Happy Father’s Day!
Regardless of your feelings towards this Hallmark moment, it never hurts to remind the men, especially the fathers in your life, how much they mean to you. And sometimes, we all need an “in your face” moment to remind us to do it.
Not everyone has a positive male role model in their lives. And I don’t just mean fathers, but ANY positive male figure. It’s a very real fact that too many kids in the United States grow up without a positive male role model. Our children deserve all the goodness and positive role models they can get in their lives. We ALL need positive influences!
I know there are many advocates that insist children must grow up with both a mother and a father. And in a perfect world, that would be ideal. But there is nothing perfect in this world. It’s only ideal if both of those relationships are HEALTHY relationships. There is nothing good – and I mean NOTHING – when one of those “parents” are toxic. The court system is still way behind in accepting this fact, and in my own experience the court only managed to muddy the waters and spend more of my money on a court-appointed “advocate” for my child. She “advocated” that by constantly throwing Z at his “father” the relationship would eventually stick. It didn’t. All that was achieved was hurt and resentment on Z’s part (and countless more sessions with the child psychologist). The legal system has a long way to go in catching up with psychology and actually doing what is healthy for children. The key element in any relationship is that it is a healthy relationship.
In the meantime, on behalf of these kids, may I ask something of you? If you are a man and there is a child in your family, in your life, in your neighborhood, who is missing that key element, that healthy relationship, step up to the plate. You don’t have to “fix” anything; no one expects you to take the place of a father; no one expects anything other than asking yourself “if I were that child, what could someone do to help?”
It can be as simple as taking notice of the quiet kid you know from down the block when you cross paths and making eye contact with a “hello”; inviting your niece or nephew out for ice cream once in a while; including the neighbor kid whose family life has been in upheaval to join in with your kids’ front yard frisbee game; talking with a female friend whose adolescent son needs to start shaving and offering to give her son a few shaving tips, maybe even teaching him to tie a tie. Supporting the neighborhood kids out selling cookies/wreaths/light bulbs/popcorn/detergent for school or club fundraisers – you don’t need to buy more than one of something to boost their confidence. Taking a few rides around the block with your nephew or niece as they learn to navigate behind the wheel. Telling a young woman or a young man in your life that she or he is “enough” in their own right, and that they don’t need to accept society’s definition of what is, or is not, “enough.”
Signing up to be a Big Brother or Big Sister – a fantastic program designed to match up “bigs” with “littles” in their own communities who are missing the key element of a positive role model. Keep in mind this is not “replacing” a parent – that’s why they are called Big BROTHERs and SISTERs. Everyone I know who has been a part of this program has never regretted it.
The key in all of this is making sure these kids know they are worth your time; not just one time, but all the time.
And on this Father’s Day, I want to let all the men in my child’s life know how much I love you: Z’s teachers, principals, and coaches; his Godfather and Godbrothers; my Dad (Papa); T’s Dad who has folded Z into the family (bonus Grandfather!); his Uncle J; my neighbors; the crossing guards and bus drivers; our family doctor who takes a little extra time at Z’s appointments to ask about tennis or drivers ed or what he’s reading; A, his first “guy” babysitter whom Z thinks is still pretty cool (he is!) and showed him that men make great caregivers, too; past co-workers who have genuinely expressed interest in Z when he’d come to the office and talked with him about all kinds of things; friends near and far who “Like” and comment on my social media pages when I put up pictures or brag (bless you all for putting up with those moments – he’s my first and last, so I’ve gotta get it all in with him) – your positive comments to and about him make him smile, even when he’s rolling his eyes and saying “M-O-m!” in mock exasperation.
The greatest role model, in my mind, is the man who steps up and into an already established family, big or small, regardless of the difficulties, and takes on that responsibility of being a positive role model…and accepts it as a gift.
Keep in mind, I’m pretty biased. T came into our lives and took on that part of parenting I could never really replicate.
Sure, I could have probably taught Z how to shave, but not with any real authority on which blades or shaving cream worked best. It’s different having a man teach you.
I couldn’t have taught him how to tie a tie – I can’t do it for the life of me. It would have been clip-on city here.
Yes, Z talks to me about all kinds of things, but I know it’s different having a man to talk to about stuff. T has not backed down from any of the more “challenging” issues. Even icky ones.
And simply the fact that I am not a single parent, struggling to make all the right decisions on my own is a huge gift – to both me and Z. There’s something to be said when you can present a united front on some issues, not to mention when another adult compliments a child it goes a long way. After all, if it’s Mom saying it, well, she has to because she’s your mom.
Our family is fuller and richer for having T – a good person, a good man – become part of our crazy little tribe. This is a healthy relationship Z is experiencing, one that I wish every child on this planet could have.
When I realize all the support Z continues to have from all the men in his life, the richness and goodness he has pouring in to him from all quarters of his life, I think both of us know he was never missing anything. And even more, I believe we are both far more aware every day of his being blessed by so much love and caring.
Until Tuesday, Friends. Cheers!