Danecdotes: As a dad, I'll do 'better than I have to'


This past weekend marked the third Father’s Day where I was actually one of the celebrated individuals.

That still doesn’t seem right to me. I know I’m a dad, and I love being one, but apart from diapers and bedtime stories, I don’t feel all that dad-like sometimes.

Maybe I’m painting with a broad brush here, but I kind of assumed the moment my kid was born, I would magically be endowed with those special dad powers like putting together and fixing things without checking the directions, as well as having an encyclopedic knowledge of the Civil War and/or World War II, and a vault of “dad wisdom” nuggets of advice to bust out when the moment called for it.

The nugget of advice I heard most from my own dad growing up was, “Do better than you have to” - never try to skate by on the bare minimum. It usually applied to the work I was doing, like mowing neighborhood lawns. Dad made sure I did the weed trimming every time, even if I could get fairly close with just the mower, and cleaned up clippings as needed.

It has been at least 10 years since he has felt the need to say that to me, but “Do better than you have to” still tends to rattle around my brain from time to time. It’s the main reason that, when I worked retail in college, I was the guy with the rag in my back pocket so I could dust off the products when I wasn’t dealing with customers.


Similarly, I will take around 800 to 1,000 photos at a football game even though I know I probably have what I need in the first 100 or so, and they only tend to get worse after sunset. You never know, right?

I think we all have that one thing we heard from our parents that stuck with us well into adulthood. I would bet it usually has to do with having a strong work ethic or something like that. If you still have the chance, I bet your parents would like to hear that something they told you years or decades ago is something you took to heart.

Sure, most of the nuggets of advice have been forgotten over the years. In fact, I’m sure plenty of what my parents told me was forgotten almost instantly, but “Do better than you have to” stuck for me in a way I never thought it would.

Now, that saying is applying to my most important job: raising the little guy.

I assume one day, my son will be able to tell a story about the nugget of advice from me that managed to stick - at least I hope that’s the case. I have to assume the dad powers will be bestowed upon me eventually, right?

But here’s one thing I know for sure: When it comes to parenting, I will never settle for the bare minimum.

I’m doing my best.

Happy Father’s Day.


Dan Determan may be reached at 218-855-5879 or Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter at

Dan Determan - Danecdotes.jpg
Dan Determan, PineandLakes Echo Journal Writer

Dan Determan has been a reporter for the Echo Journal since 2014, primarily covering sports at Pequot Lakes and Pine River-Backus
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