Five Life Lessons From My Dad

Mum's Back are primarily all about mums, pregnancy, motherhood, new mum hampers, those early years with a new baby and beyond. However, in this year's run up to Fathers’ Day, I am delighted to feature some blogs on the site completely dedicated to dads. After all, they're a pretty important component to parenting, don't you agree?!

Up first we have a gorgeous blog by Sally Thomas, all about her dad, Dave. It's the kind of blog that reminds you how great the world, and the people in it can be.

Dad and me

My dad Dave was always there when I was growing up, and that’s not something I take for granted. I have friends whose dads are no longer around, left their families for new ones, or are just not part of their life. It’s impossible to imagine my childhood without my dad there alongside my mum Chris and my sister Jo, and we are still incredibly close as a family, even though there are now many miles between us all.

When your family all love Jon Snow! Mum, dad, me and Jo.

On first glance, Dave my dad treads the line of Father’s Day card imagery – pottering in a shed, drinking a beer, watching the football (his beloved Aston Villa), providing taxi services and loaning his offspring money. Those that know him see him as incredibly confident, able to strike up a conversation with absolutely anyone, and the life and soul of the party. But he also has a serious and sensitive side, and if worrying was a competitive sport, he’d be the undefeated champion.

He is one of the best people I know for listening and giving advice. I’ve learned so many things from him and I thought I’d share a few with you.

Work to live, not live to work

Dad spent about 25 years working for Suttons Bakeries, delivering bread to various stores. The teasmade would wake him at 3am with a freshly brewed cuppa and he’d set off to Coventry to load up his lorry. He loved the job, as most of the time he was driving, with the occasional stop and a quick chat with the store staff. He would either listen to the radio, or play a tape of his lines from whatever play or pantomime he was in at the time.

Dad was always there, not rushing off to meetings or locked away in an office working late into the night. He always earned enough to get by and avoided jobs with any stress or pressure.

My parents showed me how to get the balance right, to be careful with money but spend it when you need to. Sometimes we’d go on holiday abroad, sometimes we’d spend three rainy (but fun) weeks cycling around Cornwall. We’d have days out but we’d always take our own food. I vividly remember pulling up on the hard shoulder and the four of us eating our cereal by the side of the motorway!

I’ve had careers in advertising, sales and marketing and in each of those sectors I took a role that completely burnt me out. When my hair started falling out, I was being contacted at ridiculous hours and couldn’t sleep anymore, dad would tell me it was time to take a pay cut and look after myself, and I would pass on this advice to anyone in a similar situation. Life is too short and money isn’t everything.

Get on the stage and out of your shell

From an early age, my dad was in the spotlight playing the leading roles in school productions. He taught himself the guitar as a teenager, and played in several cover bands in Birmingham.

Dave second from left in the Reunion Showband

After they started a family, he decided to get back into performing, and the whole family joined the amateur dramatics group at the local methodist church we attended. His first role as pantomime dame led to many years of typecasting because he was so good at it. As a 7 year old, I thought nothing of my dad being in full drag, and was surprised at school to find out that not everyone’s dad spent their spare time as a female impersonator!

Dad as Widow Twankey in Aladdin. My sister Jo (left) and I (right) were in the junior chorus. I loved this twirly skirt!

He still acts and sings today, and his rendition of ‘My Grandfather’s Ferret’ is not to be rivalled. He’s played so many roles and I’ve seen him have audiences in tears of both laughter and sadness.

I was an incredibly shy child, and drama was a way I could have confidence by being someone else. Even now I’m more comfortable on a stage than in day-to-day situations. My dad inspired me to unleash my inner diva and bring joy to others by entertaining them, and that if you love music, make music.

Dave in his element during a stay at Rockfield Studios for his 70th birthday

 Sing loudly at funerals

It’s so strange the words of wisdom that stay with you in life, but “Sing loudly at funerals” from Dad is a keeper. He told me this at a family funeral when I was fairly young, explaining that people can be too sad to sing in times of grief so if you can, sing for them to help make a sad occasion a celebration of life.

As the years have gone by, unfortunately we’ve had many opportunities to put this into practice. Sometimes it’s been achieved, but others…. we’ve been the ones too sad to sing.

Dad and I are very similar when dealing with grief. We put on a brave face in public and cry in private. For us, grief in its full flow is never immediate, but sneaks up much later when we’re not expecting it. But before then, we deal with the administration and comfort others while we’re in that lull.

Spend time by yourself

I think time by yourself is one of the essential things in life. My dad taught me that it’s ok to have quiet moments, go for a walk, or curl up with a book. In a house full of women, I can imagine he needed the peace every now and then!

The hours he spent driving for a living wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but my dad loved the solitude and time for reflection it gave him. He also went to Russia on his own as he’d always wanted to go.

A further lesson I’ve learned is to explain that you need time by yourself to close friends and family. Then they’ll understand that you need space and stop trying to follow you around!

 Help other people

I’m struggling to remember a time when my dad hasn’t been a volunteer in some capacity. At weekends, he can be found showing visitors around the grounds of Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens occasionally making up the name of plants when memory fails him.

He has spent many years gardening for the elderly people in the village, being paid mainly in biscuits. He has also helped to run Luncheon Club at the local church, and a regular Whist Drive (although sadly there were many cheaters at the table). My sister and I would often go along and help until eventually we’d get bored and start playing hide and seek.

I’ve never heard him grumble about volunteering, even when an elderly lady kept phoning him to come round and help her change the channels on the TV. He always said she was probably a dab hand at a remote but just wanted the company.

Helping other people has never been something he’s done for recognition. It’s just something he has always found worthwhile, had the time to do, and inspired others to do the same.

These are just five fatherly pearls of wisdom from Dave, and they’ve all helped me at some point in my life. I think the greatest life lesson I’ve learned from him is to be happy, and for that I’d say to him “Thank you, I definitely am”.

Originally from Birmingham but now living in Swansea, Sally Thomas is a freelance copywriter and marketer who crafts captivating, compelling and creative campaigns. She is also addicted to alliteration. Her website is on its 127th rewrite in six months as she's never happy with it.

Visit Daphne & Margot to see her sister Jo's beautiful handmade children's clothes.

You can listen to Dave’s cover of My Grandfather’s Ferret on Soundcloud.

Huge thanks to Sally for writing this……and big up Dave!!