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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Of Life and Lessons

Traditionally it is mothers who are responsible for teaching children. If someone has good manners, is gentle, has good personal hygiene, knows how to give gifts, is courageous, and knows how to love another it is because they had a good mother. So what is left for us fathers? Traditionally our major responsibility is to provide financially or physically for the family. Put this way being a father sounds far more like a support role than anything else. The mother's role has far more effect on the real quality of a child's life than anything the father does.

So how does the fact that there are more women in the work place than men today affect the future or our children? It seems like something has to give somewhere. Either women have to work extra hard to fulfill their role as nurturers, or fathers have to step in much more on the “nurturing” role, or children are just going to have to do without the nurturing. I fear that the third option is winning. This does not bode well for the world.

There are many cases where option 1 is in play. Working women all over the world do step it up and give as much nurturing as they can in addition to their jobs or careers. But as wonderful as a woman can be, she is still just a human being. The decrease in the amount of time she spends with her children and the increase in the fatigue she feels cannot do anything but decrease the amount or quality of nurturing she can give her children.

Is there no chance for option 2? None. Zip. Nada. Oh, fathers can have a huge effect for good in a child's life. My father was a wonderful example of hard work and service. By example he taught honesty, faith, and perseverance. But as mentioned he did all this by example. When I stole the candy bar it was my mother who took me back to the store to make things right. When I broke the windows in the empty house next door it was my mother who instilled respect of the law in me. It was my mother who taught me how to live clean. It was she who taught me how to interact with young women. It was she who encouraged me to try out for sports and for band. Why was it my mother who did all these things? Frankly, it was because she was one who was there when these things needed to happen. My father was off earning a living for the family or was just not tuned in to these needs in my life.

I love my role as a father. I love spending as much time as I can with my children. We go for walks. We go for hikes. We go on trips. Each of them comes to work with me on their own day or days during the week. I like to think I am good for my kids in one way or another. However, in those infinitely important little areas that have so much to do with the inner quality of a child's life I am blind, inept, or just misguided. For instance, recently my six year old daughter was in a position where her underwear was sticking out above the top of her pants. We were in the privacy of our own home and the opportunity was there so why wouldn't I give her a wedgie? Without a second thought I grabbed and gave what I thought was a gentle tug. Gentle or not the deed was done. The effect was completely different than I expected. She didn't yell, “Daaaad!!” She didn't run to tell her mother (thank heavens). Instead my little six-year-old looked me directly in the eyes as she reached down and made adjustments. The look in her eyes was definitely one of disapproval, but it was that edge of disappointment that struck me so forcibly. She was disappointed in her father for treating a daughter of God so ungracefully. Then she turned and walked off without a word. The look she gave me haunts me and shames me to this day. Her mother would never have done such a thing.

It wasn't long after “the wedgie” that I again showed my ineptness. I was at the shop where my thirteen-year-old daughter was helping me that day. To test the video and sound on a computer I was repairing I went to YouTube and clicked on the first video I saw. It was one of those videos where someone is speaking directly into a stationary camera and all you can see is there head. The head I saw was of a very fat girl. Her face was round and her fleshy cheeks pushed up toward her eye-sockets making her eyes look small, dark, and beady. Her nose turned up so I could see two dark holes and her mouth was large. She looked mean and animalistic. Then rock music began to play and she started singing along. The music was hard and rhythmic and her facial expressions followed along. The sight was frightening to me. Alarmed I said, “She is ugly! She is ugly!” My daughter came over to look. I was certain she would be alarmed like me and agree. Instead she said, “Dad.” She said it softly and I heard disappointment in the word. The word—how she said it—stung me. I wanted to honestly explain that I thought the girl was trying to be ugly, that the title of the video set me up, that . . . , but I stopped before I began. My daughter had looked and seen a child of God. Her father had spoken ungracefully and unkindly toward this child of God and in doing so had let his daughter down. Her mother would not have done that.

I will try to do better as a father and a human being to be a strength and a better example to my children. No matter how much better I do, though, so much still depends upon their mother.


Corybander said...

A wonderful sentiment for mothers everywhere. Thank you for writing Father.

Anonymous said...

Nice work, Thanks