A Father’s Day missive to my children. . .
Every father wants to believe that his children hear and absorb the fatherly advice that he dispenses. Therefore, I was most gratified to hear from my youngest, Emily, upon her recent graduation from the University of Michigan, that as her class valedictorian was sharing advice from her (recently-deceased) father, she was reflecting upon the equally-memorable advice which I had provided. In fairness, her classmate set the bar pretty low, sharing such banalaties as, “Always do your best,” and “Work hard,” and “Be kind to others.” Now, this woman’s father had the clear strategic advantage of having recently expired. I will suffer for my art (and, my fatherly advice), but I must draw the line here.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, Emily quickly recalled two bits of advice which I had provided to her over time, and which had apparently resonated with her. The first:
First thing, secure a beverage
When I was a young father, I sometimes prepared a Caesar salad for the family, from scratch, a habit I picked up from my own father, who had performed such a task, on occasion. I invited my kids to assist me in the preparation, and, as a part of the ritual, I would ask them to name the first step in a successful preparation of a Caesar salad. Initially, they might suggest mashing the garlic (not the anchovies, which I was forbidden from using, although I myself enjoy anchovies in my Caesar salad – the fillets, not the silvery ones with the heads recently removed – that’s a bit too authentic for me), or gently tearing the Romaine lettuce. But, after I had corrected them every single time, and indicated that, no, the very first step in the process of preparing a Caesar salad was, in fact, “securing a beverage”, they came to embrace the concept of ensuring that, before beginning the process, the chef has, within easy reach, a beverage of his choice. My choice typically was a scotch, on the rocks, with a twist. But, any beverage will do, as long as it satisfies the chef’s desire.
This bit of wisdom rises to the level of solid fatherly advice, if viewed as a parable. Taking the time before beginning a task to step back, pour yourself a drink, and reflect upon the task at hand, I believe, is a sensible approach to tackling any challenge.
And the second:
Don’t be a douchebag
I think it’s hard to argue with this advice; one might take issue with the crudeness of the language. I mean, nobody likes a douchebag. A kinder, gentler approach might be, “Be kind to others”, or even “Don’t be a jerk”. But I believe that the jarring nature of the language itself serves a singular purpose. “Tell them in no uncertain terms what you think of their ideas, Harry!” isn’t nearly as effective as “Give ’em Hell, Harry!”. The frank, blunt-edged nature of this phrase delivers the goods, quite effectively, I believe. But, perhaps by unfurling this phrase I have in fact violated its very dictum – ironic, no?
Emily then asked me what my third piece of advice was. Perhaps, as I am, Emily is a student of the “Rule of Three”. The rule of three is neatly defined in a Wikipedia post, which indicates:
The rule of three or power of three is a writing principle that suggests that things that come in threes are funnier, more satisfying, or more effective than other numbers of things. The reader or audience of this form of text is also thereby more likely to remember the information. This is because having three entities combines both brevity and rhythm with having the smallest amount of information to create a pattern. It makes the author or speaker appear knowledgeable while being both simple and catchy.
I’ve given some thought to developing the third leg to be added to my Fatherly Advice stool. Here are some of the options I have been considering:
Steely Dan is awesome
Clearly, I’m a fan of Steely Dan. My prime music-listening years coincided with Steely Dan’s most productive years. Their funky, sophisticated, horn-infused sound appealed to me, and still does; I’m more likely to fire-up Steely Dan on Spotify or Pandora than any other artist. Don’t judge me. But, even I might be hard-pressed to characterize this as fatherly advice. I recognize that there are many performing artists out there, and, over time, Steely Dan’s music might not be considered relevant, or hip. And, what exactly, is the message conveyed by this wisdom? That the child should listen to more Steely Dan? In any event, I’m already covering this ground via a weekly email delivering a link to a specific Steely Dan song contained in a YouTube video on “Steely Dan Wednesday”. So. . .problem solved.
Find ways to amuse yourself
As you can see by the subhead of the title of this blog, this is a past-time which is meaningful to me. In a discussion with Emily about discovering your passion (covered in the final suggestion), she asked me what I was passionate about. It was a good question, and one which I recommend each of us consider from time to time. It speaks to what drives each of us; why we get out of bed in the morning; what satisfies us. After considering her question, I responded that my goal was to amuse myself. And, I spend a ridiculous amount of time and energy doing just that. Now, I hesitate to adopt this practice as the third critical element of my fatherly advice, because I fear it may not be global enough; it may not be of interest to my kids, or to others.
Spend time discovering your passion
I actually suggested this one to Emily in response to her question. It seems a little weak-kneed to me, upon reflection. It’s basically a shrug of the shoulders, and a suggestion that “I don’t know what to say, so you figure it out”. Perhaps a better way to position this third component would be, “This space available”, or “TBD”. This one’s a wildcard, if you will, and everyone has the opportunity, and the responsibility, to fill in the blanks, according to their own desires and objectives.
I am willing to dispense my fatherly advice whenever necessary, and I am available for hire as a commencement speaker.