Ah, dear old dad. Though the stereotypical dad is consistently seen falling asleep in the recliner or obsessed with the big game, the importance of a father in a child’s life cannot be understated. Boys learn how to become men from their dad’s examples. Girls learn what it means to be loved, respected, and protected from their dads. Dads can do this in three ways: by work, play, and example.
Work is sometimes viewed by children and young people as a curse. On a small scale, work is an opportunity to earn money. But it can also help to develop gifts and talents. On a larger scale, work is an opportunity to serve your peers. A hard-working dad is a great example of the embodiment of hard work. Whether it is by getting up early for work or helping out around the house, when children see their dad working hard, they feel safety and security: they do not have to worry about food, shelter, or other necessities.
For all his faults, the one thing I learned from my dad was to get up and go to work every day, whether I liked the job or not. I am teaching the same principle to my kids as they work alongside me. Whether it is helping me with the lawn, shoveling snow, or helping me cook, they are learning to contribute to the family. I’ve helped my older kids look for jobs, taught them how to drive, and helped them apply for grants and scholarships to college. As my older kids left home to live on their own, they quickly realized that if they did not work hard, they could not pay the bills. Hopefully, I’ve passed onto my kids the importance of work and the responsibility of money.
Playing is how a child learns how to use both sides of the brain: the logical, linear side and the creative, emotional side. Playing is how children learn how to cooperate and negotiate with others and learn where they fit into a group. Dads can teach their children new skill such as gross motor skills and personal, emotional management. My Dad taught me how to ride a bike. My grandfather taught me key swimming techniques. I’ve had the privilege of teaching my kids how to hit a baseball, shoot a basketball, and kick a soccer ball. Dads playing with their children recreationally can help a child develop in more dramatic ways than teaching academics.
One of the things that is sorely lacking in our society is apprenticeships. In the old days, an apprentice was someone who would sit under a master in order to learn a new trade. Whether learning to be a blacksmith or a carpenter, the apprentice would observe the master, the master would observe the apprentice apply the new skills, and the apprentice would go out on his or her own to run a business. Fatherhood is sort of an apprenticeship. Fathers teach their children by word and by action. The father pours his life into a child’s life in hopes that one day the child will be a productive member of society.
Where would we be without our dad’s, grandpa’s, foster dads, and father figures? Dads are not perfect. But those moments of work, play, and observation can help reflect moments that can change a child’s life. Here’s to all the dads, grandpas, foster dads and father figures that are doing just that!