As we honor America’s dads, I’d like to offer my children some fatherly advice – which, in keeping with a long-standing family tradition, they’ll surely ignore.
I won’t take it personally. It’s the nature of being a dad. We’re always second string to that other parental unit, the one with a bigger name. Even the U.S. government plays favorite. Mother’s Day has been observed since 1914, but Father’s Day has been on the calendar only since 1972.
In my family, we love and respect our fathers. We just tend not to listen to them – especially on the important matters, such as whom to marry, what job to take, how to live our lives. We stubbornly go our own way.
I bet that’s how it went in the Mexican state of Chihuahua in the early 1900s when my grandfather Roman Navarrette was no doubt lectured often by his father, Jose, about how to conduct himself and fulfill his responsibilities.
It was that way, about 40 years later, when – I gather from years of listening to stories from my father and uncles – Roman would frequently put in his two cents while raising his five sons. They listened politely, but then did what they wanted.
And I did my best to carry on that tradition when I decided to forsake law school – the path my father would have chosen for me – and instead build a career in the field of ideas as a writer, journalist and speaker.
Now it’s my turn to preach to my children, and – in all likelihood – not be heard.
As fatherly advice goes, I like what Scott Eastwood, a young actor whose dad achieved some success in that profession, said his father told him. During an interview last year on NBC’s “Today,” the 29-year-old said his dad, Clint Eastwood, was less concerned with his career path than with his character.
“(My dad) didn’t care what I did,” Scott said. “He didn’t care if I was a plumber or if I was an actor. He said, ‘Whatever you do just do it well, and be humble about it and be a good guy; and tell the truth.’ ”
He also said that his father emphasized the need to “be a man.” By that, the film legend apparently meant that he expected his son to not put on airs or let success go to his head but rather – as Scott put it – “shut up and do the job.”
One day, when he’s old enough to understand, I plan to tell my 8-year-old son much the same thing with a few extra admonishments: “Take your responsibilities seriously. Don’t make excuses, play the victim or give up – not ever. Work hard, cherish learning, think deeply, follow your dreams and never doubt your abilities or what you can accomplish. Be thankful, be humble and be helpful to your fellow man. Defend the little guy, and never back down from the big guy. Choose your partner wisely and – once you do – be kind, patient, loyal and generous. And one day, when you have kids of your own, love them, support them, spend time with them, and believe in their abilities. Finally, defend your family, serve your community and love your country.”
With my daughters, 5 and 10, I’ll repeat that message but add: “Never accept the idea that there is anything in this world you can’t do. Always do your best, be ready to sacrifice, and command respect. Go as far as your dreams can take you, and give it your all so you complete the journey. If a door won’t open, kick it down. Don’t let any person demean, degrade or diminish you. Don’t be distracted by shiny objects. Don’t date the cute guy or the cool guy; the only thing that matters is that he’s a good guy. It won’t be easy finding someone who is worthy of you, but don’t settle for less than you deserve. Finally, challenge those around you to be better people. They may resent you for it. But, in the end, they and the rest of society will benefit.”
My kids might take this advice or toss it. But, whether he’s heard or not, a good dad doesn’t stop the sermon. He cares enough about his kids to keep pushing – until he stops breathing.
I’m proud to say that this, too, is a family tradition.
Reach Ruben Navarrette at firstname.lastname@example.org.