The Measure of a Father

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Keith Elementary School YearsIt seems to me that when a writer sets out to write a story or an article, he should have a certain amount of knowledge about the subject that he is about to discuss. For example, in this article I wish to talk about fathers and some of the things that qualify them as good fathers; however, I have never been a father, and thus I am not necessarily fully qualified to write this article from a father’s point of view. However, I am a son, and based on my credentials as a son, I will share my thoughts on the qualities that a son looks for in the man that he calls his “Father.”

Mom and Dad Early YearsIt was George Herbert, a Welsh-born English poet, orator, and Anglican Priest who said, “One father is more than a hundred schoolmasters.” In applying what he said to my father, I find that his statement is worth its weight in gold. There were many things which my father taught me through word and example that no school teacher could ever begin to teach me. The life lessons that my father taught me would never be learned from the pages of a textbook. Those lessons could only be learned through example, practicality, patience, perseverance, and endurance. There is a French proverb that states, “A father is a banker provided by nature.” My father did not have a lot of worldly wealth that he could impart to me, but he filled my life’s bank account with many gold nuggets of intrinsic worth. In retrospect, I find that the words of wisdom and counsel that he shared with me were of great value, and have helped to keep the needle of my compass pointed in the direction that I should go. As someone has wisely said, “”What a father says to his children is not heard by the world, but it will be heard for posterity.” And, what a father does, speaks at least as loudly as his words.

Dad - Short-order CookMy father was a simple man born of humble beginnings. He worked hard all of his life to have the things that he needed for himself and to support his small family. He was not a celebrity or a world-renowned scholar. He had a close circle of friends, and those who knew him, knew him well. But, perhaps it was Anne Sexton, an American poet, who said it best when she said, “It doesn’t matter who my father was; it matters who I remember he was.” Based on that premise, as I reflect upon the life that my father lived and the example that he set before this son and his three siblings, I recall some of the qualities that I admired about him and that I believe every child would look for in their own father.

Let me preface my remarks by first making mention of the fact that just because a male is biologically able to help create a new life, it does not imply that he is a true father, nor does it entitle him to the honor of bearing the title of “Father.” As Wilhelm Busch, an influential German  caricaturist, painter, and poet once said, “To become a father is not hard, to be a father is, however.” James Arthur Baldwin, an American novelist, essayist, playwright, poet, and social critic said, “If the relationship of father to son could really be reduced to biology, the whole earth would blaze with the glory of fathers and sons.”

Before a male can rightfully call himself a father he must take on the responsibilities of being a father and show through his love, devotion, and commitment that he is no longer a child, but is now a man who is ready to do those things which a father is called to do.

Dad - Early YearsBeing a father is more than going to work, putting food on the table, providing shelter, and providing for all the other necessities of life. A tremendous part of being a father is being there in the good times, as well as the bad. Being a good father means that you are there when the sun is shining the brightest, and especially when the storm clouds are the blackest and the angry billows on the seas of life are raging out of control.

Being a good and faithful father also means that you are the Patriarch and Priest of your home. There are responsibilities that are solely yours and cannot be pawned off on someone else. You are the literal mountain that your children run to for solace and comfort in times of difficulties and heartaches when they feel that there is nowhere else for them to run to. A father does not place the burden of carrying all the cares and woes upon the mother’s shoulders, but a true father realizes that one cannot do it all alone, but by working together in unity as father and mother; they can conquer any mountain that they may face.

Mom and DadA real father shows his children that he loves their mother. Through his love and devotion he teaches his children that their mother is first a special, choice daughter of their Heavenly Father. He further teaches them that she is his equal, that she is the queen of the home, and that she deserves all the honor, love and respect that is due her. Through his example he also demonstrates to his children the proper relationship that should exist between a mother and a father, and he especially teaches his sons how they are to someday treat their own wife.

A real father is also a leader. He is not a tyrant. He does not demand the respect of his children, but earns it through his love and genuine concern for each of them. He does not just tell his children what to do, but takes the time to show them how to do things correctly. He is there when his children make mistakes and stumble and fall, as they will, to pick them up, brush them off, and start them on their way again.

Keith High School GraduationA loving father does not expect perfection, rather he expects that his children simply do their best as he realizes that he is not perfect, but forever in the process of becoming perfect. Even with the wisdom of all of his years, he stills finds himself but a student in the school of life who is ever learning. In that respect, a father is not only a teacher, but is himself a student that can learn from the things that his children teach him through their life experiences.

To bear the title of “Father” is an honor and a privilege that is earned. It is not a God-given right.  Fanny Fern, an American writer and the first woman to have a regular newspaper column, once stated that to her the name of father was another name for love.  Someone has also wisely said, “Small boys become big men through the influence of big men who care about small boys.” As we look at the condition that our world is in today, I believe that Pope John XXIII was right in his estimation when he said, “It is easier for a father to have children than for children to have a real father.” I will forever be grateful for the influence that my father had on my life, and I echo in the words of Clarence Budington Kelland, an American writer when he said, “My father didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.”