chats delivered; all the arguments over homework and bribes, all the blueberries served, all the guidance offered, all your values instilled, all your world-view shared, all the worry, heartache, effort, blood, sweat and tears of being a responsible parent. All the things you do that make your child special. It’s all for nothing.

Or, as Bryan Caplan, the American academic and author of the new book Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids, puts it: “Adoption and twin research provides strong evidence that parenting barely affects a child’s prospects. If parents gave themselves a big break – or redoubled their efforts – their kids would turn out about the same.”

I’ll let you chew on that for a bit. I expect that I will probably blog about it at length. But in the interim let me share with you the best thing that my father ever said to me. Ok, I can’t say for certain that it was the best, but it is up there.

A few years ago dad and I were hanging out together. I don’t remember why or where the family was but I remember telling him that I was frustrated about a few things. It was the sort of conversation that we probably wouldn’t have had before I became a father in large part because he would have told me to suck it up and I would been pissed off by it.

Truth is that I expected the same sort of response this time, but I was so irritated that I just blurted it out. And that is when he surprised me by saying that he used to worry about what I would do career wise but that he didn’t worry any more. That is the abridged version of the conversation, but you get the point.

It might sound silly, but sometimes when things feel rough I think about it and it takes the edge off. So thank you dad, you still make a difference and an impact in my life.


  1. says

    Jack, aloha.  What a great story; I just love happy endings.

    Jack, I had to smile when you said that your folks were considered you might be deaf.  And, of course, your response to the “test” made it even better.  Obviously you had superior powers of focus or concentration at a very young age.

    Jack, I sure how your dad reads your blog because your last sentence no doubt would mean the world me him.

    Best wishes for a terrific week, Jack.  Until next time, aloha.  Janet

    • says

      @twitter-45938040:disqus My kids have the same focus as I do and now they give me the same look that I once gave others. ;) I have to smile because I appreciate it. But they are learning just as I did that sometimes we have to adjust and adapt to what others are doing.

      One of these days I’ll share this post with dad, but not yet.

  2. says

    With respect to the not worrying about parenting because kids turn out about the same as they would have.  I think this is more-or-less true, but the disarming truth is that we can apply this same logic to any individual life or any effort.  Really, we’re only around for a few decades if we’re lucky, and once we die then all the earthly efforts are for naught since we’re either extinct or gone to paradise.

    It seems liberating and bold and wise to simply let chips fall because you can’t catch ‘em anyway, but I think that is an oversimplification.  We clearly have some influence on our children, and understanding the boundaries of the influence will yield profits.

    • says

      @d867f5b7346d6b0778f5db620991ecd5:disqus Parenting is a constant juggling act that can be exhausting. It is hard sometimes to figure out where to focus and how hard.

      I don’t disagree that there are significant benefits that can be realized from focusing on our children, but I do think that there is merit to the other side.

      It is all about balance.

  3. says

    Wonderful story Jack…  Never having been a parent myself, it’s hard for me to put myself in their shoes.  I do remember though when I would call my Dad and complain about my day.  Something someone did to piss me off.  He would stop me in mid sentence and say, “Adrienne, you know things could really be much worse for you.  You could be laying in a hospital bed dying of cancer so what the hell do you have to complain about”?  He always kicked me where it hurt but made me realize very quickly just how right he was.  It also didn’t help that he fought cancer for 42 years of his life.  Yep, I had absolutely nothing to complain about at all. Life was pretty darn good!  

    To worry about the little things, they are so unimportant in the bigger scheme of things aren’t they!

    Thanks Jack…  Enjoyed this as always.  


    • says

      @d1f6f72fd673fa202677b90f0774c7af:disqus Forty-two years is a heck of a long time to fight anything. Parents are often quite good at putting things in perspective and or putting us in our place.

      I am very grateful to have had my parents- they have been great. Now I am just trying to do as much for my kids as mine did for me.

  4. says

    What a lovely story, Jack. I sometimes think we focus so heavily on parenting now (yes, I’m actually saying this) that we don’t focus enough on other things – like couplehood, for instance. Still, I believe that parenting is a huge influencer, a privilege, and a responsibility. Obviously, we have an incredible impact on our kids, as your father – and his remark (whatever the timing) had on you. 

    • says

      @biglittlewolf:disqus I read an article about the impact of technology on children and parenting that made me shake my head. It suggested that technology had helped inhibit the ability of children to make decisions on their own and had increased the length of adolescence.

      I could see a lot of truth in it. I am in agreement with you that sometimes we spend too much time focusing on the kids. It is hard not to and there is reason to be concerned. But sometimes we have to have faith that they will thrive because we give them the tools and resources to do so.

      The population isn’t shrinking.

  5. Absenceofalternatives says

    I love this. I love your dad blog posts too both the one you write about a parent and also when you write about your dad. I am looking forward to your LONG post on the book. Though I am thinking oh I got to get the book, I highly doubt i’ll be able to read it…

    • says

      @c6aa4dbae7c2de4ecbbbe2f55e49af89:disqus It might be a good book for reading on a plane or train. Thanks for the kind words about my posts. I like writing about both. Wish I had more time to do so.

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