Through Constant Examples, Love and Support
“A good father is one of the most unsung, unpraised, unnoticed, and yet one of the most valuable assets in our society.” This quote by Billy Graham encompasses my feelings towards fatherhood and the almost invisible influence fathers have on their children. As I searched and read many articles two stood out to me most and I couldn’t decide which one to pick so I decided to work with both. The first I found on Psychology Today called “The Importance of Fathers”; the second was found on Civitas called “How do Fathers Fit in?”
The first one I thought gave a nice background on fathers and how their role has changed throughout history. I was struck by how popular the belief that a father in the home wasn’t important, and many people even argue that some families are better off without the father. Ditta Oliker, the author of the article, described her research while in grad school. The results of her study were that children not only benefit emotionally and mentally, but socially as well. The children are able to make better social connections and feel more secure about themselves.
The second article described each stage the child experiences and how the father helps them in their growth. What stood out to me most was the effects the father had on a child even as they were an infant. I was familiar with how a father helps adolescents and younger children, but never once had I considered that even babies could benefit from a father. When the father spends more time with the baby they begin to catch on to the signals the baby sends when it demands its needs and that helps the father know and understand his child as they grow up. A baby that has a secure attachment with his/her father is more likely to develop stronger relationships as they grow up and generally are more well-adjusted than those babies don’t.
It was interesting to find out that the father helps a child build their own confidence and decision-making skills allowing them to be more self-reliant. Mothers tend to be more sheltering to the children where fathers are more likely to present challenges to the child and teach them the proper skills in how to problem solve.
Fathers are generally the breadwinners of the family and are a great example of responsibility to the children. Kids with a father who works and helps around the house will learn the skills that will help them in adult life, especially where accountability is concerned. When a child doesn’t have a father around them to teach those skills they will most likely learn those skills slower, and sometimes not at all.
Because of the economic and financial benefits that come with a stable father, the kids are presented with more opportunities, especially when it comes to their learning. Children that are raised in a home where the father brings in a steady income have more access to the different resources that will help them advance in their education. The dads also have a great hand in helping the children with their school work and helping them get the work accomplished and encouraging them to progress their learning.
As I continued reading about how the healthy father-child relationships helped a child well into their adult years, I continued thinking of my own father and the relationship we have. I am the youngest of six kids, and the sibling just older than me was six years older than me. For the majority of my childhood I had my dad almost all to myself. I have many fond memories of my dad teaching me many new skills, introducing me to things that have become some of my passions and how the time spent together has strengthened me.
My dad is one special guy because he never turned me away when I wanted to play. When I was maybe three or four there were many times in church when I had brought my mom’s make-up brush along, he would let me sit on his lap and I would pretend to put make-up on his face. I can remember the chagrin on his face when I would ask to paint his toenails while we watched a movie, but he never said no.
I can remember an instance where we were headed out for a family reunion and I threw up minutes before we left. My dad stayed behind with me and took care of me while my mom took the rest of my siblings to Utah. He let me pick every movie we watched, and let me eat Ramen Noodles and quesadillas. One of my favorite things about my dad is our time spent watching old movies; we used to watch endless amounts of black and white movies together.
In the third grade I was supposed to meet a page requirement for my reading class and I was very behind. I remember my dad making me sit on his bed and read for nearly three hours that day, until I met the requirement. I haven’t stopped reading since and I blame him for my passion of reading. He always encouraged my schoolwork and was always willing to proofread my papers before I turned them in. Those many hours spent at the computer while he had me rewrite nearly every paper will never be forgotten nor regretted.
I was fourteen when he bought a ping-pong table and taught me to play. Those hours spent in healthy competition were not only fun but enlightening. Paddling a little, white, plastic ball back and forth opened up many opportunities for conversation, and he never failed to ask me about how basketball was going, how my schoolwork progressed, how the boys at school were, and most importantly, how I felt about the church. We always talked about issues the church was facing and different things I experienced at school and how my testimony had helped me.
I don’t understand how there are people who say that a father doesn’t have an influence in his child’s life. I cannot think of a single child out there who doesn’t need a biggest fan, advocate and life-long friend. Without his constant example, standing up for truth and righteousness, and his support in every decision I make I would maybe be somewhere in Vegas right now, working as an escort of some sort, not knowing my worth or potential. The biggest lesson I have learned from my father is that not only do I have his support and love, but I also have the support and love from a Father in Heaven. How lucky am I to have double the support? Incredibly.
I’m not quite in the stage of life where I have children and am concerned with how their father is involved with them. But I can say that as I continue to search for an eternal companion, I will be looking for the qualities I would want my future children to have. I don’t mean looks- although that would be a bonus. I want my children to have a father who genuinely has their best interests in mind and puts them first. A father who is willing to build a relationship with his baby boy, a father who is patient enough to have his children crawling on him and annoying him. A father who will work hard, not only at his job but in his daily tasks so that his children can learn from his example what responsibility is; a father who will pull his teenage daughter aside and talk to her while they play a game or work in the yard together, get to know her even though she can be moody and rude.
This will take a careful and wary mind as I continue to search. It is my responsibility to pick the man that can make available those traits to his family. The only way I can think of ensuring that this happens is that first I recognize the traits I value and the ones that are warning signals. Writing this paper has sure opened my eyes to those qualities I want, but I know that there are more I’m not quite aware of yet. I guess the best way would to be to make a list so that I can see what I should look for in different men I meet and date. My dad always told me, “You marry who you date” and so I would make sure to get out of any relationship that was degrading and I wouldn’t want that man to be a father to my children, no matter how good looking he is. The way I can make sure that my children have the kind of father they deserve is to stay close with the Spirit. I know that if I maintain that closeness with the Holy Ghost, then I will know when something is not right and that I should cut ties immediately. Developing a pattern of constant prayer and communication with my Heavenly Father and listening to those promptings will help guide me as I discern what right and wat isn’t.
I cannot begin to express the deep gratitude I have for my father and fathers around the world who teach, love and support their children. But I also cannot begin to emphasize how blessed I have been to have a father around who provided a constant example of what I should be when I grow up. From the time we are born to the time we die, we are constantly influenced by our surroundings and something as simple as having a father around can benefit and bless more than we are even aware.
Ditta, Oliker. (2011). The Importance of fathers: is Father’s Day real? The Long Reach of Childhood. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-long-reach-childhood/201106/the-importance-fathers.
The Institute for the Study of Civil Society. How do fathers fit in? http://www.civitas.org.uk/hwu/fathers.php.