A Son's First Hero, A Daughter's First Love: In Praise Of Good Dads

Authored by Jeff Minick via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

There are millions of good dads, and I’m privileged to know some of them.

Being present in their children's lives is one of the qualities of a good dad. (Biba Kayewich)

These men are a mix of professions, beliefs, and life circumstances. There’s Ben in Virginia, father of four kids ages 7 and younger, who knocks himself out working six days a week for his family’s construction company but nonetheless spends time in the evenings and on the weekends with his children. There’s Andy, a chemist in Raleigh, N.C., who’s divorced but delights in seeing his three daughters whenever possible. There’s John in Texas, whose wife died in a car crash last winter and who now devotes every spare minute away from work to his teenagers still living at home.

We all know dads like these men—sons and grandsons, nephews, friends, and neighbors. They're the fathers who balance work time with kid time, who give their offspring the gift of security while teaching them to become independent, and who, if need be, would sacrifice their lives for them.

The Basics Are What Count

In “The Three P’s to Being a Dad,” Jabari Colon neatly sums up the qualities that make for good dads. “Dads,” he writes, “actively participate in their child’s life. To achieve the title of Dad, we must learn to apply the three p’s: provide, protect, and be present.”

As providers, dads work hard to meet their children’s needs, and if possible, to satisfy some of their wants. They’re available to protect them when necessary, such as offering comfort when they meet up with a bully at school or when some other catastrophe has knocked them back on their heels. Finally, and as Mr. Colon writes, perhaps most importantly, dads are present, meaning they weave themselves into their children’s lives as much as possible, as in going to dance recitals, teaching them to throw a football, or listening to their dreams of the future.

This formula of providing, protecting, and being present works for anyone wishing to be a good dad. It doesn’t distinguish between fathers and stepfathers. It doesn’t imply that the man who’s never played soccer in his life must coach his daughter’s team. It doesn’t suggest that the guy whose job requires long or erratic hours should feel guilty of child neglect. All it means is that we should try to satisfy these broad objectives of parenting as best we can.

Dozens of other online sites offer far more specific lists. In “Ten Qualities of a Good Father,” for example, Diane Morrow-Kondos also stresses being present and protective, but then adds other vital girders of fatherhood. A good dad, for example, treats the mother of his children with respect. He “sets a good example,” takes delight in his kids, and openly tells them how much he loves them.

Do these things, and the “Good Dad” title is yours.

Stumbling Blocks

Of course, winning that title can be tough.

Today’s mothers and fathers run a daily obstacle course while raising children. They must balance time spent with the kids with time spent earning money. They must contend with special circumstances, from assisting an elderly parent to caring for a premature baby. They have to keep a close eye on their children’s education, their engagement with social media, and the character of their friends. Day-to-day life is often a whirlwind, a storm of obligations that rarely lets up. An eight-hour stint of unbroken deep sleep for a parent is a dream rather than a reality.

In one important way, however, many men these days face a special challenge as parents. Ideological attacks on “the patriarchy” and on masculinity both in and out of the classroom have disparaged the traditional roles of fatherhood. Even worse, by a wide margin, the United States leads the world in single-parent households, with close to 30 percent of U.S. children growing up in fatherless homes.

Mothers and fathers serve as models for their children. Sons who admire their fathers will emulate them; daughters may look for those good dad qualities in the men whom they’re considering for marriage. A father who lacks these skills, who fails to meet Mr. Colon’s "three Ps" basic standards, and fails to engage positively with his children, may have the opposite effect and serve as a negative example.

But a fatherless boy has no exemplars at all, unless he by chance finds a worthy mentor, a coach, a teacher, an uncle. He will likely come to fatherhood clueless as to what makes a good dad.

Help Is at Hand

Today, there are a good number of organizations, large and small, aimed at boosting fatherhood. They show veteran dads how to sharpen their skills, introduce rookies to tricks and techniques for bringing up children, and encourage those men who are alienated from their children to reengage with them. Typical of these is the National Center for Fathering.

Founded in 1990 by two educators, Ken Canfield and Judson Swihart, the center declared as its purpose “turning the hearts of fathers to their children.” Thirty years later, that objective remains the target. The center's website contains more than 10,000 free resources: testimonies from a variety of dads, fathering tips, research data and essays, and special sections advising and supporting dads who are single or divorced. About 87,000 dads receive a weekly email of encouragement and practical advice, which is intended to enhance their connections with their children.

If you’re a dad looking for reinforcements, a boost in morale, or ways to up your game with your youngsters, sites such as this one can be invaluable.

One of the rewards of fatherhood is having grandchildren who redouble that love. (Biba Kayewich)

End Game

Being a good dad comes with a cost. It requires time, energy, and a sacrifice of the self. Once a child comes into your life, you enter a life that you’ve never imagined. Here’s just one small sample from the Book of Dad: You’re 30 years old, it’s 3 a.m., and you’re staggering around the den holding a crying baby. The next 17 years go by in a blink of the eye, and you’re sitting awake at midnight waiting for the kid to come safely home from a dance. Like motherhood, fatherhood doesn’t come with a time clock and a punch card.

But the rewards—the payoff, if you will—are tremendous.

Some of these are self-evident. By trying your best to be a good dad, you’ll become a better man. The responsibilities that you assume guarantee that outcome. Moreover, because of your care and diligence, your sons and daughters will leave home as gifts to the rest of us, competent, caring, and moral adults. And if you have grandchildren, a part of you—and not just your DNA—is traveling into the future. In a very real sense, you’ll be here long after you're gone.

But here’s the best part. For all the days that God, fate, or time grant you with that child, a love that you never knew was possible becomes a reality. That toddler bouncing around the living room in jammies lifts your heart and makes you laugh. That high school graduate who turns and smiles at you while receiving a diploma leaves you glowing with pride. That child you once held in your arms brings you a grandchild who doubles and redoubles this love.

Those are your rewards, gentlemen. And although you may not realize it, you’re also making this old world a better place one child at a time.

Thank you.