Last month, we honored moms by recounting their sage, sometimes quirky, advice. Now that we’re gearing up for Father’s Day, we thought it only fair to give equal billing to the dads in our lives and their ever-sensible words of wisdom.
Admittedly, when I began asking friends to recall their fathers’ standard mantras and father-knows-best-isms, I thought I would get a few irreverent responses in the way of the brash but laugh-out-loud book Sh*t My Dad Says, by Justin Halpern. (Not for the faint of heart.)
But in the end, after all the teasing and joking and sometimes losing our cool, we place great value in what our dads tell us. Their words – whether they realize it or not – are words we live by.
A few favorites:
“Son, it’s not the equipment that wins. It’s the player.” – Jerry Melman, Gil Melman’s dad. When he and Gil would play tennis years ago, Gil would blame his cheap racket for losing to his expert-player dad. Now that he’s a dad giving his own advice, Gil says, “I’ll never forget that a winner wins regardless of the quality of his equipment.”
“Play like a champion today.” – Wayne Kearney, dad of Jack, 15, and Bridget, 10. The Notre Dame football team hits a sign bearing those words before going out to play each game, and the Kearney crew hits the same sign every morning as they go down the stairs to start their days. Wayne uses the phrase to remind his kids to do their best each day. “Not perfection, just your best.”
“That’s why there’s chocolate and vanilla.” – Martin Hinchin, Phyllis Selber’s 93-year-old dad, explaining why people don’t always agree.
“The most important thing in life is family.” – Tony Vallone, father of Jeff Vallone, Lauri Vallone Mazzini, Joey Vallone, John Vallone and Lia Vallone, and grandfather of six.
“The harder I work, the luckier I get.” – Joe Burgower, dad to Wendy Burgower and Barbara Burgower Hordern.
“The first thing you should put on every day is your smile.” – Carlos Urrutia II, dad of Sandy Sales and her five siblings. Another favorite that Sandy remembers her dad often voicing is, “It’s taken a long time, but I’ve learned that the women are always right.”
“Never say anything bad about someone to other people. There’s nothing to be gained from it.” – Clarence Mayer, father of Sylvia Mayer and Laura Mayer Cyprow.
“A car is a weapon. Be a defensive driver.” – Ann Wilde, whose father is a sports-car collector. Ann remembers learning to drive with this warning engrained in her conscience. “He collects cars like Ferraris and Aston Martins, so when I was driving one of his cars, he was right,” she says.
“Always take your own money when you go out.” – Cheryl Laird remembers her dad, Larry Laird, telling her this before she’d go out as a teenager, and then he would reach for his wallet and give her some cash.
“When you work hard, work hard. When you play hard, play hard. Apply yourself in everything you do, including having fun.” – David Paulus, father of Carrie Vallone.
“There is no way to happiness; happiness is the way.” – Dr. Morton Adels, father of Dawn Fine, Nanci Fine, Jill Klaff, Allison Adels and Kelly Hess, and a former OB who delivered more than 4,000 babies in Houston.
Rabbi Brian Strauss, father of Joshua, 11, Noa, 8, and Ari, 6, says, “When any of my children does something wrong, I tell them I am disappointed because they have the potential to do so much good. I want them to have a positive self image, which is a gift my father gave to me.”
And as a reminder that survival sometimes trumps wisdom, Kenny Herz tells this story: He and his wife Rachael were in Florida two years ago at Rachael’s sister’s wedding. Their three young children, Max, Maddie, and Ellie, were in the wedding and grumpy during pre-ceremony pictures.
Maddie, then 7, was whining relentlessly that she wanted candy from the hotel gift shop. Her mood had started to rub off on the extended family, and everyone was on edge. Eventually Kenny reached his limit – and a low parenting moment – and blurted an expletive about the candy. After a pause from shock, everyone started laughing, including Maddie and Kenny. The pictures turned out beautifully.