Finest Thing about Fatherhood
It's more than being an ATM and taking out the trash
Years ago, columnist Erma Bombeck wrote a piece about how distant and brooding her father seemed — a silent figure at the dinner table, who then transferred his weight to an easy chair. He would read the paper and generally not communicate much, unless he had to discipline someone.
She wrote that although she never got to know her father that well, perhaps something was lost when fathers were dethroned from their mythical head-of-household status.
I’m not sure I’m the head of anything. I know my responsibilities in the home are cash flow and trash flow.
I’m extremely grateful to be a father in a time when it is acceptable — and expected — for fathers to play broad roles in the lives of their children.
All kidding aside, I’m extremely grateful to be a father in a time when it is acceptable — and expected — for fathers to play broad roles in the lives of their children.
I’m deeply involved in my children’s lives, which has been an adjustment for my wife, who always thought the kids would be her domain.
I don’t see it that way.
How are they doing at school? What’s happening with their teachers? What’s happening with the other kids? What are their extracurricular activities? Are they happy? Are they getting along? What, exactly, is the right level of technology in their lives?
More importantly, what’s going on with their spiritual lives?
Do they have a spiritual life? Do they pray? Do my kids have a concept of God or a higher power as someone they can turn to and trust?
Or are we just dropping them into a spiritual void?
Do my kids have a concept of God or a higher power as someone they can turn to and trust?
I actually see my role as a father as a second job, commensurate with or of even greater importance than my primary role as a breadwinner.
Interestingly, a lot of other men feel the same way. Frequently, in business calls, the subject of fatherhood comes up. My clients and I talk, often extensively, about what’s happening with our children. It’s a bonding thing, but it’s also fun.
I like the fact that men can be multidimensional today, and that we aren’t shackled to our roles as providers and dispensers of discipline.
One of my mentors is a highly respected rabbi in the Northeast. I went to see him when I was having some challenges with one of my sons, who was going through a period of disaffection from his religious studies.
“I went through the same thing with my son,” the rabbi told me. “He had no interest in anything to do with religion. I didn’t push it. Instead, we just played catch every day for a year.”
I took his advice, bought a new mitt, and played a lot of catch.
“He had no interest in anything to do with religion. I didn’t push it. Instead, we just played catch every day for a year.”
It’s just what my son needed. When they want a little time with me, one on one, they just ask to play catch.
We go outside and toss the ball and talk about whatever.
It’s amazing how much goes into playing catch — you’ve got to concentrate on every throw and every catch. Not like concentrating when you do brain surgery, but you’ve (literally) got to have your head in the game.
Helps you stop worrying about whatever you worry about. Maybe for my sons, too.
Frequently, you can read the biographies of “great” men and find this sentence, or a variant, in the last chapter: “My only regret is that I did not get to see my children grow up.”
Well, maybe they’re great in terms of outward accomplishments. But I would never pay the price they paid.
A new organization, AllProDad.com, is encouraging fathers to play a more active role in the lives of their children, asking for one minute a day to read an email, an hour a month to attend a breakfast at a local chapter, and a day a year, for “bonding at our event.”
It’s a religion-based group created by Family First, which downplays its faith on its website. On the site, Super Bowl-winning coach, broadcaster, and bestselling author Tony Dungy, says, “God calls us to be faithful, not successful.”
It’s a fine thing that fathers play a bigger role in the lives of their children.
The site also offers a monthly school program where dads and kids meet for breakfast and “meaningful conversation that strengthens their relationship.”
Whether you become an all-pro dad through that organization or simply do your best as an amateur, like me, it’s a fine thing that fathers play a bigger role in the lives of their children than cash flow, trash flow, and discipline.
Here’s to modern times.