Which is the most significant attribute that comes to mind when we think of fatherhood? According to modern accounts and in order of importance, the top 12 daddy-associated characteristics are: provider, disciplinarian, teacher, husband, supportive, listener, strong, leader, worker, protector, predictable and prayerful.
Granting that 11 of these qualities easily fit into the typical expectations of what it takes to be papa, the husband tag seems glaringly out of place. Our surprise is twofold. Not only is being a spouse a very different role from being a father, but it also earned a spot in the upper third of the list! How strange is this? Perhaps it would help if we fleshed out our analysis with practical examples for each trait while still maintaining the rank order suggested by the research.
Dads are providers. They take care of the essentials in our lives. Tangibles may include anything from food and Wi-Fi to towels and tuition. To keep a roof overhead and bread on the table, fathers would take on a second job if they had to and not expect thanks for doing so. We grow up knowing we can count on them to be a financial safety net and at the same time respecting the fact that they are not a 24-hour ATM machine. Due to this selfless giving, they place their duty as parent ahead of their own needs and comfort.
When our childhood shenanigans send mom over the edge, her exasperated “wait till your father comes home” reminds us where the buck stops for discipline. And when the man does arrive, Mr. Softie often cloaks himself in a robe of strict justice. Actor Brad Williams said recently, “I'm thankful that my father put a little adversity into my upbringing. That way, I knew how to conquer adversity later.” Our punishment will fit the crime but an early parole is unlikely. Why, because dad is a teacher as well. He instructs us in the ways of the world, a world that is often harsh and unyielding. However, he also prepares us to rise above the world with his guidance in etiquette, honesty, the value of work and by encouraging us to strive for excellence rather than perfection. This caring tutor knows that Christian discipline can pave a moral path to our success and salvation.
So how is good husbandry joined with good parenting? Fathers model how we should act toward women. Who is treated like a queen? Who is the recipient of public affection, fidelity and loyalty? Who is respected, valued and upheld? His wife is also a mother who gentles the rigid lines of justice into curves of mercy. Dads look to their wives for astute collaboration in bringing balance to the frequently unsteady world of childrearing. And for all these reasons, being a good husband goes hand in glove with being a good father.
Support from dad runs the gamut of assisting with the science fair project to cheering the loudest from the bleachers during Little League practice. He appreciates the importance of being a good listener in as much as this keeps him open-minded and adaptable regarding contemporary trends. Care-filled listening permits him to pick his battles cautiously and turn a deaf ear on the small stuff.
God gave fathers external and internal strength. They are not only able to carry sleeping children up several flights of stairs, but also impart the virtue of never giving up when the kids are awake. Through their stalwart vigor we realize that we too can face our own fears with courage, determination and self-control.
His height often relegates him to the rear in family photos, but dad is front and center when it comes to leading by example. He walks the walk and actually practices the standards that he preaches.
Dad is a worker who leans toward workaholic. He has no desire to waste time since he's busy making things happen. His industriousness makes him more of a currency-competent producer than a plastic-borrowing consumer.
Security cameras and drones may be popular alarms but pop is the true sentry at the ready. He is the faithful sentinel who puts his own life in harm's way to protect the family. In so doing he instills in us the superiority of personal sacrifice.
We rarely hear people ask: how will dad react when he finds out about this? Why? Because we already know how he will react. Fathers are predictable. This is what makes them dependable as well. We place our confidence in them since they always do what's expected. They know what comes with being a good father and they do it without adding stipulations for their own benefit. When all is said and done, their paternity, like their love, is unconditional. We would not want it any other way and neither would they.
Finally we come to prayer. Although this attribute appears at the bottom of the list, it is often the first thought that comes to a father's mind when he confronts his own limitations and mortality. He knows very well that for all the protection, prevention and prevailing he does while the children are close at hand, he cannot persuade, prevent or protect them from the world once they are gone from his reach. Eventually kids become adults. Freedom will be there. Temptation will be there. Danger will be there. But dad can't always be there. So, like all wise men before him, he turns to a guiding star; a higher power. Through prayer he asks an all-seeing, all-protecting, all-loving Father in heaven to watch when he cannot see, prevent when he cannot intervene and to be a loving guardian when he can no longer protect.
For Holy Homework:
Let's post this simple reminder in our work area: When was the last time I contacted or offered a prayer for dad?
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