As a mom in her mid-thirties raising two kids, I always think of some of the biggest life lessons that my father taught me, especially right around Father’s Day. He was a man of few words (except when he talked about work) but his actions and how he lived his life spoke volumes.
Here are 4 of the most important life lessons my dad has taught me:
#1 – Love what you do
My dad was a civil engineer. I remember sitting at the dining table every night for dinner and he would always tell us about his day at work. He talked about his colleagues, his projects, etc. But there was always joy in his tone and a passion that even we understood at a young age. There’s a saying,
“If you love what you do, you’ll never have to work a day in your life!”
#2 – The importance of an education
My dad was born and raised in the Philippines from a large family. He knew at a young age that he wanted to be an engineer. In the Filipino culture, it’s not uncommon for relatives to help pay for your education. So my dad was fortunate to have a relative help him with college. He finished and received his degree, worked, and eventually immigrated to the United States.
I’d say that the common themes for success for Filipinos are: God, Family, and Education. They even say,
“Education is the one thing that people can’t take from you!”
That principle was instilled in my upbringing. It was never a question of, “What will you do after high school?” It was, “What will you do after college?” This is one of the great important life lessons because education is everything.
#3 – Work hard, pay your bills, and save for a rainy day
This is by far one of the most important life lessons that my dad taught me because many people were never taught about money. My dad started giving us an allowance at a very young age so we learned how to save. We were quick to understand that money was the result of hard work so we never took it for granted. We didn’t come from generational wealth; We saw the first generation build from nothing so it was very powerful.
With eyes wide open, we saw our parents start off sharing one car in a one bedroom apartment (in not the best of areas – our car seats were even stolen), to being home owners, paying for their kids’ cars and college educations, and always having enough for emergencies. Growing up, my dad rarely ate at fancy restaurants and lived frugally, but always saved for a rainy day and for important things.
I remember in college, he would give me a check for my college books, BUT I had to show receipts for the books or activities. He paid for college and the associated fees, BUT I always had to show accountability and receipts of where the money went.
My dad’s lessons on working hard, paying bills, and saving money are huge when many of my peers as well as the younger generation live with instant gratification and easy access to credit cards, and then find themselves in holes they can’t get out of.
#4 – Family is everything
This is probably the most important lesson that my dad taught me because everything starts and ends with family. My dad was one of 11 kids and in my lifetime, all 11 kids lived in Southern California. Each of the 11 kids were married and had at least one child so my family is HUGE. I’d spend part of my weekends at my grandma’s house and play with my cousins, and there was always a party or get together where we’d be celebrating.
When you come from a large family, you never have the sense of “not belonging,” because at a young age you already know that you belong to a big family. When it comes to family, I’ve seen and learned a lot. I’ve seen when everyone gets along. And unfortunately I’ve also witnessed when people don’t get along.
However, in good times or bad times one thing is certain: family always shows up.
When one of my dad’s siblings were ill or needed help, they all seemed to rally and show up. It didn’t matter who wasn’t talking to who or what issues were going on, they had this innate ability to put their differences aside. It didn’t mean that everyone would hug and pretend like nothing happened. But they were there whether it be at someone’s house or at the hospital waiting room.
Family always shows up and has your back.
As I look back at all these important life lessons that my dad taught me, they were never lessons that he taught in a lecture or punishment. They were taught in his actions, and I think that method has been the most effective.
I hope that I too can leave some lasting life lessons to my children not only in words I speak, but in the actions of how I live.