What I Learned From My Dad
By Sylvia Van Peebles
I am my father’s daughter, of that I am sure. Oh, it’s not because I look just like him, because I don’t. And it’s not because we have the same personality, because we don’t. I am like my dad in heart. We generally see things in black and white, with very little room for gray area. He’s a very no-nonsense kind of guy, and has zero tolerance for stupidity. That is me to a “t”. The biggest difference between us is that I have a sense of humor.
I learned my work ethic and time management skills early in life from my dad. While other kids were in front of the TV watching cartoons on a Saturday morning, Dad only allowed me an hour to watch them, and eat my breakfast. I had to get up at 5 a.m. to get in my piano practice first. Then it was on to my chores, which included yard work, and housework. We could have easily afforded help but it was more important to Dad that I learned how to work and get everything done in a timely manner. Many people thought this was mean. However, I never had problems getting to school on time, finishing projects on time, or being tardy to class.
Even though it seemed as if I lived in an unbending environment, it was quite the opposite. As a kid, Dad taught me to think for myself; not to go along with the status-quo. That is why today I am probably one of the most politically incorrect people around. I’m constantly finding myself swimming upstream, against the current. Not a problem, I’m a strong swimmer. I also learned do my best always, and not to seek approval. So, you see, this was actually a very freeing atmosphere to grow up in. I’ve never been concerned with peer pressure because you can’t intimidate someone who knows who they are.
Dad’s unique ability to make me feel loved every single day was such a blessing. I did’t have to wonder. As a kid he was at every performance I was in (and there were many). He never missed. He always pushed me to excel, but not in an overbearing way. I’ve always been a fierce competitor, but can always congratulate someone else, even when they win. Dad has always said, “Greatness recognizes greatness.”
My heart for others in need comes from Dad. Having humble beginnings, Dad made sure I was aware that not everyone came from a privileged background as I did. He taught me to treat people with compassion. He would tell me, “Be careful how you talk to people because you never know who you’re talking to,” You never know the other person’s story, and assumption is dangerous. This was never more evident than when I started helping the homeless. What incredible stories.
Overall, I am who I am because of what my Dad taught me. He didn’t just talk, he has always been the example I could follow. How he raised me is how I have raised my children. I hope my grandchildren will be raised in the same way. That would be a wonderful legacy.
My father passed away in 1978, but I don’t write about him in the past tense because he is forever alive and well in my heart, and in my memory.