You Know You’re a Father When

In our earliest years on Earth, we are taught about Father’s Day, and it’s usually our mothers who teach us about the process of honoring our fathers on the third Sunday in June as their special day. They may share a favorite Bible verse as they teach us, with the 5th commandment, the scripture from Exodus 20:12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.”

To a youngster, “Honoring” means creating something you can do at your age, with your ability, as dedicating hours of effort to think about your dad as you are doing it. First crayon drawings, early cards signed with scribbles, these are the kinds of treasures that you may well find saved by your dad for the next 30+ years of your life. Sometimes families pose for photographs that mark the occasion each year and the story they tell through the years shows differences in hair styles, clothing, cars, and the times in general, ways to mark the passage of years and growth of children into younger versions of dad’s best qualities.

I never realized it until I became a father myself that the operative word in being a dad is “responsibility,” in a way that had gone over my head for years. When you bring a child into this world, you essentially want to give them everything and anything you may remember not having. And then that feeling passes as you calm down and realize that the greatest gift of all is time.

When you are there to see your son or daughter’s first step, first pulling up to be able to stand on self-balance, hear their first word, or see their very first smile, there is no prize or treasure in this world greater than that. You never want your child to fall, skin their knee, or break a bone in their body, even though it’s an evitable part of life that happens to everyone. Yet, you still want to cushion them with bubble wrap, and you would if you could. When it feels right, you teach them your faith and help develop their spirituality and get them to Sunday School to learn about God’s love and what it means to have a heavenly father.

Responsibility means teaching your child what is expected of them at each stage of their life. Be kind, tell the truth, help other people, say thank you, write notes to say thank you, visit your family and check in on them, especially if they are elderly or have been sick. How you talk to your family, friends and neighbors is a model for your child to observe and emulate.

How to change a tire, how to fix something around the house, how to put up a bird house, all are just simple things that we do because we want to show a child how to master the unknown or something that can be a challenge. We impart courage to them as we model how to not be afraid of thunder, lightning, the dark, and other things that can scare a child. The language we use, the tone of voice we take when we are happy and when we are not, the thoughtfulness by which we plan ahead for others all represent behavior that our children see. Not a word needs to be spoken because actions speak volumes.

When a father is absent from a family for reasons other than a job taking them away from home, children look to others to fill their time, their loyalty, and their interest. Fortunately, many men are in this world who fill the “just like dad” role. As adults we call them “mentors” or “senior friends” who take you under their wings, offering advice or just a listening ear. That also comes down to “time” that is offered and given freely. We remember these men on this day, too.

Grandfathers, godfathers, uncles, and older brothers also are likely to step in and help children grow up and have a sense of someone “having their backs” as we sometimes say. Having an advocate is the most important thing for a child who is learning about life, at any age. Whether they pick you up and dust you off if you fall, whether they drive you to practice or pitch a baseball or catch one you are hitting, whether they make sure you’re at a dance recital on time, or there to scrutinize a “gentleman caller” and know that that young man is accountable to them, it’s a father figure who holds their hand in the air to say “I am here for you. Count on me. I’m where you need me to be.” And for the rest of your life, you will remember this day and think of someone who is there now, or who was once there.

I lost my own father at an early age and fortunately, he was the kind of father who always let me know every day of his life how much he loved me and what being my dad meant to him. I look at my son every day and want him to feel that same security that I felt growing up. Although I entered the profession my family had been in for four generations before me, my father was perfectly happy for me to follow whatever dreams I had, and he was all about them for me.

My dad did not insist his dreams for me interfere for my own dreams I had for myself. I intend to model this for Rowen as well. Together with Chelsea, Rowen has given me a true sense of family and clearly identified my role in it. Every year at this time, I think of the wisdom of my father, the miles he put on our station wagon (together with my mom) as we traveled the state for soccer tournaments, because I loved doing it, and I’m humbled. I’m excited to be a dad and because Rowen is almost 2, he is closer to understanding what Father’s Day is all about, because without him I would not have this title that I love with all my heart—Dad.

To all of you who are fathers, you have my great respect and thanks for all you do; for those of you who are father-figures for children, you have my appreciation and admiration for stepping in and stepping up to be there when you are most needed; for family members who take on the role of father to their relatives, my great respect is due you as well. Individually, we may not know all the answers we need to in this lifetime, but together we can find our way to make life better for our children as best we can. Love is the answer, and time is the best present of all. To all who are missing their dads this year, close your eyes and think about your happiest memory together with your dad, and remember that love never dies and memories live forever. Happy Father’s Day!

Cody D. Jones ‘02

Owner & Community Member

 

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