I confess that to me, Fathers Day is not a big deal, never has been. I don’t think my children need the holiday to remind them to be nice to me. And I hope I’m worthy of their honor every day. Sorry to be such a grinch.
For all that, last Sunday at church I was one of three speakers asked to share on the topic. As time was limited I resorted to a list: The things I purposed and applied as a father. You could call them my beatitudes, being brief, and all accompanied with blessing. I’ll share the list below.
Here we were, left to right, Allison, Hyatt iv, Anne, Cambria, Acacia, Dad.
Prayed a gift for each child, from the womb. This was on the order of “love,” health,” wisdom,” etc. I wanted to see if there would be a unique manifestation of that in each child. And so I did.
Meals together. I might not have even mentioned this but I understand it’s becoming more rare. It’s then that we have our conversations, hear each’s “good news,” impart values, keep friendship alive.
A day of fasting and prayer for each, by Dad. This is something they never knew about and I’d forgotten until putting together this list. But children need help, it’s rough world. Prayed for their future spouses too, and their parents, also needing help.
Media governed. Allison, our eldest, has bragged she was raised without TV. It’s usually in the context of someone remarking on her incredible creativity and talent. The lack of TV didn’t hurt, more like the other way around.
Traded TV time for reading time. As the family grew there was an appeal to be current so I compromised: reading for watching. They rose to it, even making it a game, keeping track on a chart.
Paid a wage for reading books of my choice. These were books on their level, but perhaps wouldn’t have been thought of. They were always helpful. And for a brief book report they could earn dollars.
Served their first communion. The kids see adults doing this in church, but do they know what it’s all about? At an age I thought each was ready we took a walk. I brought the elements. We talked. It was a meaningful time.
Father and child road trips. This was in additional to family travels, of which there were many. The one-on-one experience, when it would happen, was always special for both of us.
Purposeful conversations in the car . . . any topic. This was more than the random passing time stuff, rather an invitation for them to bring up whatever topic they might not otherwise, in an unjudgemental atmosphere. Though they were young, it was talk at adult level.
The “My son” passages in Proverbs. There are a lot of these all though that book, and Proverbs is still the best resource for training a child . . . of any age. Once Hyatt Jr. and I rode motorcycles up through California and discussed these, one at a time, at stops and overnights.
International trips, just with Dad. This came to be something of a “rite of passage” for each. As I was traveling a lot in those days, at their 12th year each accompanied me on some weeks long grand adventure. Allison: Cameroon. Cambria: Guatemala. Hyatt: England and Germany. Acacia: Kenya, Congo, Sudan. Tamara: Colombia. Great memories, just between us.
Saturday Night Bible Study. While he was in high school I encouraged young Hyatt to read the Bible straight through. I said not to get bogged down at the parts he didn’t understand but to make a note of them. Then on Saturday nights, if he wasn’t going anywhere, we’d have our own time, discussing the harder questions. I didn’t always have the answers, but it was good for both of us.
Dates. These were usually lunches, anticipated a week or so in advance to build anticipation. One time, with little Acacia, I asked her what was the best thing going on in her life right then. She just beamed and said, “This!”
Attendance at all events. This would be all sporting events, all music events, whatever, because parents should be prime fans. We never enrolled in sports, however, that would rob us of Sunday mornings.
Church. This is something we did, you might say “religiously” (except I don’t like that word). It’s the right habit for a multitude of reasons. I’ll confess there were times when I myself did not want to go; but I did anyway for the children’s sake. (As parents, we’re always watched.)
Dedicated each one to the Lord, as infants. This is Christian tradition, a promise of the parents, and a spiritual covering of the child from the beginning. We did it for each of our children, and now, as grandparents, we’ve done so, in our own family ceremonies, for each of the grandchildren . . . all sixteen.
Honor their mother. Anne and I, early in our marriage, made a pact to never disparage the other in public. We also agreed to not discuss our child raising differences in front of them. There were times we disagreed, of course, but we did it in private, upholding each other’s authority. Worked well; we had no favorites and neither did they.
The children as adults on the occasion of the first wedding, Tamara’s. On her right: Acacia and Hyatt iv, on her left, Cambria and Allison.
That’s it, or at least all I thought of for Fathers day. This is no judgement on others who see things a different way. My main point is the intentionality of it all. The fun was spontaneous, the travel mind-broadening, the one-on-one experiences special, but the training and the influence was intentional.
Happily, all of them seemed to have caught it . . . and are raising their own children in the same spirit.
And that is the greatest Fathers Day gift I could receive.
As with all these pictures, click to enlarge.
Here we were six years ago at one of our every-two-year reunions. Four more grandchildren have joined us since. I like this picture because it includes Allison’s Vernon (top right) who died last year.
God bless us everyone.