Opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the author.
This summer, my husband and I will celebrate 36 years of marriage. In those 36 years, we have done a lot, seen a lot, and overcome a whole heckuva lot. Our most significant accomplishment, if you will, the one that will outlast us and leave our mark on the world, is our kids.
Our story has only been told in part. One day, we shall tell far more, but for now, it is sufficient to note that our sons were there through the worst and the best. On this Father’s Day, they have graciously agreed to let Mother interview them. I found their answers to be insightful and full of hope not just for our family, but for all who read. Here, in their own words, is the quartet.
What makes a man a good father?
Son 1 (age 33, on staff at a rehabilitation facility): “Integrity. Leading by example, not just spoken words. A good father makes the effort to relate to the child and vice versa.”
Son 2 (age 29, taking acting classes by day, waiting tables by night): “Being present and involved. Giving your children the tools to deal with reality. Doing what’s best for them before being their friend. I know I was hard to raise sometimes. I would’ve been severely hamstrung if (he) had tried to be my friend instead of my parent.”
Son 3 (age 24, fresh poli-sci grad, seeking campaign work post college): “His own ability to deal with any faults he has. Spending time, taking care of the family, providing for them.”
Son 4 (age 17, newly-minted driver and full-time summer employee; avid runner; living his best, young life): “He’s invested in his children. He spends time and loves them. He teaches them godly morals and is selfless. He isn’t struggling with his own sins that would obstruct and keep him from being a good example.”
How would you describe your relationship with Dad?
Son 1: “Pretty great now. We’ve both been brought to a point of being able to admit where we needed to improve. I see that willingness in Dad, and it really helps.”
Son 2: “Pretty open. I know Dad is still there, supporting me. He’s going to answer the phone when I call. He’s going to have advice when I need it. We still need our parents, even as adults, and he still has a hand on my back. I love him, I trust him, and I know he’s not gonna sell me something. It’s comforting.”
Son 3: “I trust Dad. We’ve gotten closer over time. If I have an issue, I can go to him. He takes charge on any threats to the family. He’s the leader of the family.”
Son 4: “Trusting. I can talk to Dad about a lot of things. If it looks like he’s mad, it’s really because he cares for me. Since I’m the last one, I feel like he’s had more practice, so he knows what to do and how to correct me with more understanding.”
What have you learned from Dad that you will take forward into your own life and family?
Son 1: “Integrity. Servant leadership. Work ethic.”
Son 2: “Work ethic, and along with that, the tools to deal with reality, not sugar coating the way things are gonna work. The importance of patience and the importance of staying connected. That family is a priority. He’s always been supportive of what I wanted to do.”
Son 3: “’Your ability to work is your greatest asset.’ Also, the difference that character makes in financial management.”
Son 4: “That the best cure for lust (i.e., objectification of women) is to talk to them. It really helped me. That if you work hard and give your best, eventually you will see the fruit of your labor. I’ve learned that in the last year (with my schoolwork).”
The relationships that are revealed in the words of our children did not happen by some happy accident. The respect and love they hold for their father is real and deep. He has earned it by doing the hard work on himself first of all.
Seeing a parent humble himself by admitting fault, asking forgiveness, and then truly changing is a powerful thing. It alters the climate and course of the family for generations to come. It introduces life and hope into the family line and ushers in healing that is transformative and true.
Happy Father’s Day, Babe. Well done!
America’s small, caffeinated mom wishes all fathers a Happy Father’s Day today. You can hear her every Saturday morning on 77 WABC with James Golden, a.k.a. Bo Snerdley. Every week, they discuss the new essay and other topics of interest to them both.