We’ve long ago given up the idea that marriage should be a prerequisite to pregnancy or that single motherhood is anything short of virtuous. Social scientists, meanwhile, have devoted considerable energy toward proving that fathers aren’t necessary, despite voluminous research demonstrating that fatherless children suffer a host of pathologies. Though some children do splendidly with just a mother or just a father or some other variation, the overwhelming evidence confirms what we know in our hearts: Fathers are kind of nice to have around. – Kathleen Parker, Washington Post, 6/20/10
Nearly all of my early childhood memories are of my father: My sister and I huddled near the lone air conditioning unit at the top of our stairs, listening to my dad read; My dad keeping me up at night when he was supposed to be praying with me and tucking me into bed; movie-trilogy marathons on weekends mom was away; Dad attempting to do my hair on Sunday mornings when mom was already at church; teaching me to ride a bike or to play basketball.
As I got older, sometimes to my embarrassment, my dad was always around. In middle school, I think he came to all but one of my volleyball games. (note: middle school girls volleyball is not an exciting sport. he was not there because of the riveting competition) He and my mom chaperoned a school dance. (note: they danced. completely unacceptable) He went with me on a 7th grade science field trip. All of this while working. A lot.
In high school, my parents were at every one of our football games, rain or shine, to see my sister and I perform at halftime. They didn’t miss a single band, orchestra or choir concert and usually showed up to all three nights to see us perform in the musical. They dropped us off and picked us up from Young Life camp, mission trips, and countless numbers of practices. They made fools of themselves at senior parents night, acting out the roles that we had filled in high school.
In college, my parents came to visit – getting to know the people in my life was genuinely important to them. Not to invade my life or cramp my freedom, but to truly know and love those who knew and loved me. When they visited, they spent time with me, but they also always spent time with the people in my life.
One summer during college, I interned at a homeless shelter for women and children in Cleveland. As part of the internship, I also lived in the shelter with the women, allowing me to enter into their lives more fully. One Friday, we were talking about our weekend plans and I mentioned that I was excited to go to the movies with my dad. The women around the table from me – all of them – remarked at how nice that was and asked how long it was since I had last seen him. I looked at them a little funny and told them that it hadn’t even been a week; that I saw him whenever I was home. The women – all of them – had grown up without their fathers; and in several cases never having met their fathers. The idea that spending time with your dad was a rare and monumental event had never even crossed my mind. My dad was just always there.
Now I know my dad’s not perfect. In fact, I could probably give you a fairly comprehensive list of his flaws. But in a society that increasingly lets men end their responsibility of fatherhood as soon as the child is born, my dad is truly exceptional. I want to honor a culture that encourages men to get back involved in the lives of their children; that holds them to standards higher than occasional phone calls and birthday cards. I want to see my generation take the role of parent as their highest calling and to set aside all other ambitions to forge relationships with the family we create. I believe that my generation will be those that reverse this trend. We will be those who stand up for injustice; who refuse to walk away when times are difficult; who reject the lie that we are sufficient on our own.
And let it begin with me.