You Get Nothin for Nothin, Advice From Dad

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Dear Dad,

With Father’s Day approaching, I thought that I should share some of the advice you have given over the years. Growing up, I looked up to you as a hero and it is partly because of some of the trademark phrases that you used on a regular basis. I am sure you had many more pieces of advice that have come with me into adulthood but here are just a few that really stand out. Keep in mind that as you read each piece of advice that in my head I am hearing them all with a strong New York accent. I just don’t think they’d be the same without.

“You get nothin for nothin!” Isn’t that the truth. You have said this phrase for as long as I can remember. As a kid, you have everything provided for you. Your parents cook, clean, clothe, fix and care for all of your needs. As you get older their role lessons and lessons but it is easy to see why so many have the impression that some things are free. Since the beginning everything was, and suddenly as an adult it is no longer.

This wasn’t a shocking transition for myself, however. I have heard you say “you get nothin for nothin” over and over so I already knew what was coming to me. It has been a valuable tool that has made me who I am today. I take nothing for granted and I earn everything that I have with blood, sweat and tears.

I learned from you early on that the only way to have what I wanted was to work for it. If there was a deal that seamed too good to be true, than it was. I have learned that no matter how good it sounds, taking the easy road or the free road will only cost you more in the long run.

I try to instill this lesson in my children today. I don’t want them to grow up thinking that life is easy. Sure, I want to help them as much as I can, but I want them to know and be prepared for the fact that life is actually pretty hard most of the time. People don’t just come knocking on your door with handouts…. at least not on my door anyway. My kids will know that you do in fact get “nothin for nothin” even if I can’t say it with the New Yorker flair that you do.

Another good line that I love is “Ifa, woulda, shoulda, coulda.” This has taught me that there are no re-do’s in life. I can’t go through life looking in my rear view mirror thinking “if only I had done this” or “I should’ve done that.” I can recall you saying this all of the time and I am pretty sure that as a kid I didn’t get it. I don’t remember when it actually sunk in but this phrase is so useful.

I have learned to do everything that I do, to my best ability. Leave no room for second guessing myself later. I have learned that because there are no re-do’s, I need to do it right the first time and then there won’t be a “ifa, woulda, shoulda, coulda.”

This phrase also taught me that there are no excuses. We all make mistakes, some of us daily. If we made an excuse for each of them we would be buried with a long list of reasons not to try. There aren’t any excuses in my book. There is only keep trying and keep pushing for more. I do stumble and I do fail from time to time, but there isn’t an excuse attached to each of my failures. Instead there is plan for success. I look at my mistakes and correct them rather than dwell on them. Well, I may dwell for a minute, but then I move on!

This lesson is one of the hardest lesson to teach myself and my children. Pulling yourself back up in the face of failure is always hard and many times I would like to stay down. This is also a lesson that has made me, me. I feel like I am stronger each time I get up after a fall. I don’t look back, or at least try not to, and I don’t wonder about “ifa, woulda, shoulda, coulda’s.”

This next quote of yours has been right time and again. “Blood is thicker than water.” This one was so hard to understand growing up. I can remember many times that I would have issues with friends and you would tell me that it didn’t matter because “blood is thicker than water.” I think I would even get mad sometimes when you said it. Especially, when it was in reference to a break up. Friends seemed so important back then, even more important than family.

The truth is, that over the years I have seen how much you were right. There is nothing I wouldn’t do for my family and nothing they wouldn’t do for me. I have seen them give the shirt off of their back and I have given mine as well. We have all stuck together through ups and downs and watched as friends have come and gone.

I would say that the only addition to this, the family that I gained when I married Brian, has become as thick as blood. I may not be blood to them but they are my family and we would do anything for each other.

I want Cassidy and Jacob to know that when they feel like there is no where else to go, that they can always come to their family. I want them to help each other without thinking twice and I want them to know that no matter how bad things are that they have an ally in their parents.

Time and again I have tested this line and it has always been proved. I have had the help and support of my family whenever I needed it. Blood is thicker than water and I am glad that there isn’t anything stronger than my family.

Finally, the message that you taught us was about telling the truth. I can’t remember there being one catch phrase, but I do know that the message was always the same. The truth is the only option. There were plenty of times that I screwed up and tried to cover my tracks with a lie. The lies only made things worse and the punishment only got greater.

I would be scared to tell the truth when I made a mistake and I can remember you saying “you may be in trouble, but if you lie about it, you are in even more trouble.” Lies were never tolerated in our house. It took me a while to learn how important the truth was, but I think that it has stuck with me.

I encourage my kids to come to me with the truth as well. I want them to know that once they lie, it will be hard to decipher  if they are always lying or telling the truth. They are young and hardly grasp the lesson I am teaching, but I will continue to repeat it until it has sunk in. Trust is immeasurable. You can not have a relationship with anyone, without trust. I feel like my word is my bond and once I become a liar, my bond is worth nothing.

Dad, you have taught us so many things that I honestly didn’t realize until I got older. Having kids of my own has really shown me how important those lessons were. I guess all of the times that you repeated these phrases truly sunk in. Consider them to be a legacy now, because I will repeat them over and over to my kids. Hopefully, they will have the opportunity to pass them on as well.

Love, Cherise


6 thoughts on “You Get Nothin for Nothin, Advice From Dad

    • Barbara, it is funny to think that the things we tell our children today could end up sticking with them for a lifetime. My dad is a true character and I’m glad to have learned so much from him!

    • Karen, these really are great sayings. I can remember hating them and thinking is he really going to use that line again, but they truly have made an impact on my life:)

    • Sharon, my dad hasn’t been in New York in over thirty years so most of his accent is gone but I tell you these phrases always sounded like he never left. It really does give them more impact!

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