I totally love my dad. I’m a total daddy’s girl. And I still learn a lot of life lessons from him. He is my greatest teacher even when he’s not TRYING to teach me.
You see, once when I was a younger 20-something, I had called my parents frustrated with my car. The acceleration was delayed, and it made making left turns a dicey deal since I couldn’t time when I could safely make it across the lane. At the time I was filming something so I had to cut my conversation short and return to the set. 2 days later, my father called me and proudly announced, “Don’t worry, we bought you a new car!” I was shocked. They had bought me a new car.. a car with one of Consumer Reports WORST roll-over ratings, a car with such bad handling that hydroplaning is common, a car that was so bad… that brand no longer exists because it went bankrupt. (Suffice it to say, I’m not telling you what kind of car. And yes, getting parts for it is really hard.) But he was so proud of himself! He fixed my problem for me! He presented the car with such joy! And all I did was berate him: I didn’t want a car! Why did you spend so much money?! Why didn’t you research this before you spent so much money? You should save your money for a rainy day! Be thrifty! This is foolhardy. The handling is awful. Etc. etc. (I was really ungrateful because I was so worried about their financial state.)
My father and I were driving the car and out of the corner of my eye, I saw my dad sinking into the passenger seat lower and lower. He stared out the window. “You’re right,” he mumbled. “I didn’t think before I acted.” And then I heard him saying to himself, “I’m so stupid! Stupid!” And my heart broke because I realized I was breaking my dad’s heart.
I changed my tune. “You know dad, it’s a really nice car. It looks great. The handling is actually way better than I expected. Dad, this is actually really awesome. Thanks!” And his face brightened. “Yeah?! It’s pretty good huh?!” And he sat up and puffed his chest a bit and looked ever so much more the man. “I like it alot Dad. You really did a good job.” He just smiled and to this day, he likes to brag about how he got me that car.
The lesson(s) I learned (the hard way) that day: Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. When someone gives you something, accept it. Be grateful. And a good man (like my dad) only wants to make you happy, so be happy when they do nice things. It’s the greatest gift you can give back to them.
What lessons did you learn from situations with your parents?
JEROME: Growing up, I saw my dad deal with all sorts of people, business and personal. Sometimes, they wouldn’t see eye to eye and my dad would break away without carrying on the argument I saw most people engage in in similar situations.
I always thought it was something like running away, but I would always see him come back to the same people and things had had a chance to cool off. It was almost always the better option than carrying on futilely. Sometimes, you just need to leave things alone – if only temporarily.
ALFREDO: Sometimes good enough is good enough. My mom and I are both perfectionists when it comes to a lot of things: punctuality, cleanliness, being oversensitive to perceived slights. But when I was little, I remember we had a little gouge in the wall of the hallway of our apartment. She wasn’t handy, and I am even less so. But the gouge bothered her. So she chewed up some white bread, stuck the gooey mixture into the hole, let it dry, then “painted” it with liquid paper. Done. Thirty years later, when the paint finish on the wood walls in my bar is peeling off and splotchy, do I sand it, prep it, and finish it with three coats of matching stain? No. I bought a brown marker, and I colored it in. Done. Is it perfect? No. Is it good enough? Actually, yup. Sometimes even perfectionists need to know when to say when. In fact, we, more than anyone else, need it for our health and sanity. And even though it embarrassed me a little at the time, looking back on it now, I couldn’t be more charmed by mother’s very organic home made spackle.
ROGER: My parents, by nature, are very quiet people. In social situations, they tended to be less talkative than their surrounding friends, only responding to questions but never initiating the social banter. My parents also didn’t seem to be outspoken when they were treated poorly or wronged. They just stayed quiet and usually walked away. In my youth, I was frustrated and somewhat embarrassed by my “quiet” parents. They seemed so much less exciting than the other adults in our social sphere and they never seemed to speak up for themselves in times of challenge. I equated their quiet nature to weakness and having no spine. Now that I’m older and can reflect upon their actions with a bit of personal life experience, I realize my parents were not weak but incredibly strong. They exercised a great deal of patience during times of adversity and spoke only when they had something of worth to contribute (instead of just filling the air with hot air). If anything, they thought first, thought again, and then, if appropriate, responded with understanding, introspection, and kindness. And, if caught in a tough spot, would exercise extreme patience and empathy in response to an angry person or wrongdoer and just walk away. If anything, my parents had a great deal of inner strength and a much more mature perspective of the world. Or, out more bluntly, they did not let their ego rule their mouth and actions. Now that I realize this, I try to be more like my parents every single day.
DHH: It’s funny, but in some way, my experience is the opposite of Roger’s and Jerome’s. My Dad, a brash immigrant from Shanghai, was very outspoken and unafraid of confrontation. As kids, my sisters and I often felt embarrassed by how he’d speak his mind, boldly contradicting anyone from service people to men and women in power. As a young man, I tended to be more like my Mother, avoiding confrontation at almost any cost, which also made me more stereotypically “Asian.” That behavior probably helped my career in some sense, since I’m generally regarded as easy to work with. But, as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to appreciate my Father’s honesty, and how confrontations are sometimes necessary, even virtuous. Taken with some of the other Offenders’ responses, I suppose we may collectively be advocating for balance: sometimes, it’s wiser to walk away, but there are also situations when it’s necessary to be confrontational and assertive.
PHILIP: Considering my parents are traditional Asian immigrants, the one area where they were “non-traditional” was in encouraging me to pursue my dreams and do what I was passionate about.
I realized recently that the main reason I think my mom is great is that she’s always accepted me for who I am, and has never tried to change me or my pursuits (she even helped out at my meth lab).
My dad’s a humble, generous and hard-working guy who never complains. I’ll always admire him for that.