At times I felt like it was my father’s mission in life to never let me sleep past 8:00 a.m. on a weekend. Every Saturday of my life, it seems, a knock would sound on my door and it was time to head out and do some work with Dad. It didn’t matter if we were digging a ditch or renovating a house, things always followed a simple formula: Dad and I would sweat in the sun working, my brother was the designated tool-fetcher, and every job would reach a moment of teaching.

[quote_right]“Son, let the saw do the work.”[/quote_right]The most memorable “work parable” of all came whenever we were using a handsaw to cut a piece of wood. I would try to cut it and the jagged blade would catch and jump and wobble and do everything but cut the wood. Dad would then gently say,[highlight class=”highlight_yellow” style=””] “Son, let the saw do the work.”[/highlight] I believe I heard that phrase from him more than 1,000 times in my life. Interestingly, only about half of those times came while actually using a saw. The other times were moments where the handsaw parable on patience applied, and it would help me through. If I just relaxed and slowly pushed and pulled the saw, the tool would cut the wood, rather than me cutting the wood.

A man I know once I had the job of mixing feed to supplement his income. For about two weeks, each day that he came home from work, his two boys, ages 2 and 3 would look at him, smile, and say, “Boy, Dad, you sure are dusty!” He would reply, “Yes, I sure am dusty.” Then he would get cleaned up.

He didn’t think too much of this until he was washing his car and saw his oldest son doing something very strange. He was picking up the gravel and stones that were in our drive and rubbing them into his pants. He asked him, “What are you doing?” He replied, “I want to be dusty like you, Dad!”

[quote_left]”I want to be dusty like you, Dad!”[/quote_left]Work is a mysterious domain to kids. Parents need to help their kids not only learn to have a work ethic, but also to get meaning out of work. They look at what we are doing and want to be “dusty like us.” And while working shoulder to shoulder with them we can bring parables out of the work to life.

The simple work parables my Dad used weren’t original to him. Guess who he heard them from? You got it: his Dad. I believe every Dad has these little words of wisdom to give, and being creative and constant in delivering them makes the difference in passing on our wisdom to our kids. Creativity in expressing them enables our kids to remember the words of wisdom. Constancy in applying them to life enables our kids to live by the words of wisdom. 


Questions to Ask Yourself or a Group of Other Dads:

  1. What are some “work lessons” that your Dad or other people passed on to you when you were younger?
  2. Which ones have you already passed on to your kids or hope to in the near future?
  3. What other work lessons do you live by that should be passed on to your kids?
  4. Take some time now to write your top 5 work lessons down (from others or that you’ve come across)
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