Two humorous observations from Bill Cosbys book, Fatherhood. He writes: Now that
my father is a grandfather, he just cant wait to give money to my kids. But when I
was his kid and I asked him for fifty cents, he would tell me the story of his life. How
he got up at 5 A.M. when he was seven years old and walked twenty-three miles to milk
ninety cows. And the farmer for whom he worked had no bucket, so he had to squirt the milk
into his little hand and then walk eight miles to the nearest can. All for 5 cents a
month. The result was that I never got my 50 cents.
But now he tells my children every time he comes into the house: Well, lets see how
much money old Granddad has got for his wonderful kids. And the minute they take
money out of his hands I call them over to me and I snatch it away from them. Because that
is MY money.
The other story that Cosby tells that I like is the difference between Mother's Day and
Father's Day. He insists that Mother's Day is a much bigger deal because Mothers are more
organized. Mothers say to their children: Now here is a list of what I want. Go get the
money from your father and you surprise me on Mother's Day. You do that for me.
For Fathers Day I give each of my five kids $20 so that they can go out and by me a
presenta total of $100. They go to the store and buy two packages of
underwear, each of which costs $5 and contains three shorts. They tear them open and each
kid wraps up one pair, the sixth going to the Salvation Army. Therefore, on Fathers
Day I am walking around with new underwear and my kids are walking around with $90
worth of my change in their pockets.
Technically we could argue that Fathers Day is not a religious holiday; but it is
nonetheless important for us to recognize it.
Sermon Illustrations, 1999.
I received a letter from a single mother who had raised a son who was about to become a
dad. Since he had no recollection of his own father, her question to me was "What do
I tell him a father does?"
When my dad died in my ninth year, I, too, was raised by my mother, giving rise to the
same question, "What do fathers do?" As far as I could observe, they brought
around the car when it rained so everyone else could stay dry.
They always took the family pictures, which is why they were never in them. They carved
turkeys on Thanksgiving, kept the car gassed up, weren't afraid to go into the basement,
mowed the lawn, and tightened the clothesline to keep it from sagging.
It wasn't until my husband and I had children that I was able to observe firsthand what
a father contributed to a child's life. What did he do to deserve his children's respect?
He rarely fed them, did anything about their sagging diapers, wiped their noses or
fannies, played ball, or bonded with them under the hoods of their cars.
What did he do?
He threw them higher than his head until they were weak from laughter. He cast the
deciding vote on the puppy debate. He listened more than he talked. He let them make
mistakes. He allowed them to fall from their first two-wheeler without having a heart
attack. He read a newspaper while they were trying to parallel park a car for the first
time in preparation for their driving test.
If I had to tell someone's son what a father really does that is important, it would be
that he shows up for the job in good times and bad times. He's a man who is constantly
being observed by his children. They learn from him how to handle adversity, anger,
disappointment and success.
He won't laugh at their dreams no matter how impossible they might seem. He will dig
out at 1 a.m. when one of his children runs out of gas. He will make unpopular decisions
and stand by them. When he is wrong and makes a mistake, he will admit it. He sets the
tone for how family members treat one another, members of the opposite sex and people who
are different than they are. By example, he can instill a desire to give something back to
the community when its needs are greater than theirs.
But mostly, a good father involves himself in his kids' lives. The more responsibility
he has for a child, the harder it is to walk out of his life.
A father has the potential to be a powerful force in the life of a child. Grab it!
Maybe you'll get a greeting card for your efforts. Maybe not. But it's steady work.
Erma Bombeck Field Enterprises.