Tag Archives: lesson from dad

Bully the Billy

by Greg Hague

Life lessons from Chubby (my dad) and other smart folks I’ve met on the road.

stop being afraid

“We fear things in proportion to our ignorance of them.”

– Christian Nestell Bovee

The fear was beyond comprehension. I could hardly breathe. Why was Dad making me do this? Life was already bad enough. He was being incredibly mean.

The past few months had been utter misery. Billy Rogers, a kid in my class, made it his life’s mission to torture, taunt, insult, injure and embarrass me every day. I was his prey. A bully extraordinaire, he made my life hell in every way. He recruited other kids to join in.

I dreaded weekday mornings. I knew Billy was waiting for me at school. YOU probably used to look forward to recess. Not ME! Back then teachers rarely supervised the playground. Billy had full reign over me. He never let up.

“Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself.”

-Harvey Fierstein

So there we were. A gray, icy cold winter morning in Cincinnati, Ohio. Dad and I had left the house early.

We sat in the car, ice on the hood, engine idling, parked in the circular drive in front of Miami Hills Elementary School.

This was Dad’s plan, not mine. We’d wait for the bus with Billy on board. When the door swung open, I’d be standing on the curb, poised and ready to beat him up bad.

Chubby had given me strict instructions. When Billy stepped off that bus I’d punch him in the face as hard as I could. I’d knock him to the ground, jump on top, and keep flailing until I was dragged off.

Have you ever been so afraid that your body seemed to act on its own? Where you felt like you were looking at yourself from afar – wondering what would happen, how bad it would be?

That was me! It was surreal. I felt a combination of fear, numbness and mental fog as I sat next to Dad in the car that morning. I’d never known terror like this.

I remember hoping Billy missed the bus, had gotten up late, was home in bed sick . . . anything to prevent what was about to be.

Then my nightmare appeared. Bus number 12, Billy’s. I quickly climbed out of Dad’s car and hurried over to the bus door.

The kids started to file out. Then Billy appeared, looking down on me from the top of the steps. His face turned ugly and mean. He paused, looked with scorn into my eyes, and said something like, “Hey fat boy, what did ya’ eat so much breakfast you couldn’t waddle fast enough to make the bus?”

Little did Billy know, he had just made an egregious mistake. My fear disappeared. Billy stepped off the bus right into my fist. He hit the ground. I jumped on, flailing as hard as I could. The rest is a blur.

I remember kids gathered ‘round, cheering . . . for me? Go Hague, get him! Within seconds the bus driver jumped down and pulled me off. It was over in a flash.

As promised, Dad was right there. He grabbed my hand, ignoring the bus driver. He seemed oblivious to the commotion as he walked me to the principal’s office.

I sat outside for probably an hour while Dad and the principal had a rather aggressive exchange. When Chubby walked out, he told me I would be staying at school that day.

The principal apologized for what I’d been through.  He walked me to class to let my teacher know it was OK that I was late.

As I walked to my desk, a girl smiled; I remember a boy gave me a “good for you” nod. When I sat down, the kid at the next desk whispered, “Way to go, Hague!”  And one more thing . . . Billy never bothered me again.

Did Chubby do the right thing? Politically correct? Not today.

But that was over 45 years ago. My father could see how devastated I was, the terrible effect bullying had on his son.

This story isn’t meant to be just about the horribleness of bullying. And, it’s certainly not an endorsement of violence as a problem solver. Heck, I’m a lawyer who even discourages lawsuits. I believe sensible people should be sensible enough to solve problems in sensible ways.

So what’s the point, the big lesson I learned that icy cold day?

I need to take responsibility for anything that affects ME.

Not Dad. Not school. Not society. If it affects me, I’m responsible.

And one other thing.

Don’t let fear keep me from doing what needs to be done. Billy needed a fist in the face. He deserved it 10X. That’s what he got.

bullying stops here


It “Runs” in the Family

“Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.”

—Oprah Winfrey

Today’s story is contributed by Sarah Mitchell.

One of the greatest lessons Dad ever taught me — it’s never too late to pursue a new passion.

never too old

Sarah, the youngest, sitting right in front of her dad.

He was 40 years old. Out of shape. He started running, a little bit each day. Every day, he ran a little farther. Eventually, it became a six-mile a day habit, and something that gave new passion to his life.

And it “runs” in the family, literally — Dad took my sister and me with him to his weekend races, where he almost always picked up a trophy for being the fastest in his age bracket. My sister and I caught the bug and have been ritual runners ever since. As I move into my own fourth decade, I find myself pursuing new passions very naturally, like surfing and aerial arts (think trapeze).


“Live so that when your children think of fairness, caring, and integrity, they think of you.”

—H. Jackson Brown Jr.

Today’s story is contributed by Robert Dilenschneider.

A late night phone call. To my surprise, Dad took it in the solitude of the basement. In hushed, urgent tones he spoke,

“I’m sorry, I’ve got to do it. I hope you’ll be able to understand.”

Huddled beneath the basement steps, in my secret spot, I could hear the tension in his voice.

Thus begins one of my earliest and most powerful lessons from Dad, a portrait of virtue, and an example of standing one’s ground.
father and son newspaper story

A young Robert and his father, Dil

My father, Sigmund John Dilenschneider, or “Dil” as he was known, was a newspaperman. The son of a middle class weaver, he had worked his way through school, culminating in his graduation from the esteemed Wharton School of Business in Philadelphia.

It was at Wharton, in the midst of the Great Depression in the 1930’s, that he met and married my mom. For a time they were forced to live apart with parents and friends — too poor to afford an apartment together.

But back to that basement call… READ MORE 

Burnt Finger

“Experience is a hard teacher, because she gives the test first, the lesson afterward.”

— Vernon Sanders Law

Today’s story is contributed by Risa Nye.

When I was a little girl, my mom had to go to the hospital a few times. I don’t remember why exactly, but I do remember how things were different around the house when my dad was in charge.

burnt finger


He liked to cook us breakfast in the morning, and always made us try to guess “the secret ingredient” — in our eggs, our Cream of Wheat, or our pancakes. It was usually cheese, but sometimes he surprised us with something else.

And, let’s just say he allowed us do things we weren’t allowed to do when Mom was around. There is one event in particular that’s seared into my memory, for reasons that will become obvious. Here’s the way I remember it: READ MORE 

The Nerd in My Class

“My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.”

—Dalai Lama

Today’s story is contributed by Elizabeth Parsons

I was one of the cool kids growing up. No prom queen. No belle of the ball. But no reject either.

The nerd in the class? R.J. “Booger-face”, “Dork-dude”. Gangly, mangy and awkward — R.J. was fodder for bullies.

He had few friends. His family was poor. He couldn’t afford the Chuck Taylors, Polo Ts, and Sebagos… the trendy “icons of cool” the rest of us wore.


Liz and her brother Daniel

Teasing R.J. became the unofficial school sport. When he wasn’t the object of jokes, he was completely ignored.

I felt sorry for R.J., and was routinely polite. But I didn’t befriend him, I’m ashamed to say. Having a nerd as a friend would have been social suicide… too much for image-conscious me.

At the time, I was about to turn twelve. There were 32 kids in my class. On the invite list for my twelfth birthday party, only 28. Everyone minus R.J. and a few other “losers.”

Dad asked to see the list. “Who’s missing?” he asked (though I suspect he already knew). The nerds, I thought to myself. “Tina, Jamie, Juan, and R.J.,” I confessed. READ MORE 

I Said ‘No’ to a Boy at the School Dance

“It’s better to be kind than to be right.”

—Bruce Redding

Today’s story is contributed by Laura Donovan.

Laura Donovan lost her dad early in life. But she’s never forgotten one lesson he taught.

Today she reflects back to a middle school dance…a boy who asked for her hand. She turned him down. When dad found out? Hold on… Not what she thought!

My parents were late for everything during my childhood.

school dance

Laura and her father Paul, 2005

When we lived in LA, I was always at least ten minutes late to elementary school. I was the last kid picked up at day care. My parents made me late for every birthday party to which I was invited. But my parents were never late to pick me up from middle school dances. They were held in the gymnasium every month.

Even when I’d give my parents the wrong pick up time, they figured it out, and often arrived ten minutes before the end of the event. This cut into the last few songs of the night, just when my friends and I had finally racked up enough courage to ask boys to dance. READ MORE 

Dad’s Shrimp Tempura

“Self-reliance is the only road to true freedom, and being one’s own person is its ultimate reward.”

—Patricia Sampson

Today’s post is from Karen Austin.

The month before he turned 13, my dad became the man of the house. In February of 1951, his father died during gallbladder surgery.

Dad's shrimp tempura

Dad’s shrimp tempura

As the oldest of three boys, he assumed a lot of responsibility. He worked after school at the family jewelry store. He often made dinner while his mother worked late doing bookkeeping for the store. He joined the military to pay for college.

Because of the way he grew up, Dad learned to be self-reliant. To do things for himself. To be responsible for his own well being, happiness and success in life.

This example by Dad formed the foundation for how I now live. It’s the best lesson I learned from him. READ MORE