I believe that Fathers make a difference.
My earliest coherent memories are of my Father. I recall him telling me and my brother to always tell the truth, and to share books. Whatever he told us, he himself lived. My father was a good man, and what I know about being a good man, I learned from my father. Fathers make a difference because they set examples.
My father bought us tinker toys, tin airplanes, and cap pistols. He took us everywhere he went: to work (he was a sanitary engineer), to the midway, on train rides. He taught us how to fish. He grew up in West Texas, and he made sure that we learned how to ride. He sang Hank Williams songs to us. He took us to cowboy movies. Fathers make a difference because they appreciate the importance of fun.
There were times, when I was growing up, that I found the going tough and simply wanted to quit whatever I was doing. My father always managed to arrange to keep me going. One day, at the end of my senior year at Stanford, I called him to tell him that I was not going to graduate. He spoke to every one of my teachers and found out what it would take to get me through. He commissioned my brother to keep an eye on me while I did what would take. I graduated. Fathers make a difference because they have an abiding interest in their children’s strivings.
When I went off to graduate school at the University of Texas, my father went down to Austin with me to help me find a place to live. Then he went back home to Dallas. If he ever worried about my making my way in this world after that, he never mentioned it to me. Fathers make a difference because they know how to say “Fare thee well” to their children, and really mean it.
The truth is, I am writing not so much about fathers as to fathers. I hope that you who are fathers will hew to what is essential in fathering. The brand of baby food you buy your son is small stuff; that you are there when he is learning to ride a bike is immensely important. That your daughter goes to school without her mittens is small stuff; that you are there to talk to her boyfriend is immensely important. That you sit down to dinner with your children is immensely important. That you are there to take them up a mountain that they don’t think they can climb is immensely important. It is immensely important that you stick up for them when they need to establish their independence from their peers, from the authorities or even from their mother.
If nothing else, Woody Allen’s words apply to fatherhood with a vengeance. He said, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” This I believe.
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