June 14, 2014

Keeping Father’s Day Simple: Life Lessons from Dad. ~ Sarah Schlagter

child dad coffee break

Every year when Father’s Day comes around I get this uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach.

What can I possibly do to show adequate appreciation to the man who has given me so much more than the basic necessities?

No matter how much thought I put into it, I can never seem to find a gift or a card that tells my dad how much he really means to me.

I started thinking recently about my dad and his desire to make the world a better place—not in a grand gesture sort of way, but in small every day acts. It’s not a surface level attempt to change the world, but rather a constant drive to make life just a little better for the people he loves.

So maybe this Father’s Day, what I can do for my dad is help to cement his footprint in this world by sharing some of the lessons that he has taught me.

You Don’t Have to Be Unhappy

I’ll admit it. When something is wrong in my life, I run to my dad. He is my first line of defense, my trusted advisor and my therapist all rolled into one.

I have a brain that seems to run a million miles a minute. And I worry. A lot. These traits often come to head in a conversation that involves me speaking as fast as I can, attempting to analyze every possible outcome and variable in a given situation.

My dad is an engineer by trade. He is logical. He is rational. And he always seems to simplify the situation by calmly telling me that there is no reason to continue to be unhappy.

Identify the problem, identify exactly what needs to be changed and formulate a path to get there.

And in true engineer fashion, this usually involves him telling me to take out a notebook and to write it down in a logical step by step manner.


It seems simple, but this calm approach to all of life’s challenges—be it studying for the Bar exam or repairing my thermostat—has allowed me to develop a general attitude of hope and positivity in what can be a pretty scary world at times.


Make Time for the Things You Love

In a perfect world we would all be able to earn a comfortable living by engaging in those fun hobbies we loved as children: arts and crafts, games, music, sports… But most of us are not able to do that.

We grow up, get a day job and behave like responsible adults.

My dad has instilled a very strict work ethic in my sister and me. He has taught us to be thankful for our jobs, to work hard at our jobs and to enjoy our jobs.

But he has also stressed the importance of continuing to engage in activities that we enjoy.

As I said, my dad is an engineer. But he is also an amazing musician. When I was a little girl he would sit me on his lap and play the Sesame Street theme on the piano. After work he was frequently in his room playing the guitar and jotting down lyrics to a new song he was writing.

As a child I was enrolled in all sorts of activities. And now, as an adult, my dad regularly asks me if I am making time to play my piano (“Yes, Dad”), frequently encourages me to deepen my yoga and meditation practice and makes time to go hiking with my step-mom and I.


Animals are Angels

My family is full of animal lovers.

My dad, my step-mom and I are Vegan. My sister and I each lead very busy lives—which means that about 90% of the time, my Dad is watching at least one of our five animals. And the animals love it! They are treated like royalty.

My dog typically spends 24 hours sulking after coming home from a stay with his grandparents. Having witnessed my dad’s immense love and affection for animals, I have developed a similar love and appreciation for the sentience of all living creatures.


Yelling at the Television Will Not Make the Giants Play Any Better

…or the Yankees, or the Knicks or any other team. This was something he had to teach via trial and error.


You Don’t Have to Be Perfect

I’m human, I make mistakes.

But more than that, I (like most people) am self conscious about my perceived shortcomings. My dad takes the time to talk to me, to really listen to me and to tell me every chance he gets how special I am.

He has not glossed over any perceived flaws, but rather he has encouraged me to be open and honest about who I am. He has taught me to apologize when I’ve made a mistake, to act with genuine kindness and compassion, to right wrongs if I am able and to let my light shine.

And—in true cliché father form—he has made it known that I am, in fact, too good for most potential suitors.


Every waking moment of every single day, we have the ability to change the world. Not just as fathers or mothers or teachers, but as human beings.

How we interact with the people we encounter is creating our legacy. Every word we speak and every action we take is impacting someone and is putting something into the collective consciousness.

Whether we like it or not, we are all leaving a footprint.

We are all creating a legacy.

My dad hasn’t made national news. He isn’t a famous rock star or a great political figure. But he has taught me so many valuable lessons about the things that make this life truly worth living.

And for that, I am eternally grateful.


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Editor: Emily Bartran

Photo: Thomas Leuthard/Flickr

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