Like all parents, I often wonder if I’m doing right by my kids. Am I teaching them the important things? Am I sending them off into the world with the tools they need to live a fulfilling, honorable life? Man, we affect them in so many ways. It’s an awesome, awful, wonderful responsibility. My dad is 85 and quite sick at the moment, so these questions are especially on my mind right now. When I think of this in the context of my dad and I, I come back to something he said to me when I was sixteen.
I was ‘dating’ a girl at the time (‘dating’ in quotes because I never really connected with anyone until I met my wife) and we were going to the Jazz Festival in Downtown Detroit. At that point, I was just an ignorant suburban kid and Detroit was this big, scary city where awful things seemed to happen a lot (I know Detroit much better now, and it’s really a great city).
Anyway, before I left the house to pick up my date, my dad, knowing my general temperament, pulled me aside and told me that if anything happened, to just walk away. He said that twice. You’re prideful. Walk away. It’s not worth it.
Then he said: But if someone says or does something to your date, you don’t walk away. If that happens, you fight.
That’s stuck with me a long time. It’s a particular example of a general principle: There are things in life worth fighting for. Figure out what they are and, if they’re threatened, fight for them.
Lots of events in my life since have turned on that principle, and I’m grateful to have been taught it by my dad in such a concrete way. I think teaching those kinds of principles are the gift that parents give their kids, if their kids are lucky. I was, and I’m glad for it. Hopefully, I’ll do the same by my children.