Growing up, my Dad drove a van. A proud, long-time over of vans since the late ’80s, Dad dropped me off and picked me up at little league games, school dances, and friends’ houses in a massive white Chevy Van. The van had a surprising amount of zip under the hood and featured a big, sofa-esque backseat and a removable middle console table between the cushion-y middle passenger seats. Our family dubbed it “The Landshark” because it was pretty much the consumer family vehicle equivalent to shuttling around our rural Pennsylvania town in a 747 Jumbojet.
Sitting in the front of my Dad’s van as a child and a teenager was like riding in the co-pilot’s seat of an airplane cockpit. The seats were huge and towered above the road, offering a sweeping view of the surroundings from the passenger seat. This made calling “shotgun” extra special on family road trips to the beach or camping.
My Dad and I talked a lot when I rode up-front. We still do, but now it’s back-and-forth from the train station on my infrequent visits home from the city instead of between basketball practices or piano lessons.
Looking back, the front seat of my Dad’s van was a pew and the driver’s seat a pulpit. I absorbed a gospel of fatherly wisdom while being shuttled between whatever life-enriching activity I was involved in at the time. In the spirit of Father’s Day, I thought I’d share some of those lessons I learned from the front-seat over the years.
Happy Father’s Day to all dads, everywhere.
50. The most special bond you’ll ever have with someone comes from picking them up and dropping them off at places.
49. Skinning your knee after taking the training wheels off your bike is part of the process.
48. Listen to what someone has to say before opening your mouth.
47. Tell the truth or learn the hard way.
46. If trash-talk and being a wiseass is the cut of your jib, it will get you punched in the face often.
45. Keep it simple, stupid; Stuffing your writing with fluffy superfluous adjectives and long run-on sentences doesn’t make what you have to say any more meaningful. Everyone needs an editor.
44. Even if a turd is speckled with gold, it’s still a turd.
43. It is possible to explore your smorgasburg of interests and passions AND have health insurance at the same time.
42. It is a biological fact that women gossip.
41. The fundamentals are important. Be it playing basketball or building a model rocket, knowing why things work the way they work is important.
40. If you need it, there is no bad time for a nap.
39. Laughing it off > walking it off. The best cure for embarrassment is learning to laugh at yourself.
38. Hold doors open for everyone. Seriously, everyone.
37. Strangers like their existence acknowledged, which is as simple as making direct eye-contact. No harm in saying “hello,” either.
36. Commit to habit getting oil changes every 3,000 miles and replacing your wiper blades often. Or suffer the consequences.
35. Star Wars isn’t just a great adventure story, but more an operatic metaphor for why things are the way they are in the universe.
34. The shot-clock exists for a reason; manage your time wisely.
33. No matter how passionate you are about your beliefs, politics has no place in conversations with polite company.
32. If you use a tool from Dad’s toolbox, for the love of God, please put it back.
31. Mowing the lawn is zen.
30. Your grades in school don’t determine who you are, but how hard you work is a reflection of how hard you want to become the best version of yourself.
29. Quantity is not as important as flavor in a good meal.
28. Elders deserve all the respect you can give them.
27. Tying a tie in under 30 seconds is a prerequisite for being an adult man. And leaving it pre-tied in the closet is for uncivilized savages.
26. There is no place for bigotry. Ever.
25. Your career isn’t a life-sentence.
24. Beethoven took long walks in the woods to clear his head for a reason; it’s the ultimate therapy.
23. An artist’s bad habits did not make them great; their talent did.
22. Just because you caught the fish doesn’t mean you should keep it.
21. Great music is intended to be listened to a loud volumes.
20. Learn how to master improvising because you’ll do it a lot in life.
19. Above all else, pick your friends wisely.
18. True power comes from the ability to pivot; Learning to embrace change can most certainly be a good thing.
17. You’ll never win if all you do is mop, sob, and relish in your losses.
16. It’s more fun (…and meaningful) having a homemade, DIY tree-fort than a run-of-the-mill pre-manufactured one picked up from Lowes and plopped in the backyard.
15. A lot of people in life have it much, much worse than you ever will.
14. The best way to deal with a nasty bird’s nest in your fishing reel is to cut your losses and retie the the lure. Time is wasted is time you’ll never get back.
13. Breakfast might be the most important meal of the day, but dinner is the most sacred.
12. You can be aggressive without being an aggressor.
11. No matter how badly you want to be Jimmy Buffett, no one will ever take you seriously nor be impressed by you wearing flip-flops in a situation that doesn’t call for them.
10. Watches are meant to tell time, not flash in someone’s face.
9. Snags are not setbacks; Self-pity is bigger failure than any single failure itself.
8. Speak your feelings, but in a way that is level-headed and encourages discourse.
7. The best way to start a campfire is with dried leaves and kindling from a pine tree.
6. …Lighter fluid and newspaper works too.
5. You can learn to live without.
4. You can never practice too much.
3. Getting lost is part of the fun.
2. Call Mom often.
1. It doesn’t matter what you do with your life, it matters who you are.
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Father and son fishing pic via Shutterstock