Posts Tagged ‘family’

Things My Father Taught Me

My father was an extraordinary man. He was an attorney who won 99% of his cases. He played piano like a virtuoso even though he couldn’t read a note of music. He was extremely well-read. That is, I assume he was since we had a room the size of an apartment devoted to his book collection.

He also was a perfectionist with a serious case of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). I remember the time he admonished me for placing the tape dispenser in the drawer on its side rather than upright. I believe that was the moment my father realized that my education was sorely lacking. I was 15 at the time. For, in the years that followed, my father took it upon himself to teach me the “proper” way to handle many different challenges that life presented.

Let me explain with an example. Say you’re alone in the house and you hear a scary noise that sounds like it might be coming from inside the house. You’re in total darkness. Should you:

  1. Grab a crowbar for protection against a possible home invader.
  2. Yell loudly to scare away any wild animals that may have strayed into your house. Or…
  3. Use the back of your hand to switch on the light.

The correct answer, according to my father, was, of course, C. One should always flip on a light switch with the back of one’s hand. The reason is obvious – to a crazy person: To avoid leaving messy, oily finger prints on the light switch plate. Evidently, that should be your primary concern when you suspect burglars may be breaking into your house in the middle of the night.

My dad died in 1979. In the 24 years that I shared this planet with him, he taught me scores of similar life lessons. Most of these were things I thought I had mastered by the third grade. Apparently, I was wrong. I might be performing a mundane task, such as brushing my teeth, when I’d notice in the mirror that objects were closer than they appeared. Specifically, my father, who would be standing in the doorway, quietly studying my technique, shaking his head in dismay. He would then deliver a lengthy dissertation on the correct procedure for a routine that I was evidently still mangling after all these years.

If it weren’t for my dad, I never would have realized the cutlery hazards that awaited me at the dinner table. Do you know the proper way to put a spoon in your mouth? Is it:

  1. Open your mouth BEFORE inserting the spoon. Then close said mouth and suck in the food.
  2. Fill the spoon only halfway; gently insert the spoon into your mouth, avoiding a slurping sound. Or…
  3. A gentleman NEVER puts a spoon into his mouth. He brings it to his lips and gently tips the soup onto his palate without the spoon ever crossing the threshold of his lips. Where ARE your manners!?!

According to my father the correct answer is C. But technically there was no correct answer – because whatever I did, it would have been wrong. Because, my dear father was (how can I put it gently?) flippin’ crazy.

I have so many fond memories of those bonding moments with my dad. I even (surreptitiously) kept a list of every life skill he dadsplained to me: How to use a bottle opener; How to make toast; How to bite my tongue when he routinely insulted my intelligence. I gave my private list a snarky title: “Things My Father Taught Me.”

I feel morally obligated to pass this wisdom onto you, my readers, so that you too may prepare your children for the harsh world that awaits them.

Thank you, dad, for teaching me:

How to water a plant

How to toss something into a trash can

How to lift a suitcase

How to unpack a suitcase efficiently (I didn’t know that was a thing)

How to adjust the angle of a table lamp for optimal reading lighting

How to dry dishes

How to walk properly

How to chew food properly

How to hang a shirt on a hanger (don’t forget to button the collar button and the third button down)

How to open a shower curtain

How to fold a towel and put it on a towel rack (make sure the width at the top is the same as the bottom)

How to hold a sharp knife (this would have come in handy, had I opted to pursue a career as a mugger)

How to close a door behind me

How to buy low and sell high (I really should have paid closer attention to that lesson)

How to pour soda into a glass

How to hide the body and not leave prints (Okay, I made that one up. Just wanted to see if you were still paying attention)

How to hold the steering wheel (always at 11 and 1, never 10 & 2. My Driver’s Ed instructor was apparently a charlatan)

How to sit at a table (your back should NEVER touch the back of the chair)

How to say hello properly when answering the phone

How to dial a rotary phone (Always use your middle finger. To this day, I still use my middle finger for all sorts of situations.)

And yes, the proper position of a scotch tape dispenser when placed back in a drawer: upright.

One day, my father discovered my incriminating list hidden in my bottom dresser drawer, underneath my pajamas. Surprisingly, he did not take it as a tribute. Go figure. On that very memorable occasion, he taught me another valuable life lesson: Never hide in your pajama drawer something you don’t want your crazed father to find.

As misguided as his lessons were, I know my dad meant well. I think about that list every now and then. Occasionally, it makes me cringe slightly – usually at the moment I catch myself telling my 21-year-old daughter the proper way to hold the steering wheel.

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

PS: If you enjoyed this week’s post, let me know by posting a comment, giving it a Like or sharing this post on Facebook.

Check out my latest humor book: YOU’RE GROUNDED FOR LIFE: Misguided Parenting Strategies That Sounded Good at the Time

©Tim Jones Betsy Jones, View from the Bleachers 2017 (Betsy Jones is my sister and my editor. In fairness, she actually re-wrote most of this piece).


  • Sounds so much like my own father that it's scary - we could have almost been brothers! My…
    Anonymous
  • Published On Oct. 05, 2017 by TEJ
  • Signs My Daughter Loves Me

    signs-my-daughter-loves-me-cartoonIf you’re a parent like me – or even if you’re a parent who’s not like me – at some point you’ve probably asked yourself, “Why on earth did I ever have kids?” In my case, I blame my wife.

    For years, I found that same question popping into my head – roughly every four minutes – as I would endure one battle after another with my rebellious younger daughter for household supremacy. I fondly recall that satisfying period when I was in charge and my word was law. But then she turned two.

    Parenting is exhausting, with long stretches during which you wonder if your children will ever show you a glimmer of respect or affection – and by “long stretches” I mean from age two to whatever age they currently are. If you’re feeling anxious that perhaps your child doesn’t love you, despite all the hard work and sacrifices you’ve made, it’s understandable. But there is hope she’ll get through her awkward, narcissistic phase, and the day will come when she shows you her devotion. Admittedly, when I say “there is hope”, I mean in the way that there’s hope my Seattle Mariners may someday make it to the World Series, or how astronomers hope someday they may find intelligent life elsewhere in the universe.

    The signs are obvious if you just know where to look. Here’s how I know my daughter loves me:

    Read More…


    • Tim, you're a master at hyperbole, they can't help but love you. They show you with their gaze that melts…
      Paul Burgess
  • Published On Jan. 29, 2017 by TEJ
  • My Family’s Christmas Miracle

    christmas-miracle-tree-in-hand

    Once upon a time there was a humble family man named Tim. Tim loved the holiday season more than any other time of year – all the traditional songs, twinkling lights, frosted gingerbread cookies – but most of all, seeing the magic of Christmas in his kids’ eyes. Yes, Tim was blessed with two wonderful daughters, Rachel and Emily. He remembered so many wonderful Christmases from their youth with fondness.

    However, in recent years, as his girls grew older and more independent, Tim sensed that the holiday spirit was slipping away from their Christmas gatherings. Indeed, this might be the last year that the entire family would be together for the holiday as both girls were embarking on careers in far-away cities. So, Tim made up his mind. He was going to bring back the magic of Christmas one last time!

    The holidays were rapidly approaching. Emily arrived home first. Tim was so excited to see his younger daughter. After all, he’d not seen her in six full moons. Tim had a wonderfully festive plan for just the two of them. They would hunt down the perfect tree, a majestic tribute to Father Christmas. Then they’d decorate it with shimmering ornaments and glittering tinsel. But Emily was jet-lagged from her long flight home from China and went straight to bed – for the next two days. So much for that inspiration. Oh, Tannen-bomb, thought Tim.

    Read More…


    • That tale choked me up Tim.... Real chokes of sadness and tears of emotion - glad it worked out well…
      Janice Strong
  • Published On Dec. 31, 2016 by TEJ
  • At Least I’m Not My Dad

    Discipline - dunce capIn hindsight, I probably was not quite as strict a disciplinarian with my girls when they were growing up as I should have been. Certainly nothing like how my dad disciplined me. I realize now that I let my kids get off too easy. Case in point:

    Me to my daughter Emily when she was ten: Hey, kiddo. Your room looks like a tornado just came through. Would you mind cleaning it up now, before you go out and play? I’d really appreciate it.

    EMILY: That’s so unfair. Madison’s parents never make her clean up her room so why should I have to?

    ME: Every family makes its own rules, and unfortunately for you, you’re a member of THIS family. Now, just make your bed, put away your clothes and pick up the leftover pizza, and then you can go have fun with your friends. Thanks. I love you.

    EMILY: I HATE YOU! You are so mean! You can’t make me!

    ME: I’m trying to be patient here. Don’t make me ask you again. Clean up your room now – or else!

    EMILY: Or else what? You’ll give me another timeout?

    ME: Um, actually, yes. Plus, I’ll take away your cell phone until you’ve cleaned your room.

    EMILY: No, you won’t. Because you need me to remove that virus from your computer that you got from downloading that stupid Elf Bowl game.

    ME: Shoot. Okay, help me with my computer when you have time, and I’ll let you clean your room later. But that room better be spotless before you leave for school tomorrow morning, you hear me?

    EMILY: Sure. Whatever.

    ME: Hey, listen, Em. You’ve no idea how easy I am being here. Just be grateful you didn’t have MY dad for a father…. Read More…


    • Great job Tim. I enjoy your posts very much
      Jim Birkenbuel (View from the other side of th street)
  • Published On Nov. 27, 2016 by TEJ
  • How to Help Your Child With Their Science Fair Project

    middle school science project - ChildIf you have kids, then by the time they reach middle school, it’s a certainty they’ll turn to their parents for help with their science fair project. In our family, they naturally turned to me because they respected my enormous wealth of scientific knowledge [after all, I’ve watched more than two episodes of Nova] – and not at all because my wife has told them “I’ve driven you to 600 soccer practices and 125 piano lessons over the past three years. It’s time your father got off the couch for once. Go ask him!”

    Helping your child with his noble science fair project can be a wonderful bonding opportunity – parent and child working together to bring a complex endeavor from inception to completion. Remember, your role is merely to coach, not to take over the project. Use this chance to teach your child a life lesson in taking responsibility. Follow this simple seven-step roadmap, and before you know it, your little wunderkind might learn a lot more than just how many planets are in our solar system (I still say the answer is nine. Pluto rocks).

    Step 1: Help your child select a project that’s achievable.

    Kids are naturally competitive. They want to impress their teachers – and their parents. So don’t be surprised if your child’s concept for a project is overly ambitious. When he decides to build a nuclear particle accelerator using bicycle parts and silly putty, you may want to counsel him to scale back his plans to something more realistic – so he might actually complete his project during your lifetime. 

    Step 2: Remind your child of your role in this project.

    Okay, so you took your kid to the movie, The Martian, and now he’s decided he’s going to build a rocket ship that can travel to Mars and back. Did you skip over Step 1 above – the part about choosing a project he can actually achieve? As you get started, remind your little rocket builder that this is his project, not yours. Insist he take the lead. Gently reassure him that you’ll be there every step of the way if he gets stuck.

    Notice how he gets stuck as soon as he hands you the instruction sheet from his teacher, at which point he may say something like, “Dad, this looks really hard.” Don’t worry. This is an excellent opportunity to teach him the lessons of patience, self-reliance, taking a project from start to completion and going without texting for more than three minutes. 

    Step 3: Encourage your child when he gets stuck. Read More…


    • Not having kids we helped by judging science fairs. What a learning experience trying not to crush budding scientists,…
      Janice Strong
  • Published On Nov. 16, 2015 by TEJ
  • I love you daddy, but not enough to give you my Snickers bar

    Halloween - me and my girlsIt was a dark and stormy Halloween night. My two young daughters, Rachel and Emmy, could not wait to get started. Earlier that week I’d spent an evening helping them come up with their costumes. Emmy could not decide between a fairy princess or Barney the dinosaur or Hello Kitty. So naturally, the only solution was Barney the Hello Kitty dinosaur princess. Whatever makes you happy, my little angel, I mean, dinosaur kitty princess.

    Rachel’s outfit was easier. She insisted on being Harry Potter wearing an invisibility cloak. So I drew a lightning bolt on her forehead, put a sliver of duct tape on a pair of my black-framed glasses and found a blanket to which I affixed a big sign that read: INVISIBILITY CLOAK.  YOU CAN’T SEE ME!

    The girls kept asking, “Daddy, when can we go trick or treating?” To which I would respond, “It’s only Wednesday. Halloween is not for another three days. Be patient.” This went on every few hours until the big day, at which point, the incessant questioning accelerated to every 5 minutes.

    Finally it was time for the main event. They looked so cute – Emmy in her princess tiara, sparkly gloves and Cinderella flowing gown, with the matching kitty ears, whiskers and a long purple dinosaur tail. Meanwhile Rachel was almost completely hidden underneath her Mighty Morphin Power Rangers invisibility blanket. Of course, once we ventured out into the 42-degree drizzling weather, it was actually hard to make out their costumes beneath their winter coats and Thomas the Tank Engine galoshes.

    Read More…


    • What a nice dad! When our girls would come back from trick or treating, I had them sort through…
      Pam N
  • Published On Oct. 27, 2015 by TEJ
  • What we WISH we could say to our kids

    what we wish we could say - child with paintYears ago, I had this reckless notion that something was missing in my life which could only be filled by having kids. So we started a family – and got so much more: eight years of Raffi songs, 800 trips to sports practices (and the occasional trip to the ER), $6,000 in orthodontia bills, and a child-proofed house, every square inch of which perpetually resembled a FEMA disaster zone.

    Don’t get me wrong – I love our daughters more than anything in the world – with the possible exception of bacon. But it didn’t take long to discover that despite the significant gap between my toddlers and me in earning potential, overall intelligence, and ability not to drool on everything with which I came into contact, I simply was no match for my kids. They routinely wore me out – usually by the time they dumped a bowl of Raisin Bran on each other – a daily 7am ritual.

    As a parent of two boisterous young girls, I quickly came to two conclusions: First, the interior of the VCR makes an ideal place to hide daddy’s slice of apple pie; and second, being a parent was going to require Herculean levels of patience. Being a good parent means having the maturity to resist saying the first thing that pops into your prefrontal cortex when your eight-year-old microwaves your cell phone. You need to suppress the urge to blurt out, “Jesus Christ! What the hell were you thinking, spraying the cat with the purple paint, you little twerp?” Such an outburst could permanently damage your precious angel’s delicate self-esteem – much like my angel permanently damaged our precious leather couch with a stick figure etching of her daddy.

    Shortly after our girls acquired rudimentary speech, I learned a valuable lesson: Never use foul language in front of young children. When my eldest was barely three, I caught her wielding my $500 Titleist driver into the trunk of our cherry tree, “just like George Washington, Daddy!” While she hadn’t yet mastered conjugating a sentence, she had, to my surprise, absolutely no difficulty reciting back to mommy the entirety of my panicked outburst – verbatim: “Mommy, Daddy said, ‘Holy shit. Look what you’ve done to my club!’ What does ‘shit’ mean, Mommy?”

    Read More…


    • There really were rewards for all your 20 years of restraint ... viola 2 well adjusted young women who thankfully…
      Janice Strong
  • Published On Sep. 07, 2015 by TEJ
  • Better parenting through polling

    parenting by polling - pie chartWhen it comes to parenting, I don’t always make the best decisions. I’m not always sure what the right thing to do is in a difficult situation.

    Like the time our elder daughter begged and pleaded with me to let her drive the car to the mall. It was a sunny day. Traffic was light. And she had behaved extremely well all week long. So against my better judgment, I said okay. Two minutes later, she smashed the car into a stop sign barely 100 yards from our driveway. A part of me can’t help but wonder whether in retrospect I made a mistake giving in to the incessant pleadings of an eight-year-old to drive my minivan.

    Sometimes my wife questions my ability to make the right call. Heck, she rarely listens to any of my opinions unless at least four complete strangers tell her the exact same thing – which got me to thinking: maybe the way for me to make better parenting decisions is to poll the opinions of total strangers.

    In the most recent presidential election, the polls were incredibly accurate forecasters of people’s voting preferences. Nate Silver’s 538 blog accurately predicted the Electoral College winner in all fifty states. Politicians use polls all the time to help them decide how to vote. Should we legalize gay marriage? Poll your constituents. Should we cut defense spending? Do a poll. Should we ban hurricanes during the last week of a presidential campaign? (97% of Republicans resoundingly voted yes.)   Read More…


      No Recent Comments
  • Published On Apr. 15, 2015 by TEJ
  • Encourage your challenging child – through POSITIVE parenting

    Patient Parenting - angry dad and sonIf there is one thing I’ve learned as a parent, it’s that in the end, your kids will crush your dreams, ignore your advice, join a biker gang, and blame you for everything.

    But if there is a second thing I’ve learned, it’s that you need to be positive. As you know, outside of my immediate family, I am considered a parenting expert. My latest book, A Positive Parent’s Guide to Loving Your Child, even if They’re an Evil, Twisted, Unmotivated, Narcissistic Demon Seed Hellion Who Will Never Amount to Anything is helping millions of frustrated parents around the globe deal with their challenging child. The key? Remain positive at all times.

    This week, I dip into Dr. Tim’s Mailbag, to share how you can successfully apply my powerful patent-pending positive parenting process to help your own challenging child blossom to almost one quarter of their God-given potential.  Read More…


    • Was this written for me? As always, great advice, Tim. Worth every penny I paid for…
      Keith W.
  • Published On Mar. 11, 2015 by TEJ
  • Lessons in bonding

    Emailing my daughter - GirlRecently my college-age daughter Rachel emailed me, asking for help with a problem. Such an event – being rarer than a sighting of Halley’s Comet – calls for all-hands-on-deck-full-throttle parental engagement.  “I’m there for you, Rachel.”

    Thus began an email exchange that I am proud to say profoundly impacted my daughter and our relationship. Her gratitude for my sage advice is evidenced in her words that, well, she couldn’t even put into words how helpful I was.

    Rachel:  Hey, Dad. Wanted to ask you something. My boyfriend Brad and me had a fight. I saw him with my best friend Brianna. They were holding hands. He says she’s just a friend, but I think he’s lying. Should I confront him?

    Me: Thanks for your email, Rachel. I am happy to help. Frankly, this is a common problem for many young people. In fact, your mom often struggled with similar issues when she was your age.

    Here are my suggestions. First, never start a sentence with a verb unless it’s a command. When you write “Wanted to ask you something”, the reader is left wondering: Who wanted to ask me something? My daughter? My boss? A strange man in a tall hat? You never want to leave your reader guessing.

    Also it’s not “Brad and me had a fight.” It’s “Brad and I.”  Me is the objective form of the first person pronoun. In this context, however, you need the subjective form.

    Rachel: Whatever, Dad. I don’t think you understand. I think Brad is cheating on me. Last nite, I texted him. No reply. No idea what he’s up 2. What should I do? Read More…


  • Published On Nov. 13, 2014 by TEJ