What Is A Father?

While growing up, in my house and those of many of my friends, he was the man who went off to work each day to earn the money so we could have food on the table, a roof over our heads, an occasional vacation and some family outings. He was the repairman who could fix bikes, fix minor plumbing problems, put new cords on lamps and replace a board where needed.

He knew a few things about cars to make some repairs there. He could fix chairs, the lawnmower and broken windows. He knew a little bit about everything, more knowledgeable in some things than others, but more than all of these things he taught us right from wrong, he said no when he thought something wasn’t good for us, he advised us in many areas (even though we probably didn’t like what he had to say), and he exemplified work habit, respect for people, property, authority, education, and for life and freedom.

He was “the enemy” when he punished us and when he wouldn’t let us do what we wanted to do. He didn’t know anything about what it was like to be a kid, and then a teenager. He was a preacher more than the priest we listened to each week at church, he was the cheapskate when we wanted money for something, and he told us to earn it.

As much as we thought that a lot of what he did was “criminal,” and he should be turned into the authorities, there isn’t one of those situations I would trade in, knowing what I know now about life and the world.

There were times when we went places and they weren’t just time fillers. He taught us about the places we visited and the things we saw. He showed, by example, the importance of family, God and country. He was a coach, a teacher, a disciplinarian, sometimes a referee, sometimes a loan officer and sometimes a friend.

He was a great husband to our mother. He was a fantastic grandfather to our children, and to us he was a great father and a wonderful dad.

As I grew up and got angry when my dad said I had to earn something, when I couldn’t have my own way, when I had to do chores, or when I thought he liked one of my brothers or my sister better than me, I vowed that I wouldn’t be anything like him when I had children of my own. Funny that when I did have children of my own, I did most of the same things as my father did with us. I don’t regret it, for as I grew older and saw things in the world, and started my family, I began rearing my children in the way I knew best, and that was what I learned from Dad.

I knew I wouldn’t always be liked. I knew I wouldn’t always be popular. I knew I wouldn’t always be appreciated, and I knew I wouldn’t always be right. You see that’s one of the things I learned from Dad growing up, that being a parent is many times, trial and error, but many times going with a gut feeling, knowing that sometimes you might be wrong. Being responsible for teaching kids in my job too, I used a lot of what Dad taught us as a father in my classroom. Things like work ethic, responsibility, reliability, accountability and respect, were taught to me in school, but I already knew them because they were taught to me at home first.

I know my Dad sacrificed personal necessities for us to have things we needed. I know he disciplined and truly felt the saying, “This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you.” I know he went to bed each night wishing he could do more for all of us. I’m glad I learned those things from my father. Most, if not everything, that I learned about being a father came from my greatest teacher, my father.

I know I’ve made many mistakes as a father, and fortunately my children have never given up on me. I know, at times, they thought I nagged them a lot, disciplined them a lot, and said no to them a lot. I know, at times, they felt/feel I didn’t/don’t think they could/can make a decision without me adding my two cents. I know, at times, they think I hovered too much. I know, at times, they thought I tried to get them to do things my way, and they were right in all those situations. I also know that I can’t show them what page in the Book of Fatherhood I found out about nagging, disciplining, saying no, not letting them make decisions on their own, or throwing my two cents into conversations, or hovering over them, or trying to get them to do it my way. You see, the book is located in my head, my gut, and in my heart, and the information is located in three chapters titled, “Experience,” “Caring” and “Love.” Fortunately, my father telepathically passed that book onto me without me even knowing it until I began quoting it with my children.

So to answer the question asked at the beginning of this piece, “What is a Father,” the answer is different for everyone, because it depends on what kind of father each man who fathers children wants to be, and how they go about being that person.

And this is why we pause today, to honor those fathers and dads who made the commitment, made the sacrifices, and risked unpopularity and “cool,” to teach their children how to be good citizens, workers, and parents to their children. Happy Father’s Day, dads!