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R E F L E C T IO N S O F F A T H E R H O O D

R E F L E C T IO N S O F F A T H E R H O O D

“Beyond the crucial

“Beyond the crucial role we play at conception,or even a second mom.”we’re often viewed as no more than an older playmate,a physical education instructor,Reflections on FatherhoodBy Philip McGovernI have been a father for eighteen years. Certainly not aneternity, yet, in a way that I can’t explain, I find it difficultto remember what I did before that time. Not interms of how I spent my days – that’s not hard to recall.But more in the sense of purpose – what the heck was Idoing back then and why?I’ve so often heard people say that they are doing whatthey were meant to do. I wish I was so sure. At this point,I can only hope that my work as a husband and father iswhat I was meant to do. I’m spending a lot of time at it.When I look back, honestly and humbly, I realize I wasn’tcalling all the shots. Things happened, many of theminexplicable and not part of my design. I did not selectmy own father, a simple man from a different world, whotaught me about loyalty, perseverance, and the value offamily. And somehow, the perfect mate crossed my path– a woman able to temper my shortcomings and confidentenough to give me the room to grow in my role as ahusband and as a father.Although I am spending a lot of time performing thisrole, it’s not one that I find easily accomplished. Most ofmy knowledge has come from on-the-job training. And,I’ve made more mistakes than I care to remember. Quitefrankly, my strength is not in always doing the rightthing, i.e., what’s best for my family. I may try at times,but too often I decide the right thing is too hard. It’soften easier to stay at the office where the issues aresimple in comparison to those we face at home. At theoffice, I can be a know-it-all and not have to deal withthe frustration of constantly facing my shortcomings.That being said, there seems to me to be a particularaspect of my role as a father that wasn’t always obvious tome and that may trump all others. It’s the one thing thatI believe has helped mitigate the mistakes I’ve made andhas shaped the overall outcome of my efforts. It doesn’tfix everything, but it has created an atmosphere at homethat accommodates my inevitable failings and keeps thedoor open for family unity.I think it goes beyond physical presence. There’sbeen quite a bit written linking a number of disturbingtrends in our culture to a father’s absence at home. Ihave seen for myself a lot of marriages ending in divorce,a number of suicides committed by teenagers; and toomany kids drinking alcohol at an early age. In many ofthese situations, what seems to be a critical factor is thephysical loss of a father that comes from death ordivorce, or the emotional absence that occurs with afather’s preoccupation outside the home, perhaps withadvancement at work, or with some hobby or sport.Yet my own experience tells me that a father’s absenceis not an adequate explanation for these trends. It doesn’tseem to be specific enough and it can be contradicted in anumber of situations that I am familiar with. I know ofseveral families where the father is deceased and yetremains a very strong force within the family. I can stillremember when my friend Danny lost his Dad. He wastwelve, the third oldest of seven kids. Even thoughDanny’s Dad was not physically present, he continued toexercise great influence on the behaviors of his children.Danny’s Mom was remarkably strong and dignified, andnever showed any sense of self-pity. I often imagined herwondering aloud how Dad might handle a particular situation,or having the kids pray to him for guidance with adecision they needed to make. However it happened,Danny’s Dad remained a significant factor in the life oftheir family. In a similar sense, I know many fathers thatSummer 200523

REFLECTIONS OF FA THERHOODtravel extensively with their jobs. Yet their impact andinfluence at home is not diminished by their absence.It seemsobvious, thoughnot a given, thata key to beingsuccessful as a Dadis being present inthe home. But it’s more than that. Having the rightintention as a father, i.e., putting the family first seemsfar more important. Our intention acts like a spirit thatwe convey in very real ways to our family. And this spiritis what elevates our position to a level of enduring value,causing a lasting influence on key outcomes with our kids—whether we are there or not. Clearly, when we die is notour decision and, sometimes, whether or not we take abusiness trip is not our choice to make. But it seems tome that the role we play at home, even during forcedperiods of separation, is very much in our control.I am convinced that many dads today are unaware oftheir impact and seldom, if ever, consider their rolewhile they’re gone. Often, when they are presentat home, it is in a diminished way. They seem to haveoutsourced key decision-making to their kids’ Moms,teachers and coaches. They have accepted the crazynotion that raisingchildren with“It also helps to be open with our children.”character does notrequire a Dad athome. Beyond thecrucial role we playat conception, we’re often viewed as no more than anolder playmate, a physical education instructor, or evena second mom. Yet many of our kids are growingup out of balance – immature, self-centered, irreligious,and preoccupied with material things. They may grow tobe very capable and successful professionals. But theirpersonal lives are troubled and disordered. I think kidsare missing their Dads.With everyone so busy and trying so hard, I sometimeswonder if there is anything we can do? I am certain thatwe as Dads need to be convinced of the importance of ourposition in the family and fully committed to it and notto ourselves. What we provide to our families is uniqueand irreplaceable. And our kids know when our actionsare intended to benefit them. Secondly, it only seems24 C A V A L C A D E

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