On Being A Father
This Sunday marks Father’s Day. It is a day of questionable ties and silly cards given to fathers by their children and to husbands by their wives. Personally I’ve long advocated Father’s Day be moved to coincide with the NFL’s opening day, but my lobbying efforts have thus far fallen on deaf ears.
Father’s Day gets much less publicity than does Mother’s Day. While there may be many reasons for this disparity, the fact of the matter is the importance of fathers in today’s culture has been greatly diminished. I won’t get into the root causes of the declining influence of the modern father in society – that’s a debate for another time – but I will simply state for the record there can be no replacement for a father (or father figure) in a family.
The fact of the matter is, children need a father’s influence. This in no way cheapens the important role and influence mothers have on children. Mothers care for and nurture children. Fathers take them outside and wrestle with them in ways that cause their wives to wince. Children, especially boys, need this kind of controlled violence in their lives.
In my perusal of the Blogosphere, I’ve come to really enjoy the writings of Tony Woodlief. He’s written a pamphlet (yes, Tony, I’m giving you a free plug) entitled “Raising Wild Boys into Men: A Modern Dad's Survival Guide” and has this teaser:
I've noticed that I walk slowly to my front door when I get home. I'm not a poetic guy, but I linger over the sound of the birds, the whisper of a breeze, the gentle sunlight on the grass. Then I open the door and cover my crotch, because each boy will come barreling at me, head lowered, preparing both to hug and tackle me at the same time. It's how they show love, through fierce hugs and low-level violence...Tony has several posts on the importance of Fatherhood. He’s also recently been published in the venerable Wall Street Journal. Reading Tony reminds me of the oft quoted and very prescient words of David O. McKay
No other success can compensate for failure in the home.I’ve read that quote thousands of times in many different settings, but it never really hit home for me until I was faced with my own personal patriarchal dilemma. I’ll spare you the details, but I came to the conclusion that if I screwed up in my role as a father and husband, it really wouldn’t matter how successful I was in other aspects of my life. If you screw up professionally, you might get fired. If you screw up as a father and your kids end up as damaged goods, your failure will be magnified on a generational scale.
Where did the seeds of this epiphany com from? Well, yes there were years of Sunday School lessons and other such teachings and I’ll give them as much credit as they deserve – but in the end those lessons are just words on the page. I learned the importance of being there as a father from Father Cordeiro. During my teenage years he had a professional opportunity that would’ve been great for his career and perhaps turned his gold oak leaves silver. Accepting that assignment would’ve uprooted our family and taken us across the ocean for the second time in six years. Father Cordeiro thought long and hard about it and ended up taking a stateside job with much less prestige. He did this so his children would have better opportunities. It was a difficult call for him to make, but one which benefited his posterity in ways yet unseen.
90% of fatherhood is just showing up. So many boys in today’s world are hell bent on engaging in the act of procreation while being wholly unprepared for the results thereof. The lack of a father’s influence in the life of a child is something which devastates society as a whole. According to Roland Warren, president of the National Fatherhood Initiative, children growing up in fatherless homes are two to three times more likely to use drugs, become teen parents, be connected with the criminal justice system, to fail in school or to live in poverty.”
Children learn from their fathers. The prophet Enos wrote that his father
was a just man—for he taught me in his language, and also in the nurture and admonition of the Lord—and blessed be the name of my God for it— (emphasis added)
It's my personal opinion that Enos did not always bless the name of his God for his father having taught him in his language along with lessons about the nurture and admonition of the Lord. I'm sure Enos did his share of lamenting over his father's lectures - I know I did when I was a kid. That said, Enos learned that his father had been a wise man and was grateful for the lessons he imparted. I know the older I get, the wiser man my father becomes.Boys learn how to be men from the actions of their fathers. Girls learn how men should treat women by how their father treats their mother. Children learn these lessons regardless whether or not what is taught is right or wrong.
It’s hard to be a good father. Fatherhood means you spend a lot of time doing things you’d really rather avoid. It means learning how to handle hazardous material containers commonly referred to as diapers. It means sleepless nights with sick kids and weekends spent on little league fields rather than the golf course. It means sitting down and having a tea-party with your little girl and her dozen dolls while the playoff game of the century comes to a harrowing climax you’ll only see on YouTube long after the game is over. It means spending hours helping a little boy paint a Pinewood Derby car when you could be elsewhere. You do these things because your father did them for you, and you hope your sons do it for their children.
I do not remember all the little things Father Cordeiro did for me as a child. What I do remember is that he was there for me, regardless of how inconsequential the event was. Yes, he did manage to get tossed from more than a few junior-varsity football games for making incendiary comments about the visual acuity of the officials – but I’m pretty sure that’s required by the Dad Handbook. Just that presence taught me that, in his eyes I had value. When it’s all said and done, the time fathers give their children will matter more than all the material possessions in the world. No man ever came to the end of his life wishing he’d spent more time at the office.
I really like the movies The Family Man and The Pursuit Of Happyness. Both of these films greatly underscore the struggles and sacrifices made by men as they try to succeed in the only role that really matters.
Fatherhood, dear reader, is what really separates the men from the boys. Today’s world has enough members of the male gender. What we need is more men.
Here endeth the lesson.
You're absolutely correct- Father's have much influence on their children, and their lives can't be the same with out them.
Both daughters and sons.