What I learned from my Dad (a.k.a. The Master Packer)

by Kate Fineske on February 15, 2011 · 4 comments

NOTE: The National Association of Mothers’ Centers hosted a Webinar on the Power and Potential of Father/Daughter Relationships on March 3, 2011. Through that webinar I was inspired to talk more about how our fathers impact us! Read about my experience and share yours by adding a comment to this blog post!

The “Master Packer”

Growing up as the oldest of 3 girls in my family, some of my most vivid memories of childhood are of our family vacations. My father – who was the only male between myself, my mother, and my 2 younger siblings – should have had a Masters PhD in automobile packing! The women in our household were by no means LIGHT packers when it came to vacations! Which and how many shoes, shirts, shorts, suits, slacks, and skirts to take, were always a point of contention among us ladies and my father. “Efficiency packing” was not our style, but arguing against packing all our “stuff” was pointless. So my dad made do with the hand he was dealt and was officially awarded the family title of “master packer.”

Over the course of the years my father earned many other “degrees” and awards such as:

  • Personal Coach-of-the-Year (in whatever sport I decided to attack)
  • Master’s of Aquatic Fun (swimming was fun with friends, but even more fun with dad!)
  • M.B.A. in Conflict Resolution (when the business of sibling arguing got out of hand)

Not that my mom didn’t have a lot of influence and wasn’t a prevalent person in my life – in our family, my mom was the permanent daily fixture on our family lives. She tended lovingly and with much gusto to our every-day needs, wants and necessities as a “stay-at-home super-mom” and later as a working “super-mom”. But my father was more than just a “superhero side-kick”. Looking back, I can reflect on the influence and life lessons only my father could have taught me.

LESSON #1: Don’t rely on someone else to fix things for you.

As an adolescent it can be scary to do things yourself! And easy to rely on others for the simplest things – such as calling in a pizza delivery order. It can be even more scary to do something you are not familiar with – such as quickly fixing a recurring carburetor problem in my car. (YES! I can fix my carburetor thanks to my dad!) I amazed friends in my high school parking lot by performing a quick fix my dad taught me to get my car running. It was forced, do-it-yourself incidents like this that helped to build my confidence as a young woman and give me courage to take on the even bigger, scarier things to come in life!

LESSON #2: Pick and choose your battles.

I was a pretty good kid, all things considered. But even “good kids” can make mistakes and wrong decisions. More-so than my mother, the importance of earning and keeping my dad’s trust played an important part in my decision making process. Looking back, I believe this was because my dad so very rarely seemed to get angry and disappointed. One solid look of disapproval on my dad’s face, told me VERY QUICKLY that I had done something very wrong. There is something to say for overexposure… my mom, who spent most every waking minute with us, did not have the same effect for this very reason! My father was my mother’s secret “superhero weapon” when it came to discipline. And as I grew older, I realized the importance and power of being trustworthy and admirable. Through his actions, my dad taught me to pick and choose my battles, so that the battles I did pick were viewed as significant by others.

LESSON #3: Finish what you start.

Ever participate in a high school swim team or a sport with 2-a-days? If you have, then you already know how getting up at 5 in the morning to swim laps prior to school and then filing back to the natatorium everyday after school to practice yet again, meant sometimes going days without seeing sunlight! This was the story of my winter as a high school swimmer and diver. By the time I was a junior, I was getting really burnt out with swimming. Just prior to the first meet of my junior season, I approached both my parents with the intention of quitting the swim team. There are two things I clearly remember about my dad’s reaction to this request… first, that I felt my parents took the time to at least hear me through on why I wanted to quit, and second, my dad’s actual firm, but thoughtful response – “We don’t quit something we have not finished. You get through this season, and if you still feel the same next season, you don’t have to return.” This reply is one of many which helped to instill a great sense of responsibility, commitment, determination, dependability and reliability in me. To this day, I ALWAYS work to finish what I start.

My husband with our 3 kids

Passing the “Torch”

There is so much more that my father knowingly (and unknowingly) taught me – beyond how to systematically pack a van for vacation! Additionally I’ll point out, a Dad isn’t the only one who is capable of teaching the above lessons. A case in point is my husband, who was raised by an AMAZING single mother who instilled many of these same life lessons in him and his brother. I feel fortunate to have such a great husband to partner with me in teaching these life lessons. My husband, like my father was to my mother, is WAY MORE than just a “superhero sidekick!” My husband connects to our children in a way that is so different to how I connect with them. My hope is that someday my kids will look back at the life lessons that their father has instilled in them and see that the “first man” in their life was just as positive an influence as the “first man” in my life was. THANK YOU DAD!

What life lessons and positive influences did your father have on you? How do the fathers in your life influence your children? Leave some comments to share! And encourage the fathers in your life to unlock their unique influence in their childrens’ life!

I am a staff member of the National Association of Mothers' Centers and a longtime member of the Mothers' Center of Greater Toledo in Ohio. My husband and I are busy raising 3 children ages 4-11. I have a professional background as a graphic designer in the creative and education industry. Since 2005, I have been using my professional skills by actively volunteering with the Mothers' Center of Greater Toledo in various leadership positions.
Kate Fineske
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Kate's website

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Sara February 24, 2011 at 9:23 pm

GREAT post, Kate!!! What a wonderful description of your relationship with your dad! It sounds like he and my dad were a lot alike…especially #1 and #2 (although he and my mom together took a similar stance to yours with me regarding basketball). My dad made sure I learned to change a tire, jumpstart and change a car battery, check the oil, etc. (It's sad that I actually have forgotten most of those things), and really encouraged my independence in terms of driving. It really made a difference in my life that he had done so, because at a young age, I had the confidence to drive to/from/within Boston, through NYC, DC, etc. and that made so many experiences possible!

My dad also rarely got angry, and you are so right about the power in that position!

One thing I love about my husband's role as a father, like you said, in connecting with our kids in a different way, is that he really encourages them and is so patient in helping them learn to be more confident and adventurous in physical activities than I was. I know that is going to give them confidence and experience in so many aspects of their lives as they grow.

Great job, Kate!! Loved reading your post!


Gillian February 24, 2011 at 10:20 pm

Believe it or not, it was my father (now 87) who nearly eight years ago gave me a copy of the Price of Motherhood. He was the first person with whom I spoke about the challenges of motherhood and he encouraged me to think within a systems framework — I'm not alone, this is reflective of situations mothers face throughout our society (and world).

Long before nudging me into the mothers' rights movement, my father demonstrated with consistency and commitment that fathers can be exceptional nurturers, communicators, professionals and parents. Why would we expect anything less?


Luke February 25, 2011 at 1:34 pm

"What life lessons and positive influences did your father have on you?"

Fathers are so important. if you don't have an active/present one, as i did, then you have to cobble one together. Jung calls this "a patchwork father figure." i used my grandfather, my uncles, and my mom's long-term boyfriend. later, i used my two brothers-in-law and father-in-law. my biological father showed what not to be. it also helped that my mom was a mechanic and didn't stick to gender roles, so i got the auto-maintenance and packing and such from her.

i'm always amazed at the people in my life and how they have affected me. this shows that if there is a kid in your life, whether you're related or not or if the kid is in your house or not, you have an affect on that life. make it a good one.

great article Kate. looking forward to reading more!


LindaJ March 1, 2011 at 6:03 pm

My dad, now 88, was an entrepreneur whose business obligations left him with just Sundays off. And yet we spent every Sunday in the car driving to a neighboring state to visit our grandparents and aunts, uncles and cousins for the big Italian meal. I always felt safe and secure being connected to such a large network of people who loved me and on whom I could count for anything. This had to be a hardship for my parents but they did what they felt was the right thing to do. And that was in the day when the baby equipment my dad had to dismantle to squeeze into the trunk was not very portable.

The other perspective my dad gave me was an off-shoot of his work environment. He always helped me think about and plan ahead for the most effective way to handle a project: how to set out the materials in advance, what would make the most sense to do first, what might be the most effective way to accomplish the task at hand. It's an invaluable skill to have.

While my dad was of the more "silent" generation who was not a "hands on" dad like what is more common today, the lessons he taught were clear and are long remembered.


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