Almost everyone would agree that mothers are vitally important to their families. Just the word “mother” provokes powerful emotions in most people. Fathers are often viewed as not quite as important as mom, and maybe there are some sound reasons for this. After all, it wasn’t until 1966 that Father’s Day was officially determined to be a national holiday.
Father’s Day came about from the efforts of a woman named Sonora Smart Dodd who wanted to honor her father as an exemplary parent. Her father was widowed and left with five children to take care of alone. It is remarkable that Father’s Day is named after a man who was a single parent and was able to raise his family quite well in a time when men were thought to know little about raising children.
Fathers are, of course, very important to their children and an impressive body of research has documented this truth. Children without a father figure in their lives are at much greater risk within a variety of risk behavior domains including school failure, drug abuse and encounters with the juvenile justice system just to name a few.
If Dad is not supportive of the family, the family often struggles to make ends meet in this expensive world in which we live. These limitations can sometimes spell the difference in attending college or not attending college in some single parent families. Some fathers, especially young fathers, may feel that they are not qualified to care for their children because they may not know everything that there is to know about child development or parenting.
In the tough economy in which we find ourselves may cause some Dads to be unemployed or to be working in a low wage job, and they may sometimes feel that they are not a good father because they can’t earn enough money. The good news is that little children don’t know about bank accounts or having a good paying job. One of the most important parts of being a father is simply being there for and with your children. Being a good father isn’t about big things, like buying big gifts, having lots of money or a big job.
In fact, being a good father isn’t about big things at all. It is the many little things that are consistently given or shared over time. When you pick your child up in the air, they feel big and important just like Dad. They also feel Dad’s strength and power, and children feel secure and protected when Dad is there. While mother is trying to keep 30 plates spinning at the same time, the shopping, the laundry, paying bills and so much more, Dad brings energetic playfulness and humor that is almost universal in all families. My wife would often refer to this phenomenon as me “winding the children up.” While fathers may not know everything about parenting, his predictable presence in the home, gentleness towards his children and wife more than make up for any shortcoming in parenting skills.
If you get on the floor with your child and envelope them with your gaze, they will gaze right back at you and smile, and that toothless expression will let you know why it is so important to your child and to you as a Dad, that you are there. It has been my great privilege to be a father, and while I know that I have made many mistakes as a parent, I know from the strong bond that I have with my daughter that I did some things right as a father.
Along the way, I have shared some of the maxims that my father shared with me. Some of his frequent references were, “Life Is Not Fair,” “Good People Aren’t Always Nice and Nice People Aren’t Always Good People” and “The Grass Isn’t Always Greener Elsewhere.” On Father’s Day, take a few minutes to remember your Dad and all he means to you. If you are lucky enough to still have you Dad around, be generous with your hugs. Dads love hugs from their children most of all no matter how old or young they are.
Happy Father’s Day! Remember, all kids count.
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