After the death of my husband & daughters Dad two years ago, Fathers Day has become challenging. Here I look at the important lessons my own Father has taught me.

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Chocolates and new ties just don’t really cut it when your Dad is living in the middle of the desert in Oman (no, really, that is where he is!), so this is my Fathers Day present.

The things my Dad has taught me:

  1. To question everything.

My Dad taught me to challenge, to question, to ponder, not just to accept things because its how they have always been. Stick it to the man, push the boundaries and f*ck the status quo.

2. Politics and religion

The two topics we are told to stay clear of in social circles, you can bet my Dad will be talking about.

As a child I went on marches, political rallies and handed out fliers. We were taught to join a union, never cross a picket and our own political history. 

I was taught to always vote, that people fought for my right to vote and that it was important to stand for something. 

I was taught about religion, but to make my own decision on it.  My Dad is strongly atheist and even though I have tried to get him to pipe down a little whilst working in hugely religious countries across the globe, he wont and I kinda love him for that.

3. Maths

I can remember sitting at my kitchen table crying about my lack of strength in the Maths department, telling my Dad that I was going to be an actress and that I would pay an accountant, so I didn’t need all this (a fact that did end up to be very true!).

I would question ‘why’ x + y = z and how on earth this was going to help me. My Dad didn’t judge, he listened and then he told me to stop asking why and to just apply the principles.

I can’t say I’m great at maths now, but I am far less scared of it that I was and  I do remind myself monthly that maths isn’t a debate and just to follow the rules.

4. To stand up for myself.

Growing up on telly and going to a normal school wasn’t always easy and on coming home from school after having watched a friend get beat up, my Dad gave me talk. 

He said; “OK, so what happens when it’s your turn?” “ you have a two choices, you either run and you had better be quick, or while they are talking, taking out their gold earrings and asking a friend to hold their coats, you punch them straight in the face and go mental!”

My Dad always told me to stand up for myself, that I should always try to talk my way out of things first (and believe me, that has always been my proffered option!) but to never take crap of anyone.

5. Fitness

You don’t have to be obsessed, just always make it part of your life. Move your body, stay active.

6. Food

“Everything in moderation”

7. Clothes

My Dad loved fashion as a young man (although as a punk, some of it was very dubious!) and would often laugh at my teenage outfits with his favourite line “ohhhh the fickle finger of fashion, it all goes round in circles!”

I can’t say I shall be taking fashion tips from him ever, but he definitely taught me some creativity with it all and not to take it too seriously.

8. Don’t judge a book by it’s cover…

But sometimes do judge a book by it’s cover, to protect yourself and then be very prepared to be wrong.

9. All things Newcastle 

What my Dad doesn’t know about my home city of Newcastle Upon Tyne really isn’t worth knowing. He is like the Dad on the film East to East and can somehow bring every major world success back to Newcastle or a person born in Newcastle.

I love knowing about my history and my home town and feel very proud of my heritage, but he may be the most Geordie (person from Newcastle) man out there.

10. To own my accent and working class roots.

When I started heading my northern self down to the bright lights of the big city of London and was confronted with a very different world, my Dad reminded me to own who I was.

There genuinely was times in my early stages of moving out of Newcastle when I was looked down upon (One particular time in a record executives posh London office where he said “Oh my gosh, I didn’t actually think that accent was real, I didn’t know people really spoke like that!”-insert polo player type accent) 

My Dad said, slow down, enunciate and don’t use slang words outside of friends, because you’ll sound like an idiot, but never be afraid to teach people your dialect and never be ashamed that your accent lets people know a bit about your upbringing.

11. Treat people as you find them.

No matter what someones background, race, religion, sexual preference, treat people as you find them. Don’t judge, people are people and you will find amazing people in every group and fools in every group. 

12. Stand up for the underdog.

I was taught very early on to stand up for the underdog, to help those less fortunate, to pull people up with me. I was taught to fight for those that cannot fight for themselves. 

This value underpins everything I am about to this day and I watched my Dad do this with people throughout his life (just like his Dad before him)

13. That real men cry and wash up.

My Dad is a feminist. He has two daughters and without a doubt showed us what a real man should behave like.

I saw him cook, clean and share around our home (although I’m sure my Mum did more of the cleaning still!) I watched my Dad cry at movies and get emotional at our school plays and yet he has never, ever been weak. He taught me to look for someone fair in a relationship and that it’s not the 1950’s where women have to be the ones in kitchen.

14. Travel

My Dad taught me not to nail my feet to the floor. He taught me to leave my hometown and to broaden my horizons. He wanted me to know different cultures, different people and not get stuck . He also desperately wanted me to get a job as a travel presenter, which hasn’t happened haha.

15. Music

Both my parents have always been into music. My Dad has always stayed open to new artists and hasn’t got completely stuck in HIS time. He still tells me to listen to someone he has found on Spotify and as a kid listened as I played him, Britney, Westlife and the Spice Girls without judging (out loud anyway!).

He’d be the first person on the karaoke on holiday and when I sang on Top of Pops he said he could now ‘die happy’ 

16. The art of debate

My Dad can argue, debate and discuss all day and all night. I have watched him have heated debates with people over the years and then still buy them a pint at the end of it and he has definitely taught me this art. 

I come from a family with big opinions, no one likes to sit on the fence and we were taught to make those opinions known. I was also taught to listen to a counter argument and be willing to be wrong.

I’m sure as a teenager my ability to debate was a tad annoying but I was taught that if I could win an argument, even with him, then that was fair enough. It was never ‘my way or the highway’, a lesson I aim to instil in my own girls.

17. Be weird

My Dad taught me I should embrace my uniqueness and that I didn’t have to follow the normal route. He taught me it was far more attractive that a person was different and that trying to be the same as everyone else wouldn’t take me where I wanted to go.

However that may have been stretched to the limit when my husband and I got married on our own, wearing hoodies and trainers, but as I told him at the time, he taught me to be different (him and my Mum got married in their punk gear, my mum with bright red hair and a red wedding dress and my Dad in a zoot suit!), so you can’t have it both ways.

18. “Shy bairns get nowt!”

A saying we have in Newcastle that means ‘shy kids get nothing’ or if you sit there quietly and don’t speak up, you certainly will not get the things you want from life. 

Even now I constantly push myself out of my comfort zone and I think this comes down to this early training. 

Confidence can get you a long way.

19. The world is my oyster.

From day one my Dad was teaching me and my sister that the world is our oyster, that we should let nothing hold us back. To be brave with our lives and to live it to it’s fullest.

I feel extremely lucky to come from a family who have allowed me to explore whatever path I wanted to, without holding me back. 

Certainly the way I have worked throughout my life, would properly have terrified most parents and made them want to march me off to university to get a ‘proper job’, but my Dad (nor my Mum) has ever done anything close. 

I continue to believe the world is my oyster and am teaching my daughters this same message.

20. To say “I LOVE YOU.”

Not every family does this and not every person, but I was taught when you love someone let them know and not just with your behaviour but to explicitly say the words ‘I love you’. You never know when someone needs to hear it and to be reminded and I always, always felt and still do feel safe in the knowledge that my Dad loves me.

And to finish this very long list I will be explicitly clear, I LOVE YOU Dad, thank you for being there through everything.

Happy Fathers Day.

To all those missing their Dads today, I am sending you love, including my own beautiful daughters, Brooke and Texas.

Holly Matthews

Self Development Coach & Founder of The Happy Me Project, Holly Matthews Ltd

Former TV Actress | self development coach & founder of the award winning brand, The Happy Me Project. I help men and women feel more happy and less crappy, using online courses, workshops, speaking on stage and across my 40,000+ strong social media following. Ambassador for https://www.thebraintumourcharity.org (after the death of my husband to brain cancer in 2017)