(Me and my dad. circa 1985)
By now I am sure many of you have heard of the now viral ‘You are not special’ commencement speech given by English teacher David McCullough Jr. at Wellesley High School. For those of you who have not yet heard the speech, the gist of it is that in an era where everyone is a “winner” and failure has been avoided to protect self-esteem, there needs to be a reality check and change of perspective. Mr. McCullough’s point wasn’t to cut students down, but rather to prepare them for the real world… where instead of being selfish we need to be selfless. It’s an excellent speech, and if you haven’t heard it you can watch it here.
What does this have to do with Fathers? Well, I don’t know anything about Mr. McCullough, I don’t know if he is a father or not- what I do know is that if he is a father, then he is an excellent father. As we approach Father’s Day I want to take today’s post to examine Fathers.
Previously I have shared the value of knowing what you mean to your kids, and to rock their world. But I want to take it a bit deeper. At Cheeky Bums we honor both moms and dads, and honestly believe a child needs both… we know that arrangement isn’t always the case, and some moms and dads aren’t fulfilling their obligations even when they are present. We understand that there are plenty of wonderful people out there trying the best they can in the situations they are in. I am speaking of the ideal. There is something so intrinsically special about women, that a man cannot fully supplement when trying to be ‘mom’. And, conversely, a women cannot fully replace ‘dad’. For the single parent households, we honor you too, and can’t imagine the struggle of trying to be both.
Father’s are a strange breed. Our kids look at us with wonderment. We are these giants who can easily pick them up and toss them on the couch, and love them like crazy. Our kids don’t speak our “language”, and they hear in their language. As fathers it’s our job to build confidence and strength of character in our kids. We need to train them in the art of social graces (value of modesty and proper dress – note: not proper style… I’m still hearing about the striped shirt/ polka dot pants ensemble I let Maddi wear out in public… they both had pink in them…who knew?). As a man I need to train my daughters to be comfortable explaining, debating, and reasoning with men. I need to train them to respect themselves and not let men trample all over them. As a man I am modeling to my son how to be a man.
Have you ever read the following? It is attributed to Paul Harvey:
“We tried so hard to make things better for our kids that we made them worse. For my grandchildren, I’d like better. I’d really like for them to know about hand-me-down clothes and homemade ice cream and leftover meatloaf sandwiches. I really would.
I hope you learn humility by being humiliated, and that you learn honesty by being cheated. I hope you learn to make your own bed and mow the lawn and wash the car.
And I really hope nobody gives you a brand new car when you are sixteen.
It will be good if at least one time you can see puppies born and your dog put to sleep. I hope you get a black eye fighting for something you believe in.
I hope you have to share a bedroom with your younger brother. And it’s all right if you have to draw a line down the middle of the room, but when he wants to crawl under the covers with you because he’s scared, I hope you let him.
When you want to see a movie and your little brother wants to tag along, I hope you’ll let him. I hope you have to walk uphill to school with your friends and that you live in a town where you can do it safely.
On rainy days when you have to catch a ride, I hope you don’t ask your driver to drop you two blocks away so you won’t be seen riding with someone as uncool as your Mom.
If you want a slingshot, I hope your Dad teaches you how to make one instead of buying one. I hope you learn to dig in the dirt and read books. When you learn to use computers, I hope you also learn to add and subtract in your head.
I hope you get teased by your friends when you have your first crush on a girl, and when you talk back to your mother that you learn what ivory soap tastes like.
May you skin your knee climbing a mountain, burn your hand on a stove and stick your tongue on a frozen flagpole. I don’t care if you try a beer once, but I hope you don’t like it. And if a friend offers you dope or a joint, I hope you realize he is not your friend.
I sure hope you make time to sit on a porch with your Grandpa and go fishing with your Uncle. May you feel sorrow at a funeral and joy during the holidays. I hope your mother punishes you when you throw a baseball through your neighbor’s window and that she hugs you and kisses you at Christmastime when you give her a plaster mold of your hand.”
This quote above, as well as the content of Mr. McCullough’s commencement speech, are speaking the language of fathers. A Father is (or should be) the character builder. The confidence builder. The one who shoves you out of the nest when he knows you are strong enough to fly. And dads, sometimes it’s ok if they AREN’T strong enough…but our kids need to have the confidence to know that even when (not IF) they fail, we are still here, cheering them on. The real world is tough and I want my kids to be ready for it. But I also want them to know that when the world pushes in, that I’m a safe place for them to hide.
I hope you all have a wonderful Father’s Day weekend!
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