What to Write in a Father’s Day Card: 5 Parenting Rules I Learned From My Dad

What to Write in a Father’s Day Card: 5 Parenting Rules I Learned From My Dad

June 03, 2023

Not sure what to write in your Father's Day card this year? One trick I love to use when deciding what to write in a Father’s Day card is to be specific. I’m sure it feels good to be told you’re the BEST EVER, but sharing stories or details about how someone has shaped or helped you can be an even better gift to receive than a brand-new tie. My hope is that reading this will help inspire you to put into words some of the particular ways your own father figures have made life easier or more enjoyable for you.

Safety First

This one is super obvious, but my dad really takes it to the next level. Anytime I purchase childproofing supplies, correctly install a carseat or spend twenty minutes (past bedtime!!) crawling around on the floor looking for a fallen pushpin I am channeling my dad. 

Adventure Builds Character

My dad was an adventurer before he had us, and he remained committed to adventuring as a family. I have lots of memories of interminable (probably a whole mile!) hikes, camping in the rain, skiing until my fingers felt like they might fall off. But I also have all the great moments of those trips: the ambrosia that is GORP on the top of a mountain, roasting marshmallows around a campfire I helped build myself, the thrill of finding wild raspberries on an island with no cars on it. I guess there’s a theme emerging here…I’m obviously motivated by desserts. But as an adult, I still love adventure (followed by treats!) so he must have done something right, and I’m doing my best to inculcate my offspring with the solitary joy of physical communion with the Great Outdoors.

Don’t Forget the Snacks

As I mentioned above, Dad never overlooked the importance of fueling up for whatever adventure lay ahead. My Dad’s love for us was never communicated so clearly as on Saturday afternoons after baseball practice at our local Tasty Dog, so much so that Chicago dogs (drag it through the garden, no onions) were my #1 craving during both my pregnancies. We got them started early and both my boys are now intimately familiar with the joy of poppyseeds on a bun and cheese sauce on french fries. 


When in Doubt, Take a Nap

When I was growing up my Dad had a superhuman ability to fall asleep…anywhere. I know now it was because he was working the long hours of a young lawyer on the make on top of doing a great deal more parenting than the average father in 1980’s America would ever have been expected to do. But at the time I thought of it as a kind of party trick, seeing him asleep on the bench at a museum or the zoo, on the floor or the couch or the grass. We called it the VAP nap (his initials) and my mom even made him a quilt with all his favorite sports teams’ logos and the letters VAP NAP appliqued on it so we’d have something to drape over him when inspiration struck.

Don’t Negotiate With Terrorists

Kids can be terrifying, that’s a fact. I remember plenty of tantrums growing up, and while I don’t have a lot of specific memories of the details, I do remember my dad staying mostly calm during most of it. He didn’t take it personally (the way my mom sometimes could, the way I sometimes feel tempted to) or interpret it as a reflection of any failing on his part. He saw it for what it was: kids freak out, that’s what they do. When my kids start to lose it, I try hard to invoke the patient presence my dad managed to project when my brother or I, or both, got ourselves worked up. 

It’s worth noting that when I talked to my dad about this, he did not remember it this way. He said there were plenty of tantrums he took personally. And it’s true that I do remember him getting mad.

I guess the takeaway is that whether they were trying to or not, my parents helped show me that when kids get upset, they are doing their job. Human beings are born with emotions but not with the skills to regulate and express them in safe, healthy ways. And it is our job as parents to help them develop those tools, mostly by modeling. When we as parents let the difficult emotions that naturally rise up in us when our kids are acting out get the better of us and express our anger or frustration in unhelpful ways, we make it harder for our kids to learn healthy ways to relate to themselves and others.

I don’t have a perfect record on this by any means, but I definitely arrived at the court with a basic understanding of how the game is played, and I know I have my dad (at least in part) to thank for teaching me.

I hope this has been fun to read! Please comment below and share what you’ve learned about parenting from your own parents, I’d love to hear from you.


Edward Russell said:

Dads are different. Don’t compare your father who never saw you play baseball to the coach. Don’t compare your father who fished once with you, to your grandfather who got up at 4 o’clock in the morning to take everybody fishing on the first day of the season. Dads are different.

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