Lesson #2When I was about 14, I went on a 50 mile backpacking trip with my Boy Scout troop in Lassen National Park in Northern California. This was my second 50+ miler with the scouts. The previous year, we had gone through Yosemite. Lassen, however, was special because my father came with me.
I am second oldest of 11 children. At the time, there were I think 8 or 9 children (I should know this), so getting attention from the parents was a luxury at times. My dad worked a job that didn't pay all that much and taking vacation wasn't something he had a lot of. So for him to take a whole week out of work to go with me that Summer was pretty amazing.
That trip was awesome. Not only is Lassen a great place to go, with beautiful places and fun things to do, but spending time with my dad was special. My dad brought his fancy Cannon A1 camera and along the way, we took a lot of pictures. It was my introduction to photography on that trip, which I have continued to enjoy doing some in my life.
I remember one day when I realized that my oldest son was finally at the age that I knew he would remember our experiences together. He's 8, and I have memories of my dad at that age and some even before. As I realized that, I was a bit panicked and thought to myself, "wow, what I do now with him, he will remember for the rest of his life." It was a humbling moment. I wondered, "what is he going to feel about me when he gets older and reflects back?"
This realization made me begin to look back on my experiences with my father to learn and understand how to be a better father myself. As I pondered things, here was my thinking...
I love my father. I know this.
Why do I love my father? What is it about my experiences with him that makes me love him?
Is it because he taught me so much stuff?
Is it because he expected so much of me and made me learn to work hard?
Is it because he taught me the gospel and was a great example of it in action?
I spent a lot of time thinking about this. My conclusion was that yes, all those things were part of why I love my dad. But they weren't why I really loved him as my father. All those things are awesome, and I am truly grateful for all those things that my dad taught me and helped me become. The truth, however, is that when I look back and let my heart move toward those memories that I love the most about my dad, they all have one thing in common...
They all are memories of when my dad spent his time and effort doing something that I wanted.
It wasn't the times he made me work digging and cutting thistles or cleaning hog barns or feeding pigs, or processing liters of pigs, or pulling weeds, or anything like that. It wasn't the times he took me hometeaching and to church. It wasn't the time spent running a newspaper route together or making me practice my saxophone.
No, it was the moments when he was doing what I wanted to do. It was backpacking with me, it was taking me fishing, it was throwing the baseball with me, it was wrestling with us, it was singing with us, going to our concerts, watching me play sports, taking me camping with the family, going to a professional baseball game. It was all these moments when he showed me that what I loved and enjoyed, was important to him.
That is what I hold as my best memories of my dad.
The lesson is obvious, isn't it?! Am I spending all my time working hard and teaching my kids lessons and getting things done? Or am I spending more time doing things they love? Will I leave my kids grateful each day? Or will they also learn to love me because I showed them how much who they are matters to me - that their individuality is as important to me as my own ideas for them?!
Being a father is tough work full of responsibility to teach and care for and lead our families. But maybe the hardest part is learning how to let go of yourself and all the things you have planned and just love.
I am reminded that our Heavenly Father does likewise. He works for our greatest joy. That is his interest in us. That we have joy. As a dad trying my best to be a bit more heavenly, my focus should also be on my children's joy. So I enter the next 40 years (or however many I have left), with that as my focus. Now to get to work!