A couple of decades ago, soon after our first son was born, someone gave my husband, Amos, a cute little book with a catchy title: “How to Dad,” by John Boswell and Ron Barrett. It was a small thing, and fairly thin, but bright, with colorful drawings, and easy to read.
Each page described one cool thing that all dads should teach their offspring to do, along with instructions for teaching them. The lessons included how to skip a rock, how to bait a hook, how to tie a tie, how to whistle.
The book was actually helpful in reminding us about the common little things that kids need to know.
Then, there were the big things, like riding a bike. Amos spent time with each of our boys around age 5, talking about the bike parts, letting him try to balance on the seat, letting him help unscrew the training wheels.
I remember how my daddy taught me. He held the seat tightly while I sat on the bike as he explained pedaling and steering and braking.
Later, still holding onto the seat, he ran alongside me as I pedaled, still giving instructions as he ran.
And then he wasn’t holding the seat anymore. I was riding on my own.
The same happened with our boys. Amos ran and ran alongside, holding the seat, encouraging – and then he let go.
Dads teach unusual and extraordinary things too.
One of my favorite stories about father-child teaching was shared at a friend’s memorial service. He and his 2-year-old son were crawling slowly around the kitchen floor as mom came into the room. She asked what the heck he was doing. Tim said, “Shhh. I’m teaching Matthew how to sneak.”
Among many other things, my dad taught me how to locate a school of bream by their sweet smell, how to balance my checkbook and how to properly apply paint to my bedroom walls.
He once brought home an empty 55-gallon drum, put it on its side and taught my siblings and me how to “walk” it around the yard, rolling forwards and backward, turning this way and that.
Over the years, I’ve watched as Amos has taught our boys certain things, like how to draw a proportionate face, or how to balance the Legos so the structure won’t fall over.
Our older son, Clark, told me his dad taught him about the basic herbs and spices in our cabinet. He also learned from his dad how to read a map, on the occasion of being lost on Pinckney Island.
Chandler said his dad taught him that there are many paths in life, so one should choose the path he will enjoy most. Amos also taught him at age 4 how to use Photoshop, quite a useful tool.
Dads these days might be a little more hip. They can teach their kids how to play video games, build a website or download movies. They also might teach their children when to recharge the electric car battery and how to set the solar panels for maximum benefit.
No matter what a dad teaches his offspring, the time spent together is the important part. Dads can enjoy teaching time with their children as much as the children do. That’s a lesson in itself.
If your dad is still around, spend some time talking with him. You might learn something.
And if your dad is no longer with you, take a few moments to reflect on how much he taught you.
You still might learn something.