There is an adage that any man can become a father, but it takes a special man to become a dad. A dad is a good role model to his children. He sets an example of loving and caring for his family. A dad takes time to teach his children life skills and how to appropriately respond to emotional situations. A dad hugs his children and tells them he loves them. A dad plays with his children on their level whether it is a tea party with the dolls, the 100th game of Candyland, or tossing a football. A dad thinks before answering a child’s question to make sure his answer is age appropriate. A dad offers encouragement as new skills are learned and opportunities explored.
The most honorable, challenging and most fulfilling role is when a man puts on the mantle of Dad for a lifetime. Last November my son Robert put on that mantle, and it has been my joy to watch him grow into his role as Dad to his son Eldon. From watching him change diapers, to getting Eldon packed up for his first trip to the doctor’s office, to calling him “Sir”, to dozing off with him on his lap, to teaching him to say his name at six-weeks old, it has been a wonderful experience to watch.
Another adage is children learn what they live. Today, Eldon’s needs are basic, but they will evolve over time. Good fathers model behaviors to help their children navigate life. Robert’s dad would sit him down and watch episodes of “Leave it to Beaver” with him. Tom would point out how gullible Beaver could be in listening to Eddie Haskell or one of his school chums, and acting on their advice. Robert learned from those Ah-ha! moments of listening to someone and learning whether to act on his advice or to ask a big brother or dad first. When Robert was in first grade at Most Precious Blood Catholic School, Mrs. Bloom asked the students to draw a photo of what they were most thankful for. Robert drew a cigarette with a X through it and encircled it. His fellow students were puzzled by his drawing. He explained to the class that his daddy grew up with parents who smoked, and the consequence was a lifetime of asthma for him. Robert was expressing his thankfulness for a smoke-free home.
This Father’s Day, Robert and his family are making their first trip to Fort Wayne. I can’t wait to show Kimberly and Lilly around Robert’s hometown with little Eldon in tow. I’m sure a visit to Lake Webster, where Robert spent many happy years as a laker, will be a part of the itinerary too. Back in June 1990, during the annual Mermaid Festival, I took a photo of Tom holding Robert on a merry-go-round horse when he was six months old. When Robert turned one, I chose that photo to represent the month of June on a quilt top I created of holiday and event photos throughout Robert’s first year. Now I look forward to taking Robert’s family to Indiana Beach where Robert and Eldon can have their photo taken in a similar pose 32 years later.
There is no such thing as a perfect dad: all one can do is aspire to give fatherhood his best effort to inspire, have a set of good values, learn to overcome challenges, be optimistic and above all love, love, love your children!
Happy Father’s Day to all who have earned the special title of Dad!