Last month I wrote about Mother’s Day, but not until after the fact. This month, and for my first time writing in this space, I’m getting ahead of the game and talking about Father’s Day. That’s not because I consider fathers more important—I just recognize that we need a little notice in order to even remember that it’s Father’s Day. My only goal on Father’s Day is to try and capitalize on the goodwill engendered in order to get a nap. So, I realize that this is not quite the holiday that Mother’s Day is. But I also want us to consider the nature of fatherhood as it stands in our culture today. The great mirror of what we believe about ourselves is television, particularly the sitcom. If you watch any number of these, you’ll see what we believe about fathers. With a very few exceptions, we believe that fathers are incompetent to handle children. Even as monolithic a program as The Cosby Show features a father who often confesses his inability to handle his progeny (despite what he actually does in the show, which is handling them ably).
Fathers are viewed as second best parents. Now, I don’t want to get into a battle of the sexes so we can figure out which are better parents. I think neither is an inherently better parent, but I believe both are necessary. For the most part, dads do things differently than moms. There are, of course, always exceptions to this rule. But there are things a child learns (both from teaching and from watching) from dad that they won’t learn from mom (and vice versa). In fact, Scripture offers us one major trait a child should learn from their father. Hebrews 12:9, in making a comment about learning to follow God, says this: Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciple us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? Note that—by learning to respect their fathers, early Christians were expected to see the analogy and learn to respect other authorities (notably, God). Think about that—fathers were to be respected. Fathers, when was the last time you thought about whether or not your children respect you?
Granted, there are some ways we can do this poorly. If you demand respect from your children, you’re unlikely to get it. If you carry yourself in such a way as to earn respect, it’s hard for someone else to take it away from you. Then, as you show respect to others, your children will notice it. My children frequently comment about the positive ways in which I treat their mom—I’m hoping it will help my boys learn how to treat their wives and that my daughter will understand how a future husband should treat her. This is a lesson they can’t learn from their mom—not because she’s unable to teach them, but because it’s a relational issue. You can’t learn the right way to treat a mom from a mom—that’s like a dad trying to get respect because he demands it! It’s not going to be effective in the long run.
What I’m saying is, of course, affected by the world we live in. Many families have suffered through divorce or other things that have kept parents apart. Sometimes we have to make do with what’s available to us. If you’re a single mom, your kids can learn respect for authority from you—it’s not magically imbued in men. But dads, I want you to think about the impact you can have on the next generation and value your role in their lives.