June 14, 2017
Each Mother’s Day, I go to the floral department of my local grocery store and purchase three miniature rose bushes in pots for the girls. By the girls, of course, I mean my daughter, my second daughter, and my daughter-in-law. It’s a small tradition that I began years ago. You may have guessed I’m big on traditions. There’s so much uncertainty in life, it’s nice, I think, to have a few things one can count on.
The girls, for their part, individually chose to plant those rose bushes in their gardens, rather than keep them in the pots. Another tradition, and one that means the world to me.
Come Father’s Day, there’s just my oldest son, as well as my husband, to show appreciation for. Rather than a rose bush, I’ve tended to gift our son with other things instead. Most usually, it’s clothing. This year for the first time, I will give him a gift card. That seems to be my fall-back gift, lately. It isn’t that I don’t want to take the time to actually shop, although my stamina for that activity is much less than it used to be. It’s more my belief that it’s better all around if the person being gifted can choose their own gift.
I don’t recall celebrating any Father’s Days when I was a kid. I’m sure I did, with my siblings, but there is just no memory in my head of ever doing so. There never has been. When I was eight and a half, my father died, and after that devastating point in my life, the next fathers I knew were my husband and my father-in-law. In those days, the gifts were more of a token, as was the card. It seemed more important to give a nod of recognition to the fathers, on their day.
Fathers play a vital role in the lives of their children. They are the bulwarks, the guardians, the ones we look to in times of trouble, or fear. Fathers, in the ideal state, never tremble, never show uncertainty or dread to their families. We cling to them, our fathers, and receive our sense of security from being able to do so.
What an enormous burden we lay upon the shoulders of our fathers!
In this day and age, it is sad to say, the role of father is being redefined. I say sad to say, because so many younger fathers think their job is done after the procreation moment. However, for those who choose to go beyond procreation, choose to become fathers to their children, that role no longer has a single sense to it, in that individual families, individual fathers, seek their own definitions. In some families, for example, the women remain working outside the home and the fathers stay home and take care of the house and the child until the child hits school age. That is different from all that I knew—although my mother did work outside the home when I was little and my father did cook and clean and do laundry sometimes. But just because the role of the father is different than what I knew, that really doesn’t make it less.
People should have the freedom to define themselves. What remains steadfast, in my opinion, is the general principle of parenting. If you are bringing children into the world, then as adults, whether you’re the mother or the father it is your responsibility to care for that child, to nurture, to protect, and to equip that child with the tools he or she will need to become a productive, happy adult.
That is a tall order for anyone to fill. It requires taking one’s eyes off one’s self, and keeping them firmly fixed on someone else. Someone smaller, weaker, and needier than you.
A tall order, indeed. So, to the fathers out there, I say Happy Father’s Day. We honor you for your service and encourage you in your mission. It’s not an easy one, but then the truth is that nothing worthwhile ever is.