When your father is the milkman
The 11/21/11 issue of Time magazine did its "10 Questions" feature with Sting.
In it, Sting reveals that the first time his father ever complimented him was when he was on his deathbed. How could this happen? How could a father never compliment his son, especially one as "successful" as Sting?
I think part of the answer may have been revealed in the rest of Sting's answer. He says:
"My dad and I had the same hands. I hadn't really noticed that until he was on his deathbed, and I mentioned it. And he said, 'You used your hands better than I did.' My dad was a milkman. And I realized that was probably the first compliment he'd ever paid me, and that was kind of devastating."
Maybe I am wrong, but what I read into this is that these were two people who had mutual contempt for each other's professions, and it likely damaged their relationship.
Sting's dad was a working class guy - a milkman. Is it possible that he was jealous of his son's success doing something as "frivolous" as pop music while he worked hard every day for a modest wage? Why else would he never compliment his famous son?
And is it also possible that Sting had contempt for his "working stiff" dad who didn't use his hands right? And could this contempt have shown?
If my speculation is correct, they were both wrong. Sting should have respected his father for working to support his family. And think of all the families who had milk every day because of what Sting's dad did. And Sting's dad should have respected his son for using his remarkable talent to entertain the world. Every person has value, and each person is given gifts to be used to help others. While Sting and his dad had very different gifts, both of their contributions should have been valued, especially by each other.
Instead, we end up with a "devastated" son whose father paid him only one compliment. The lesson: find the value in the unique gifts your children have, as inconsequential as they may seem on the surface, and compliment them often. You never know when your time will come.