Eastern Wake: Opinion

June 13, 2014

Column: With fatherhood comes responsibility

Dads come in all shapes and sizes, all kinds of moral fiber. What kind of dad are you?

We’ve arrived at that time of year when we honor our fathers.

Those who still have fathers in our lives are fortunate. For far too many of us, Dad isn’t around any more. For some, Dad has passed away and Father’s Day is an automatic reminder of his passing or, hopefully, an opportunity to remember fond memories about our experiences with Dad.

For many others, though, Dad is just sort of ancillary to our lives. Either through divorce or because Dad was never really in the picture, the relationship between father and child could range from slim to nonexistent. Us Dads are most often to blame for that fact. Our children want and crave our unconditional love, but men can sometimes be a bit unfeeling and selfish. That “what’s-in-it-for-me” attitude too often excludes children. More often than not, it’s unintentional. Dad’s get wrapped up in everything from work to personal pursuits, that there isn’t enough time to squeeze the children in there. They may show up for the big things – the recitals, the championship basketball game – but they seldom sit down with their children to find out what happened in school that day or what the child’s friends are up to.

Other times, the dismissive father is simply disinterested in being involved with a child, or has no intention of taking on the responsibilities of parenthood. In those cases, Dad is a complete mystery to the child. That’s too bad.

But that’s enough of a downer about Father’s Day.

Many of us have strong relationships with our fathers. We learn from them. We seek their advice and sometimes listen to it when it’s offered. Good dads can be soft and tender. They can be stern and challenging. But the good dads are almost always consistent in their actions. They punish misbehavior with an even hand. They revel with their children when the child has a success. And they always, always, have a shoulder to lean on when things go wrong.

Perhaps most importantly, good dads are also great husbands. They care for Mom as much as they do for their children. Raising a child has never been easy even when there is a mom and a dad in the home. Moms and Dads are human. They make mistakes. They have opinions that don’t always jive with the other. But the good dads (and the good moms) always make decisions together and put them into action together.

Children have long tried to play one end of the marital equation against the other. If Mom says no to a request, the child’s next stop is automatically Dad. Same question. Hopefully (from the child’s perspective) a different answer. That strategy has spawned a new cliche in America: “Go ask your mother.”

If you’re a father, it might not be a bad idea to ask yourself where you call on this continuum. Are you a full partner in this parenting gig? Do you put forth a united front with your wife when it’s time to make a decision or impose a consequence? Are you aware of what’s going on in your children’s lives? If the answer to all those questions is yes, then good for you.

You’re the kind of dad who deserves our love and admiration this Father’s Day.

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