Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 9, 2003
Investing time in fatherhood pays off
By MSGR. JIM LISANTE
"A father is someone who will eat a whole pretend meal from your doll dish."
"My dad plays baseball with me. He lets me win. Sometimes it's 27 to 4. He pitches and I try to hit the ball. He gives me the easy ones."
"Fathers are important because they teach you when you are a child. They give you piggyback rides, so if you grow up to be a father, you'll know how to give your children piggyback rides."
These are some thoughts on fatherhood from experts - children themselves. No doubt about it, being a parent must be a wonderful, frustrating and difficult experience. As a priest for more than 20 years, I have been privileged to be addressed as "Father" and I try to live up to the honour.
Still, I speak as a non-expert with regard to parenting a child. All fathers - and mothers - who try their best to love and raise their children to the best of their abilities, even if they sometimes fail, have my complete admiration.
It sounds sort of obvious to say that children are dependent on their parents, but it really is true. And not just for the basics of food, clothing and shelter, or even education, health care and safety.
Children need parents to teach them what it means to be human, body and soul, mind and heart. In addition to providing the basics and even giving love, what moms and dads really have to do is be teachers. What they have to teach is virtually everything. And the only way anyone teaches anything is by being there - together - time after time.
I've heard lots of parents speak of spending "quality time" with their youngsters which is, I guess, a good thing. What I wonder about is whether children perceive quality in the same way adults do. Most of us have childhood memories we wouldn't trade for the world; memories that even decades later can bring a smile.
Think about some of your own recollections. Are they memories of elaborate birthday parties or expensive vacation trips? Or do they tend to be little everyday moments? Your own mom and dad may barely remember a particular event such as working together on a last-minute school project, or playing games on a rainy afternoon, or inviting friends for an impromptu backyard barbecue. But they might be precious memories to you.
Surely, it's the same for youngsters today. All the simple moments of life, joyful or painful, good or bad, turn quickly into years. I see it with my own nieces and nephews and in my church. I hear about it from the parents whose "little ones" suddenly aren't little - and possibly aren't even around any more.
I'm not pretending that giving youngsters time and attention is easy. I'm just saying it's crucial.
One man, whose own children are now grown, remembers, "when I was growing up my father would take me and my brother some place almost every Sunday. He left for work before we got up and often didn't return until 7 or 8, so we didn't see much of him, except on Sunday." What he recalls so fondly are the weekly family outings that always began with the question: "What would you like to do today?"
Being a father can mean becoming a father, but it can also mean acting the way a father should for the sake of his children. Thank God for all those dads who do the latter.
(For a free copy of the Christopher News Note, Being a Good Neighbour, write: The Christophers, 12 East 48 St., New York, NY, 10017; or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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