Written for The Good Men Project by Tom Burns, author of Building A Library: Finding the Right Book for Your Kid
When I first became a parent, I found myself either constantly giving or receiving advice. Potty training, co-sleeping, TV time—there are hundreds of conflicting opinions out there about every parenting-related topic. However, when my really good friends become parents for the first time, there are certain pieces of advice that immediately jump to the top, nuggets of wisdom that I mention before all others. Some are philosophical, some are mundane in the extreme. But when I sit down and really think about being a parent, these are twenty-five of the most important lessons that I think any dad (or any parent for that matter) would definitely want to pass on to their kids.
1. Winning is fun, but it teaches you nothing. Failure is the best teacher in the world. Winning is a trophy, failing is an education.
2. The key to surviving failure is to not take it personally. This is why video games make great educational tools. Mario doesn’t rage at the world when he fails to jump over a pit. He just starts back at the beginning and tries again until he figures out how to rescue that princess.
3. Ketchup is for French fries and hamburgers. Never hot dogs. That’s why the universe invented mustard.
4. Lying to protect someone’s feelings isn’t lying. It’s called empathy.
5. All the best stuff happens in the dark. Fireworks, movies, trick-or-treating, roasting marshmallows, Space Mountain. Try to remember that when you hear a noise in your closet at night.
6. Grown-ups don’t know everything. Most of us are just trying our hardest and faking it as best we can.
7. If a grown-up, corporation, religion, teacher, boss, and/or significant other tells you that they, in fact, do know everything, that they speak the absolute truth, that’s called fundamentalism, which is a fancy way of saying that they’re lying.
8. Even though, yes, I just admitted that I don’t know everything, pointing that out when we’re arguing is never going to work in your favor.
9. When you’re doing laundry, read the labels on your clothes. When in doubt, wash everything in cold.
10. One day, in the future, during a job interview, someone will ask you “What’s your greatest weakness?” This isn’t an invitation to be honest. This is a test to see how well you can answer a stupid question.
11. Almost everything in life is better in moderation, particularly TV, water parks, the internet, and Twizzlers.
12. Want to prove to me you’re a big kid? Make it through a 2-hour movie in the theatre without squirming or complaining. Want to take it to the next level? Make it to the eighth-inning of a baseball game.
13. Yes, everyone is going to die one day. And, yes, that really sucks.
14. No, I don’t know what happens after we die. But that’s a fascinating question. Keep asking fascinating questions.
15. I’ll tell you this—I promise you will never be alone and, even after you die, we will always be together. And there is no one on heaven or earth who can prove that that isn’t true.
16. Farting is always funny. Even at the dinner table. Actually, especially at the dinner table.
17. Good rule to live by: If they look like they’re fine, it’s OK to laugh. If they’re really hurt, shut up and help.
18. Ignoring race and class doesn’t mean that you’re enlightened. It just means that you’re good at ignoring things.
19. Debt is evil and oppressive. If you’re going to go into debt for something, make sure it’s worth it.
20. On a related topic, a college education is worthless if you don’t know how to properly use an apostrophe with the letter “s”.
21. Science both answers questions and keeps discovering new questions to ask. This is why science is awesome.
23. You can be mad at someone and still love them at the same time. This can be very confusing.
24. Talking about abstract things is important. Having big, wild conversations about concepts like art, music, time travel, and dreams makes it much easier when you’ll eventually need to talk about things like anger, sadness, pain, and love.
25. Every dad needs to teach his kids the lyrics to “The Diarrhea Song.” During a long family car trip… But only when they’re ready.
Tom Burns is the author of Building A Library: Finding the Right Book for Your Kid