Does Father really know best? Let’s see.


We all remember “Father Knows Best.” Okay, almost no one does, except for my late father’s friends in South Florida. Actually, even they don’t remember it anymore. But at least they did once. When Eisenhower was president.

In any case, the show revolved around the Anderson family, and the paterfamilias — played by Robert Young — would often dole out wisdom and counsel. In the interest of seeing if fathers really do know best, I asked readers on Facebook to share with me the best advice their dads ever gave them. Here are some of their responses.

•Karen Fronterotta: “Good girls are home by 1 a.m. Be home by 12:55.”

• Megan Estey Butterfield: “The best advice my dad gave me (and generations of Sunday school students)? Before you say something, ask yourself: ‘Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?’ If it doesn’t meet at least two of those criteria, stay quiet.”

•Susan Kahn Porschen: “My father has always told me that anything boys can do, girls can do better. Except pee standing up.”

• Lisa Marie Fellinger: “Don’t date boys, date men. I thought he was crazy at the time — I was about 12 or 13 years old — but it makes so much sense now!”

•Amy Lynn Lyndaker: “Do things for your kids because you love them and want them to be happy, not because you want them to thank you. Seeing your kids happy is thanks enough.”

•Nairi Megrabian: “There was an especially difficult break-up I went through in college. When my dad noticed that I was depressed, he drew on all the life experience he’d had moving from country to country: ‘You can’t drag a skeleton with you through life.’”

• Amanda Bolduc: “My dad doesn’t give advice; he lives it. When you drive around the entire month of October with a thousand-pound pumpkin on the roof of your truck, it’s very clear that making others smile and bringing joy to the world is a good thing.”

• Eileen Brunetto: “I dropped my baby son off at my parents’ house to go to an appointment. I began giving my father instructions in case fussiness ensued. He said, ‘Relax, we can take care of it. Besides, where’s he gonna go? What can he do? He doesn’t scare me.’”

• Helen Pantuso: “My dad insisted that I take a typing class in high school. I thought typing was just for secretaries and I was going to college. (Keep in mind this was the 1970s – well before computers). But Dad said I would be surprised how often it would come in handy, and how typing would be important in the future. Obviously he was right. He passed away in the middle of my freshman year in high school, so he never saw the advent of computers. But this simple piece of practical advice has literally been a gift I’ve been able to carry with me every day since.”

• David Reed Wood: “How about two words? ‘Do it!’ My father had this over his office door on a little business card. He said often we waste too much time sitting and wishing.”

•Jennifer Swift Wilson: “Money is just grease. It does not make one person better than another, but it does make life a little easier.”

• Deborah Spofford Churchill: “Learn to drive a standard. That way you won’t ever be stuck somewhere because you can’t drive a vehicle.’”

•Sherry Kaufman Wilk: “We grew up in New York City. I was sandwiched between two brothers. ‘Button your neck!’ my father shouted as each of us slammed the door that led to the alley and our freedom. It was my father’s mantra. My brothers and I always teased each other with that advice throughout early adulthood when saying goodbye on the phone or after a family visit. We all lived in Florida by then, but ‘button your neck’ meant more than keep warm. Its inner meaning was, ‘I love you, take care of yourself, watch out for strangers, and come home in one piece.’”

Speaking as a father, we don’t always know best. But every once in a while we get it right.

Happy Father’s Day.

(This column appeared originality in the Burlington Free Press on June 21, 2015.)

Chris Bohjalian
Chris Bohjalian

Chris Bohjalian is the author of eighteen books, including his forthcoming novel, The Guest Room. His other novels include the New York Times bestsellers Midwives, The Sandcastle Girls, and The Double Bind.

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