This morning as my wife and I were getting ready for work, we were talking about the concept of how parents can influence their kids, even without trying to.
For example, no matter how much you praise your child on their abilities, talents, and looks, they can be just as influenced by the way you, the parent, see yourself.
As Bekah on The Wally Show explained yesterday morning, a mother who picks herself apart in front of the mirror will often, by default, teach her daughter to do the same; no matter how much the mother compliments the daughter.
We learn so much from our parents.
Today is my dad’s 59th birthday. So naturally, having just had this conversation, I’ve been thinking all day about the ways my dad made me who I am; whether he meant to or not.
I easily thought of 5 ways:
The first story that comes to mind was back in the late 80s one time when my dad stopped to get gas for his Ford Ranchero.
I asked him if I could get a candy bar inside the gas station. He reluctantly said yes, but went on to explain how unhealthy candy bars were, because of “all that sugar”. He told me how little boys my age needed to be eating healthier foods.
That made me curious. I then asked him when the last time he had eaten he candy bar. He replied, “Years… I probably was a boy. But I shouldn’t have, because those things aren’t healthy.”
Similarly, I can also specifically remember, around the same time, we were watching 20/20 on TV and there was a special about how kids were having heart attacks because of their diets.
My dad warned me if I didn’t start eating healthier foods, I could end up like those kids on TV who had heart attacks.
In our house, we never had white bread; only wheat. I felt deprived.
Granted, those elementary school years passed, then my teens, then my college years, and I ate horribly the whole time; whenever it was up to me. I didn’t heed his advice.
But by the time I reached my late 20s, I started seeing my processed food diet catch up with me…
Now, look at me. I am the strictest vegan anyone personally knows. If it weren’t for my dad, though, I wouldn’t currently be the healthy man I am.
(And when I say I’m healthy, that’s based on Dr. Thomas John at Vanderbilt Primary Care in Spring Hill, TN; during my visit with him back in April.)
If it weren’t for my dad, these days I would be a highly medicated guy: I would take something daily for severe allergy and sinus issues; and I would still constantly be suffering eczema, paying for prescription medicine to attempt to alleviate it, but not cure it.
That all went away when I became a vegan 2 and a half years ago; not to mention I’ve effortlessly remained in the perfect weight range for my height and weight since then.
I am confident that my dad’s “you better stop eating candy cars or you’re going to be a kid who has a heart attack” comments greatly influenced me for the good; even if I couldn’t appreciate it at the time.
It was ingrained in me from my dad that it’s important to prevent cancer and disease; not simply focus on the cure.
Here’s a webisode that he and I made with my son; which hints on the fact we don’t trust microwaves:
2) Being active:
Plus, my dad was always physically active. During my entire childhood, he participated in martial arts; he was a black belt. Back in 1992, he even won 1st place in the sparring competition, for his division in northern Alabama.
(As for me in modern day, I regularly run and go mountain biking; plus I take at least two 10 minute walks outside during my breaks.)
Quite regularly, I when I was a kid, I would go with my dad to his Tuesday night practices and workouts. I knew that he would let me get a cheeseburger at Hardee’s on the way home if I went with him.
Here’s another webisode that my dad and I made with my son; which features my dad in one of his classic karate uniforms:
3) Letting me make my own decisions
And perhaps that’s another way he influenced me: He let me make my own decisions, even sometimes when he knew there was a better way.
I’m not sure I’ll be as hands off with my own son. I don’t know that I can be as Libertarian with my son as my dad was with me.
But had my dad not been so laissez-faire with me (a policy or attitude of letting things take their own course, without interfering), there’s a good chance I would rebelled and acted out as a kid, teenager, and even a young adult.
So twenty years ago, during the reign of grunge, I had the long hair and the baggy jeans; and my dad never once revealed he was concerned about it.
Of course, my dad also taught me, by default, to be calm-assertive.
These qualities are only the tip of the iceberg. In all this, it was not only his words, but more importantly, his actions that inspired me how to live my life.
Going deeper, I grew up with my dad reading me stories from the Bible for my bedtime stories, teaching my Sunday School classes at our church, and leading the youth group at church.
Therefore, I do my best to lead my own family in the teachings of Christianity; not out of tradition, but as a way of life- serving others, not judging them.
I seriously doubt my blog would be called Family Friendly Daddy Blog if it weren’t for him. He never cussed, so neither do I. Curse words never seemed necessary in order to communicate something worth saying.
And when it comes to politics, I see that I have become my dad as well:
“Vote for the lesser of the two evils; whether that happens to be a Democrat or a Republican.” I remember he told me that a couple elections ago and it’s stuck with me.
A mindset like that requires an individual to use critical thinking beyond what they are taught by either the left wing or the right wing.
After all, they are both wings of the same bird.
Ultimately, he taught me to question the norm. And I do. That is a huge part of who I am.
It’s even one of the main reasons my wife started dating me, as she has told me before, “You always seem so confident in what you believe, even if it not what most other people believe.”
So really, the way I see it, it’s undeniable that my dad greatly influenced who I am. Today he turns 59 years old. Despite whatever gift card my wife and I mailed him for his birthday, these words today are my gift to him more than anything else.