We are ready to celebrate Fathers Day, and although I understand the commercial focus of these type of holidays, they do allow us to reflect on the critical role fathers play in helping mold their children into productive men and women. Of course, for most of us who are fathers, the template we use in this challenge is often tied to the relationship we had with our own fathers; and even if that experience was not the best, it was probably instructive.
I count myself among the lucky men who had a father that was a guide, mentor, and, in a way, my best friend. He wasn't perfect, i don't know any father who is, but his values and the lessons he tried to help me my bother and sisters understand were steady and predictable. Observing him, as a child, teenager, and then man myself could not have created a better framework for me when I became a father myself. As I summarize his temperament and style there were 3 major themes that emerge.
One was a sense of gentleness with us as kids. Of course he could lose his temper, but he always was able to walk away, collect himself, and then re-engage. He never bullied us, or anyone else for that matter and would use his faith oriented adage, blessed are the peacemakers. This gentleness extended in many ways and I never heard him use a cross word with our mother, though times she could be provocative.
He was a good listener - not perfect - but would get us to talk about the issues that were creating barriers to our success. In his listening he would temper what he was hearing with the important values he wanted us to understand. On occasion his Italian temper would get in the way of the deeper listening, but even these experiences taught us how emotions can influence how you are seeing something.
His work ethic was strong and he felt that we kids should carry some of the economic weight. He was a newspaper man, so from my earliest memories I delivered papers in our neighborhood. I kept that route into high school then passed it on to my brother when I got a job setting pins at the local bowing alley. I worked in a men's store, and then started playing music in high school. All of these efforts allowed me to save money for college and ultimately get my degree without any loans. This work ethic track set a tone that continues for me to this day.
So, if you are a father, think about the lessons that are important to you. If they track back to your dad, and you are fortunate enough to still have him in your life, thank him for the time and energy he expended to help you become a better person yourself. If you didn't gather lessons from your dad, think about the things you can do now to make you a better father. Either way recognize and appreciate the amazing opportunity you have now before you.