By Craig Funston
Today’s column is more of a musing on fatherhood than anything else. My own dad has been “gone” for over twenty-two years and there is rarely a week that I don’t regret that I didn’t tell him things I should have told him when he was alive.
How did Joni Mitchell sing it, “You don’t know what you have till it’s gone”?
He had a lot of faults, I suppose, but at this stage of my life, I can’t remember any of them. We didn’t connect at every level, but we did on the essentials, namely, a faith foundation, a work ethic, and a stable home. I think our world would be a whole lot better if we had more fathers like him (and his generation). Of course, I never thought that growing up.
I didn’t know that parenting would be so tough as it has been these past few years. I thought raising nine little kids on a limited income was tough, but I was unprepared for the teen years. There seems to be no recipe, no template, no switch, for the role of “dadhood.”
We fathers must learn either by the seat of pants or through the models of those have gone before us, or both. Tight timeline, but we’ve only got one go at this.
My dad raised his four sons, starting in the late 1940s; that would make me #1, if you’re counting from the bottom up. His world looked very, very different from mine today. Back then, there were no smart phones, iPads, and Internet; the media and the arts were less blatant, careless, and immoral; and we saw a far greater sense of harmony between schools, churches, homes, and communities.
I don’t think I can summarize the key differences between the world that he raised his sons in and the one I’m raising mine in in one word , but if I tried, it would be “disconnect.” That is, there is a far greater disconnect between people everywhere, starting with those living under the same roof.
Back in the ’50s and ’60s, the nuclear family was the norm; that is, a dad and mom, and a good-sized herd of kids. Today, it looks like a nuclear bomb hit the family. Parental rights have been undermined (nowhere more than in education), and traditional marriage is held in contempt.
Dads, in particular, are under attack more than ever. They are portrayed as supreme dolts in too many shows and movies. Their authority is questioned more than ever. Feminism has failed in protecting women, but it certainly has succeeded in demeaning fathers in the home.
I would be the first to admit that many dads have failed, including yours truly, but the media has persistently and publicly derided dads, something that is totally unacceptable.
While I never was very close to my dad, I never questioned his authority. I understood our roles: he, dad; me, son. My transition, then, into the real world was made easy, because “dad” became “teacher,” “boss,” or ”officer.” Far too much many young people have never learned to submit properly to authority, and this has impaired their educational and vocational development.
My dad brought a certain parenting model into the family, just as I have taken his and brought it into my family. Nevertheless, I still hold to my general premise that it’s tougher being a dad today than it was a generation ago.
I had fewer competitive voices to contend with in my dad’s home than my sons do (and did) in my home. I have already alluded to the cacophony of the media, arts, economics, and politics. To be sure, some of these noises can be and have been used for good; unfortunately, those have been few and far between.
There is a very precise science of statistics that shows the correlation of the positive influence of fathers on their sons, who, in turn, become successful students, law-abiding citizens, and contributors to a stable populace. Take dads out of the equation, through various demands, desertion, divorce, and disinterest, and there will be a far greater chance of persistent failures, mindless thugs, and maladjusted kids. A generation of losers, you might say, but only through some fault of their own.
When dads do what dads are designed to do, we have a better society. When they are operating at full-speed, marriages work better. And when marriage works, the family thrives. When the family thrives, communities are better and safer, more stable and more successful.
Did you wish your dad a Happy Father’s Day two days ago? I hope you could. That is, I hope he’s still alive for you to do so; I also hope he was a good enough dad for you to want to. Fatherhood can be a thankless job these days, believe me, so an occasional word of thanks would be in order.
This is not a pie-in-the-sky, in-the-sweet-by-and-by wish. It’s part of an overall divine design.
We need to get back to the blueprint and start-re-building fatherhood that way it was meant to be