In the past week I have logged over 1500 miles of driving in every winter weather condition known to man. Luckily, every foster child got where they were going safely and I made it home alive. The byproduct of this time on the road is a new appreciation for good fathers. You see, the common denominator in the vast majority of foster children is no dad, or if they have one he’s abusive or drunk or drug addicted or all three. My initial thought for this blog was to vent my spleen on this subject and call out all those sperm donors who couldn’t cut it as real fathers. Then it occurred to me that these losers probably never read anyway so I wouldn’t make much of a point. As an alternative to vehement criticism I would like to offer this treatise on what it means to be a great father and why it’s the single most important thing any man can ever aspire to in life.
I was extremely fortunate to have great parents. I know, now, how important that was and how hard they worked to give me a better life. My folks were always there for me and were the best role models I could ask for. They gave me equal amounts of discipline and love and they always took the time to explain things to me. Their patience and willingness to accept my failures while offering wiser choices was exactly what I needed. I only hope that my adult life has been good enough to affirm their faith in me.
My relationship with my Dad has been well documented in these posts, since I started writing. His calm demeanor, sensibility and ability to find humor in every situation are the basis for my own style. Mostly, I just tried to stay calm, practice common sense and laugh whenever possible. My own kids were never perfect but they didn’t cause me half the problems that I gave my own parents. The satisfaction I received from parenting far outweighs any negatives.
That’s the part that stuns me about men who father children and then leave them. They turn their backs on what should be the greatest part of their own lives. Each day that I spend with foster children is an opportunity to connect with these kids in ways that their own fathers should have been doing themselves. I get to experience moments of sheer joy with so many of these kids that it just makes every day better than the last. In the few hours I am with these kids I am treated with adulation, respect and genuine love. These kids are desperate for a relationship with a male figure and if I happen to be standing there at the right time I get to fulfill that need. I gladly accept that role in their lives and wish I could do more. I have little girls running to greet me at the door and teenagers asking my opinions about major decisions they are facing for the first time. All because I talked to them on their own level and demonstrated respect for them as people. I don’t always give them what they want but I always take the time to explain why I can’t.
When I think back on the best moments of my own children’s lives I am humbled by the experience. The first time they grabbed my hand as infants and wouldn’t let go. The first time they said, “Daddy” and smiled at me with the most trusting eyes. The first time they got spanked for disobeying me and then the first time we made up immediately afterwards. The first time they came to me with a question that I couldn’t answer and had to admit my ignorance. The first time they got hurt and I was there to calm their fears. The first time their teachers told me how much they appreciated them as students. The first time they actually thanked my wife and I for being good parents. Those are moments no man should ever miss out on and for the life of me I can’t fathom why any male would willingly choose to do so.
Nothing else I have ever done in life can compare to being a good father. I love my children with all my heart and now that they are older and self-sufficient, I can turn my attention to making a difference for foster children. The funny part is, I would gladly lose this job if their real fathers would step up and act like real men. Making a baby requires almost no skill whatsoever but making a well-rounded person is a craft.
And don’t be mistaken that fatherhood is just about providing the material things. You can write fat checks all day and not be a good father. If you’re not actively involved in their lives, no amount of money will ever make them a better person. Kids want you not your wallet. They want you to be there when they’re scared. They want to hold onto you as they fall asleep. They want to confide in you and know you can be trusted. Most of all they want the security that comes with knowing you’re coming home every night to play with them. Is that too much to ask?
I know I’m becoming jaded about my fellow-men on this planet but it just pains me so much to see kids grow up without real dads. Luckily, I do know lots of good fathers. Men who work hard to provide and make time for their kids every day. To all the women and children out there who are lucky enough to have one of these guys, I would say, “Be thankful and let him know it.” We don’t need a parade but we’ll never turn down a heartfelt, “Thank you!”
©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.