5 Great Dads from History (And What You Can Learn from Them)
History is filled with fantastic fathers who have not only kept their kids out of harm, but also gave them the room to grow and flourish as individuals. Fatherhood doesn’t come with an instruction manual, but a look through the history books can provide a wealth of information. Let’s take a look at the traits of great dads from history and what you can learn from them.
1. Li Yanwen
Li Yanwen was a Chinese doctor who lived around 1500 A.D. His son was Li Shizhen, another doctor who would become the greatest Chinese naturalist. But Li Yanwen originally wanted his son to go into the government. However, Li Shizhen was more interested in medicine than state bureaucracy—in fact, he failed the civil service exams three times.
Li Yanwen eventually gave in and mentored his son in Chinese medicine, and it’s a good thing he did. Li Shizhen went on to author the Bencao Gangmu, a medical text that featured extensive details about over 1,800 herbal drugs and their prescriptions. The text has been translated into countless languages and remains the foremost reference for herbal medicine.
The Takeaway: Support your kids’ passions, even if they don’t line up with what you want for them.
2. Charles Darwin
The father of evolutionary theory was also a great dad to 10 of his own kids. He was a
doting father who had an integral role in raising and educating his kids. He was active in his children’s lives, encouraging their freedom and raising them at a time when childrearing was considered “women’s work.”
The Takeaway: Be actively involved in your kids’ lives.
King of the Franks, Emperor of the Romans, Charlemagne had a whopping 20 children, but he made sure all received a thorough education, regardless of gender or social stature. Charlemagne treated his son, Pepin the Hunchback (named for a spinal deformity), with great love and care.
When he wasn’t chosen to be his father’s successor, Pepin plotted Charlemagne’s assassination. The plot was exposed, but instead of ordering Pepin’s execution, Charlemagne took pity and sent him to a monastery to live out the rest of his days.
The Takeaway: Love your kids for their similarities, but love them even more for their differences.
4. Lieutenant-Colonel George Lucas
Lieutenant-Colonel George Lucas had a daughter named Eliza Lucas (later known as Eliza Lucas Pinckney). He recognized early on that his daughter was special. Instead of forcing onto her the mediocre schooling that upper-class British girls received at the time, Lucas ensured that she gained a real education.
The Lucas family eventually moved to South Carolina from Antigua. By the age of 16, Eliza was running the family’s three plantations. George, who had to return to Antigua, sent his daughter seeds to test in the South Carolina land. Through much trial and error, Eliza successfully grew indigo, launching a successful cash crop that was second only to rice.
The Takeaway: Sometimes, the best thing you can do is step aside and let your kids experiment and recognize their own greatness, but remember to always be there when they need help.
5. Jim Henson
Jim Henson created the Muppets and Sesame Street, so it’s hard to imagine him as anything but playful, fun, and positive. Henson was a loving, supportive father, who, above all, was always ready to play with his kids. The only complaint that his kids had was his long work hours, which they got around by joining the family business.
The Takeaway: You’re never too old to have a great time with your kids.
There are no hard and fast rules to being a dad, so don’t worry if you don’t perfectly line up with history’s great dads. All you need to make sure to do is love your kids, provide wise advice, and always be ready with a well of groan-worthy “dad jokes.”