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Being Dad
Photo: Nikhil Gangavane
Dads get little respect today. The foolish father is a stock element in sitcoms. Government treats fathers as the disposable element in families, even as dangerous. Male buddies—especially the unmarried ones—razz dads. You are no longer a free man, you are tied down for the next twenty years, they say.

Yet dads are vital. Boys need men around to grow into men. There is a difference between a man who knows how to use his strength to protect others and one that knows how to use it only to get what they want. It is the difference between a wolf and a guard dog. The example set by an engaged, caring father is the best way for a boy to learn what it is.

Daughters, too, learn from the example set by their father. A girl without a father often grows up never learning what a good husband is. They often never learn how to relate properly to men unless they have a non-predatory adult male (that’s you dad) in their lives when they were growing up. 

Dads rarely get complements from their kids, and often get static. That is because dad has a different role than mom. Fall off your bike and skin your knee. Mom kisses it, and holds you until you feel better. Dad slaps a bandage on the scrape, and tells you to get back on the bike.

Mom provides the family mercy. Dad provides the family justice. “Just wait until your father gets home!” Everyone is wary around the judge.

Earn Dad's Respect

Mom’s love and admiration is unconditional. Dad’s love is unconditional, too, but you must earn dad’s respect. Children strive for that respect as they are growing up and after they grow up.

You get a raise and promotion. You win an award or get a book published. You call up the folks to let them know. You tell mom, because it will please her. You tell dad to earn his approval. The world is a little better every time children achieve meaningful accomplishments to earn dad’s approval.

Dad is the one the kids come to for help and advice. Dad has the answers. In my 50s, I still call my dad for advice—because he still has answers. As for my kids?

My youngest was working on his Eagle Scout project—shelving for a library. He and older brother (college age) pick up a pallet of material delivered to the library. They need to take it to a home woodshop. They have the family van.

The pallet weighs 420 pounds. After ninety minutes of futile effort, they call dad at work. “Can you help?” Dad takes personal time, and drives down to the library. When he arrives, dad assesses the situation. Fifteen minutes later, with no other tools than the muscles of an out-of-shape fifty-something male and two young adults, the pallet is in the van. Dad knew how. The sons are suitably awed. Being dad rocks.

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By Mark N. Lardas. Copyright © 2008 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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