On Father's Day, Craig Robinson, author of A Game of Character and brother to first lady Michelle Obama, reflects on what it means to be a father and the lessons his father passed down.
This is my 18th year celebrating Father's Day as a father, made even more special due to the recent birth of my third child. When I'm not thinking about how quickly the time has gone, I find myself reminiscing about my own father, Fraser Robinson III. Along with the role of father, he was my first coach, my first teacher and my first mentor.
He was the one who taught me how to throw my first curveball, shared with me his top secret, "un-returnable" pingpong serve—only to be used in dire situations—and showed me how to shoot a basketball with either hand. But his lessons weren't limited to athletic endeavors. He showed me how to make a bed like a soldier, how to drive defensively and courteously and how to create a habit of saving, even on the meager salary he made.
I can still remember the day he brought home his month's salary in a stack of cash. I thought we were rich! Then, slowly but carefully, my father used envelopes to show me how he paid the bills. Soon enough, there was just $20 left to the stack, and my father explained that this was how he took care of our family's affection for take-out or a trip to the drive-in now and then. It became clear to me that my parents made many sacrifices to make the lives of my sister, Michelle, and I as secure and comfortable as possible—going so far as to finance both of our Ivy League educations solely on credit cards.
Some of my father's most important lessons were simply taught by example. The less tangible lessons of hard work, discipline and character were evident in his daily life. Getting up and out for work every day with no complaints and in spite of his ongoing battle with multiple sclerosis. The grace with which he acted as family patriarch dealing with problems and doling out advice without ever being patronizing or appearing put upon. The chivalry he showed my mother. He showed me that a real man takes care of his family.
The patience, courtesy and love my father showed my sister, mother and myself was extended to everyone he met. He is with me every time I hold a door open for my wife, sit down to answer a question from one of my children or offer advice to a member of my team. When I was younger, I would try to emulate my father, down to the limp he sported due to his illness. On this Father's Day, I realize that I have been trying to emulate his parenting all these years. I can only hope that my children can learn half as much from me as I learned from him.
On this day that we honor fathers, let us pay tribute not just to our fathers and grandfathers, but to all of the important influences in our lives. And for those of us who are lucky enough to be fathers, let us remember that there is no end to the lessons we have to teach and to learn.
Read an excerpt from Craig Robinson's book A Game of Character
Printed from Oprah.com on Wednesday, March 12, 2014
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