Teach your children by example
My wife recently had a flat tire on her car. Being the gallant husband, I volunteered to change the flat with the spare. As I began the task, I heard his familiar voice. Not an audible voice, you understand. But the words that he had spoken to me dozens of times began to flood my memory. It was the voice of my dad.
As I methodically went through the Ted Priest tire changing protocol, I remembered all the times we changed tires together. Lots of flat tires over the years. We changed tires for neighbors, relatives and strangers on the highway. We also put snow tires on our car every fall because we lived in “snow country.” Then we swapped back in the spring.
Always, my dad would voice instructions as we went along, whether I was watching him do it (when I was very young) or, later, when I was doing it and he was watching me. Each instruction was accompanied by an observation or safety warning:
• Set the parking brake and block the tires with a brick. (“You don't want the car rolling away while it's up on the jack.”)
• Get the jack and spare out of the trunk. (This advice was usually accompanied by his out loud bewilderment about why the engineers made it so inaccessible.)
• Break the lug nuts loose. (“Don't wait until the car is up on the jack to break the nuts loose or you'll rock it off the jack.”)
• Jack the car up carefully. (“Some people have been killed by being careless with a car jack!”)
• Take off the lug nuts and place them in the hubcap so you don't lose them. (“Everything has a place, and everything should be in its place.”)
• Carefully remove the old tire and replace it with the new one. (“Don't put your hands underneath the tire or you could smash your fingers.”)
• Tighten the lug nuts while it's up on the jack, but not all the way until later. (“You don't want to rock it off the jack.”)
• Lower the jack, then tighten the lug nuts all the way, working your way diagonally across the hub. (“The nuts should be alternately tightened so the wheel rolls true.”)
• Put the jack back in the trunk the right way. (Once again, “Everything has a place ...”)
• Wash your hands and get the soap under your fingernails. (“Every man should have clean fingernails regardless of his profession.” Despite the fact dad was a mechanic, his hands were always clean.)
Completion of the job was always followed by his trademark statement: “Another job well done by Priest and son.”
Years later, dad observed, “It's infinitely easier to do a job by yourself than train a child to do a job. But it's important to train the child to do the job.”
I didn't realize all the things my dad was training me to do when he apprenticed me to be a tire changer. He was teaching me how to do things for myself. He was schooling me to take over his jobs. He was mentoring me how to raise my own son and daughter. He was modeling how to be an engaged and intentional dad.
I miss my dad. But I'm glad I still hear his voice in my ear. And I'm glad he set an example for me to follow. That's a job every father should teach his children.
Jim Priest is CEO of Sunbeam Family Services and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.