Posted on June 1, 2015
“Your son is at five your master, at ten your servant, at fifteen your double, and after that, your friend or foe, depending on his bringing up.” Hasdai ibn Crescas (1230 c.e.)
As we approach Father’s day, some of us are blessed to have or had wonderful fathers and some of us were less so. For those with fathers who lacked presence, love, or mental health, sometimes we can say, “they did the best they knew how.” We know the limitations of parents based on generational expectations and the upbringing they lived through. I’ve come to learn that people can only give what they have. If they didn’t experience love and support from their own parents, they may not know how when it is their turn. The consolation for those with fathers who ‘weren’t the best’ can be that when it’s our turn, we strive to improve and make a better life for our children and grandchildren.
I consider myself lucky. I am blessed to have a wonderful father. My dad was always able to express affection not only to me but also openly with my brothers. My brother Bennett, as a boy, came to be embarrassed by my father’s hugs so my dad had to sneak them in the car as he was dropped off at baseball practice. My youngest brother, Nathan, recounts telling my dad not to call him sweetheart anymore. My dad said without thinking, “Okay, honey.” I, for my part, always appreciated my father’s gentle personality, his willingness to look for the best in others, his intellect, love of life and people, and his athletic ability. He would impress us kids with throwing a baseball higher than our two story house and catch it behind his back. He was also always there at every major event and family gathering. He just didn’t want to miss out on family fun. When I’m frustrated, I think of his saying, “There is more than one way to skin a cat,” meaning there may be other ways to accomplish what I want. He also taught me that our weakness can be a strength. I find myself pondering that from time to time.
I am also blessed to have a wonderful father for my two children. In my younger years, it was hard to find a man who was willing to truly share children rearing with me. Especially as I was getting closer to ordination, I didn’t want it automatically assumed that I would be the one to stop working. A few years back, I asked Paul if his dream job came up, would he take it? He told me that he has his dream job. He is raising our children and that he can’t think of anything more important. Paul has many stories of watching our babies and his adventures as the only male at the “Mommy and Me” groups. I was lucky to meet Paul and he has proved to be a very involved, loving father for both Gabriel and Shane.
Parenthood isn’t easy but fortunately perfection isn’t required. May our love, presence, and support of our children raise up another generation of good fathers and mothers.
And may all our fathers have a relaxing and joyful Father’s day.