by the Rev. Peter K. Stimpson
QUESTION: June 19th is Father’s Day, and I wonder how many people will give it the same reverence as Mother’s Day. I’m a father, and while I’ll probably get a card, I often feel that a lot of what I do goes unnoticed. Could you address that in one of your articles?
ANSWER: When you think about those who have an impact on you during your lifetime, certainly your mother and father are at the top of the list. Who you become, let alone how you look, are heavily influenced by them. If you do not feel loved by them, you probably will have a hard time loving yourself. I too am a father, and, while I urge you not to look upon parenthood as a contest, here are a few reflections on being a father.
1. "Our Father:" When Jesus was asked how to pray, he composed "The Lord’s Prayer" that begins with the words, "Our Father." Often, this prayer is said in a heavy, solemn, stilted manner that makes you think of a cranky old man sitting on a cloud ready to crush you like a bug for anything you do wrong. However, the word Jesus used for "father" was "Abba," which loosely translated into English is "DaDa". When you then say, "Our DaDa who art in Heaven," your image shifts to a caring, safe parent who cradles you in his loving arms. That is what we who are fathers should be giving our kids, the sense that we love them so much that they can always come to us when something is on their minds, good or bad.
2. Work = Love: Demonstrating your love is done in many ways. Love is not just expressed on the weekends at home, but also when a parent gets up early, boards a crowded, smelly train, works a long day at a job that may not be the best, and gets home exhausted at 8 p.m. Each second of your day away from home is a present to your family, for without it, food, clothing, and shelter, those essentials that your responsible love allows your children to blissfully take for granted, would disappear.
3. Two Roles: When I was a boy, mothers nurtured and fathers disciplined. While it seems archaic now, I can remember the dreaded words, "Wait until your father gets home!" I am sure he dreaded always being the heavy. Now, thankfully, parents share roles, and so fathers can nurture as well as discipline, and each child receives the full richness of each parent.
4. A Personal Story: My father became ill when I was 11, and died when I was 14. I missed him so much, as he was not able to be there for advice on how to juggle studies & sports in high school, how to pick the right college, how to handle the inevitable bumps along life’s path, and to experience my children. I treasured what few years I had with him. If you are lucky enough to still have your father, then realize the treasure that is under your very nose. It will not be there forever.
5. Recipe for June 19th: My hope, therefore, is that fathers get far more than the customary card or 5 minute "duty phone call." I am suggesting more than cashew nuts for the ballgame and dinner out — namely, telling him how much you appreciate his many gifts, and taking responsibility for your half of having a relationship with him. What this means changes as children grow older, but just make sure that you try to love him as much as he has already loved you.