Politics being what they are, when I heard the gentleman say that our primary problem was a failure in the highest office in the land, I assumed he meant the President. He didn't; he was referring to the failure of fathers to be what they should be. Now Guys, most of you know I loved my father very much. He has been dead for several years, but he was my model, so far as men are concerned. I think he would have known what this man was talking about, because he adored his little girls. I am sure he would have understood what the next man was saying, also:

A family psychologist was describing just what kind of father-daughter relationship is necessary, if little girls are to grow up and become constructive members of society. In the process, he asked individual men about their wife's relationship with her father. He said a strange thing: He said a girl who is confident in her father's love, and whose father spends real time with her - not fake quality time, but real quantity time - will put herself in positions and relationships that will be constructive for her. On the other hand, if her relationship with her father was poor, or if he was never around even though he loved her, she will become involved, repeatedly, in relationships that are destructive to her. He said it is a simple matter of statistics. That's just how the numbers work out.

As I contemplated this particular bit of information, in my mind's eye, I could see myself and usually at least one of my siblings, sitting on our father's lap. He was tall and slender, and he had a marvelously welcoming lap. It could hold several kids at one time, but since it tended to become crowded with several, the human tendency to seek comfort would usually pare the numbers down to two. Otherwise, the kid on the outside, closest to his knee, had to hang on pretty tight, or she could end up on the floor, if a thoughtless sibling wiggled too vigorously.

It was always my privilege to comb my father's hair, while sitting on his lap (Of course, everyone else did the same thing.). He rarely complained, no matter how wildly I arranged his hair, unless I created a tangle and gave the hair a hefty tug. Then he would tell me, instantaneously, that if I wanted to sit on his lap and comb his hair, I had better be more careful. He taught me boundaries, but he taught with love.

As the years went by, and I had offspring of my own, who sat on my lap and combed my hair, I came to know precisely how he felt. I learned that I must never let them use a comb, because I have curly hair, and they would make terrible tangles, until the only solution was to get the scissors and cut the tangle out. So, how did Daddy manage to tolerate my creating tangles and then pulling vigorously to undo them? The answer was that he loved us. Amazing!

How can such a simple thing be the determining factor? And yet, it was. I can actually remember, with a tinge of guilt, turning the comb around and around, until I made a tangle. I did it on purpose, because then I had the exciting challenge of undoing the tangle, without pulling Daddy's hair so hard that he would scold me. Can you believe such a rascal?

And then, there was the music: His marvelous, melodious voice filled our ears forever, it seemed. He could sing anything. And guess who were the beneficiaries? Yup! His daughters. He must have sung every love song the thirties and forties ever produced. We knew them all and could sing every one of them, because he didn't just entertain us; he taught us to sing with him. He loved to sing Beethoven's simple teaching melodies; and though there were no words, we happily sang the music with him. Now to the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey would say:

My parents were divorced when I was eight years old, and it took many difficult years for us, as children, to overcome the trauma. Divorce is almost always extremely destructive to both children and parents, no matter how many degreed professionals say differently. But neither is that the entire story: We three older girls, who benefitted from our father's abundant nurturing, have consistently put ourselves in circumstances that were beneficial to us; and when we have misjudged either human nature or situations, as we have many times, we have taken action to correct the problem. On the other hand, our youngest sister, who was a baby at the time of the divorce, repeatedly put herself in circumstances that were destructive to her. She seemed to lack a sense of her own intrinsic value, and nothing we could say changed that. She had been deprived of something vital to her well-being, as an infant, and there seemed no way to fix the problem in later years.

Fathers, if you think your sons and daughters don't need you, you are mistaken. You cannot measure the value of the time and attention you give to them, but just because you can't measure it, that doesn't mean it isn't real. And I am not talking about quality time, because a small amount of quality time is of little value, unless it is heavily balanced by an abundance of easy, relaxed, going-nowhere, quantity time.

I promise you with all of the energy of which I am capable, that you are an essential ingredient in your children's future health. You must do everything in your power to keep your marriage healthy, because your children's future depends on the health of that marriage.

Wives need to be courted; they need to be told how essential they are to you and your children; they need to be valued by you, and they need to know they are valued by you. The worst thing you can do is criticize her; it never helps; it always hurts. Her happiness and well-being must be of the utmost importance to you, if your marriage is to succeed.

Marriage is a two-way street, and if you, as father and husband, which truly is one of the two highest offices in human relationships, fail in that office, your failure will reverberate throughout society. Make no mistake; society really does hang on how you conduct your marital and paternal affairs.


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