Three things I wish my Dad and I had done together before I left home:
This is not a post about regret or blame. Let’s be clear up front. It’s about encouraging fathers to seize the day and share your knowledge, wisdom, experience – share your self – with your teens while they are still teens and you still have this golden window of opportunity. My son recently turned 12, so I am becoming more and more mindful of the conversations and experiences I want to share with him before he heads off on his own adventure beyond our home. And one of the places I turn to put together my own list is to consider those things I missed with my own Dad. There are three that stand above the rest, and yes, they clearly fall in the “stereotypical guy stuff” category. This is not to say that there aren’t Moms who can share these things. If you are one of those – don’t miss the boat! And I am certainly not suggesting that Dads only share these things with sons. If you have a daughter, don’t leave her out of this!
1. I wish we had worked on cars together. From what I understand, my Dad worked in an old-fashioned garage at one point earlier in his life (he was almost 35 when I was born). We changed a few car batteries together over the years, and he did teach me the handy skill of plugging/patching a flat tire. That one has come in handy and saved me some hard-earned bucks on several occasions. Thanks, Dad! But we never really worked on cars together. Granted, by the time I can remember, my parents typically brought our vehicles to a shop somewhere if they needed work. Dad didn’t really do much of that himself. But I’m pretty sure he knew how to do some of that stuff. And while it would have been much more of a “hassle,” especially with an impatient kid who talks too much during lesson time “helping” him in the process, it would have been really wonderful for me. For us. I think our relationship could have deepened through that experience. And I’m sure I would have more options today regarding my own car care.
2. I wish we had gone fishing together on a regular basis. We lived out in the country in a small neighborhood about half an hour from town. And there was a good sized pond in the middle of our little community. (They called it a lake. It was a big pond.) I don’t think there were any world class bass in there, but I’ll bet there were some fish. I know we weren’t far from some really good fresh water fishing. Arkansas has lots of rivers and lakes and ponds scattered throughout its beautiful country. Exploring the different areas and learning the skills of the fisherman would have been a priceless way to spend time with my Dad. Not only learning the confidence to bait a hook, quickly release a fish, tie various knots, and knowing where to go for what kind of fish. I’m thinking it would have been an incredible way for an impulsive, overly talkative kid to learn about patience and being still and quiet when called for. That would have been really good for me. Might be good for your teens or younger children.
3. I wish we had gone hunting together. The first time I saw a deer on a hunt with a gun ready in my hands, I was in graduate school in Texas. I was out with some friends who graciously took along a smart guy from school who was a clueless idiot in the campsite and deer path. I wish I had been with my Dad. The first time I killed a deer, I was in a stand in North Louisiana, with my best friend and his Dad and brother in nearby stands, eagerly listening for the report of the rifle they had loaned me. It was incredible. Breathtaking. Surreal. And I wish my Dad had been there. As a poor boy growing up in the woods of Middle Tennessee, he had learned to shoot anything they could eat. And he got very good at it. He was an exceptional marksman in the US Army in his prime. I wish he had bought me a gun, taught me to use it correctly, and shared the ways of the woods with me.
While I have begun to share these experiences with my own son, after first seeking guidance from men with the knowledge and patience to teach me, I need to be more deliberate. I need to plan better. I need to take time to share these skills and conversations and life opportunities with him. It won’t happen by accident. And my son is growing up in a screen-saturated world that constantly cries out to him to stay indoors where the “real” action and adventure is. I don’t have a set of mechanic’s tools. I don’t have a boat. I don’t have a rifle. But why should that stop me? I can share some basics with him in auto maintenance. We have friends with boats and plenty of places to fish in South Louisiana without needing one. My 12 gauge is all we really need to do almost any kind of hunting we would want to pursue around here. This year, I’m going to schedule time to get my son outside with me and experience some adventure, growth, and new skills together. I hope you will do the same.