In light of the present high rate of divorce, the old adage, “The most nurturing thing a father can do for his child is to love their mother,” might put a majority of them at an unfair advantage.
Wandering back to the ‘50s, an executive dad rarely forced high expectations on his offspring to get college degrees and aggressively compete for high-paying positions in the world of corporate supremacy. A long, long time ago, a kid was allowed to be a kid first. Honesty and principled work ethics were strongly advocated.
Back in my dad’s day, a kid, girl and boy alike, would be expected to mow the yard with a sluggish push mower, and pull weeds by hand, before going off to play a game of softball. Today, dad is sitting like a king, on a cushy, shiny red, riding lawnmower, listening to the Twins game on a headset and zaps weeds with ease with a weed eater. The kid, grown pale from shortage of UV rays, reclines in the rec room, while playing solo games of baseball on the wii.
A #1 bestseller in 1982 was one of the first of many positive influences in my search for philosophical wisdom. Beloved teacher, author, and lecturer Leo Bascaglia gave us “Living, Loving & Learning.” Today, retrieving the book from a shelf in my library, it’s like rediscovering an old, dear friend.
There, in a chapter entitled “Teach Life,” this tenderhearted man had written a treasure-trove of ways for parents to be the best role models for their children to replicate. Your greatest challenge, writes Buscaglia, “is knowing that you’re limitless. Find out all of that wonder of YOU, and develop it, and stand up proudly and continue to search. And don’t be afraid to fail. It’s all right. You don’t have to be perfect.” Such advice is never outdated.
“Then another thing that’s essential is that children learn that they have choice. They will only believe that they have choices if you give them alternatives in their lives,” he goes on. “You can select joy over despair. You can select happiness over tears. You can select action over apathy. You can select growth over stagnation. You can select you. And you can select life.”
Though romanticizing the power of personal choice a bit, this spokesperson for the virtues of self-esteem had a powerful grasp on the key to every true happiness experienced by man, woman, and child...that’s unconditional LOVE!
My thoughts on what makes a father a terrific dad: He uses every opportunity that presents itself as a communication tool to open dialogue with his child concerning important issues. A considerate father talks with his child, not at him, and always listens with an open mind. The rule-maker is consistent about carrying out disciplinary action after the guidelines have been stated. A loving dad always keeps his promises.
A kind dad never negatively labels the child. Angry put-downs are counterproductive and can be permanently hurtful. Conscientious fathers don’t attempt to isolate the child from the pain, unhappiness, negativity of others, death, and the taste of failure, which are all aspects of life to be embraced. Proud dads get involved in the activities his kid takes part in. An insightful dad accepts each youngster as the unique individual he or she is and offers his support as personal goals are established. A great but humble guy will admit when he’s wrong. An understanding daddy can be flexible, even a pushover on a good day.
As I reminisced about the dads of all the girlfriends I’ve had through the years, it occurred to me that, in each of their families, the father had passed away before the mother. The woman, by that fact alone, is not the weaker gender. I reason, she has an uncanny way of making her man feel like she can’t live without him...and then she does.
May all the special men in the life of a child be remembered today! No child should be without one!
Janet Burns can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.