The Rise of Responsibility

“If you want children to keep their feet on the ground, put some responsibility on their shoulders.”  – Abigail Van Buren

Roses

  I am the father of three children, so whenever I can learn just about anything from other fathers – sign me up.  Two brief occurrences this past week helped me and reminded me of the good things that we can do for our kids, things that will last.  Here’s what I saw:

  We were at my wife’s office Christmas party over the weekend and, being in my early 40’s this still surprises me, I was the oldest guy there.  Some who were they were newly married while others had several small children of toddler or early preschool age and I happened to be standing next to a young man I had not yet met.  His name was Mario and we struck up a friendly conversation about food and Christmas and the weather…and then he began to tell him about his children.  And not only did he have children,but all three were daughters, and all three under the age of six.  He shared some pictures from his phone and then shared some funny stories about them, but then he shared his love for them.  He told me about the daddy/daughter dates that he enjoyed him and said, “I do these because I want them to know what a date should be like, what to expect and the great responsibility of the boy who is taking them on a date.”  This is a father who is teaching his daughters the art of caring for them and loving them and honoring them.

  The second great father lesson occurred in a short Facebook post by the Erways, friends of ours who were celebrating their only daughter’s debut in The Nutcracker ballet in Lawton.  It was a simple picture of the bouquet of roses (above) that were delivered to her that evening, but the picture was profound in that those flowers came from the heart of a dad to his daughter.  This is a father who is teaching his daughter the art of caring for her and loving her and honoring her.

  As the father of three daughters, I know one thing for certain.  Like these great dads that I observed this week, I want my girls to understand the responsibility they have to be respected and honored by the boys who cross their paths.

  As fathers, we are the first example and we are rising to the responsibility.

Courage in Oz

Cowardly Lion:  “All right, I’ll go in there for Dorothy. Wicked Witch or no Wicked Witch, guards or no guards, I’ll tear them apart. I may not come out alive, but I’m going in there. There’s only one thing I want you fellows to do.”

Tin Woodsman & Scarecrow:  “What’s that?”

Cowardly Lion:  “Talk me out of it!”

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Oz

As my wife and I and our friends get older and move into this stage of our children leaving home and living their own lives, I was deeply struck by some words attributed to John Steinbeck.  He wrote, “Perhaps it takes courage to raise children…”

I have tried to think back to our early days of parenting to discover when the need for courage really begins. Was it when the doctor first confirmed that a baby was indeed on the way and we rejoiced while at the same time wondered what it really meant for two people who still enjoyed romantic dinners and quiet nights at the movies and sleeping in on Saturdays? Was it in the long hours watching the pains of labor that finally produced a real live baby who would bear a name only we had chosen for her?

Maybe it was the hard and frustrating nights around our kitchen table when money was tight and bills were voluminous and the future of our young family loomed somewhere out there in the darkness? Could it have come when another’s rising fever forced us to the emergency room on her birthday and we thought we had lost her on the frantic drive there?

Maybe it came when one made a bad decision that ended with discipline and heartbreak and anger and mercy and forgiveness near the midnight hour around our kitchen table? Or maybe it truly began when one left for life on a college campus that she would soon call “home?”

Then again, maybe the courage to parent is always present, lying dormant somewhere within us and just waiting for these and a million other moments to arrive and pull courage from its slumber.  Maybe, just maybe, if courage was required of parents all the time, we would never want to be parents, never want to accept the journey to live and love and lose and win and fail and try and try again.

It all makes me think of our youngest’s favorite book, The Wizard of Oz.  The cowardly lion is so worried about everything that he somehow ends up hiding in the shadows of that forest, a recluse, all alone and going nowhere…so discouraged to have no courage.  And then, only after he stops worrying about not having courage and accepts Dorothy’s invitation to join her and her friends on that now famous journey – then and only then does courage come, just when he needs it most.

A Good Day for Being a Dad

Dad

Today’s blog is a very short one because I want to make a different impression on you. Being a father is many things, and all of them are wonderful and scary and exciting and worrisome and breathtaking, difficult and funny and heartwrenching. And once it happens, it is forever. Being a father is being a father.

When I read the last page of the book Danny the Champion of the World to my daughters last Wednesday night, I could barely make it through the last paragraph. It was so powerful and challenging to me as a father that it made me pause. Here is how the son ends the book: “I reached out and slid my hand into his. He folded his long fingers around my fist and held it tight, and we walked on toward the village…And after that, we would walk home again and make up some sandwiches for our lunch. And after that….And after that?…And after that?…And after that?…Ah yes, and something else again. Because what I am trying to tell you….What I have been trying so hard to tell you all along is simply that my father, without the slightest doubt, was the most marvelous and exciting father any boy ever had.”

Enough said.