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Be Dad
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A recent article in The Atlantic magazine reports children whose fathers were actively involved in their lives during their teen years, especially during high school, are more likely to finish college than those who do not.The article explains why. Yet for me, like many fathers who are or were actively involved in their children’s lives, this is a blinding flash of the obvious.

Dads are important to children. Growing up, mom gave unconditional love. Dad? You knew he loved you, but you knew he had expectations. You had to live up to them, son or daughter.

He was the one that set the example. You watched him and measured your performance against him. When you did something meaningful, you looked at him to see his reaction. In your teen years you tried to match him. As an adult you strove to do better than him – because you knew that is what he expected of you. Every dad wants his children to do better than he did.

Even today, in my fifties, my dad’s opinion of my performance remains important. When I have a book published my mom is thrilled regardless of content. Dad reads through it and critiques it. His approval means I have done well.

My sons, now adults are the same. Get a raise or promotion? Call the folks. Tell mom, who is thrilled. Tell dad. Tell him why it was given. Go over the victories at work. Get dad’s approval – not because you are his son (or daughter) – because you did well.

Sharing Our Work

One son and I are doing a book together. He is the photographer while I write the text. Another son and I trade tips on developing requirements. We are both systems engineers. A third son and I exchange model-making techniques. We build different things, but enjoy sharing our work.

This happens only if dad is around. If dad is gone, especially if dad was never there, just a sperm donor, a void exists. The expectations are absent. There is no one to match or to better.

Mom can make up part of the void. It is not really the same though. Even then the child seeks a father to impress. Was it an accident that a son with an absent father titled his first book Dreams of My Father?

Society today seems to hold fathers as disposable, even vaguely threatening. Men are encouraged to abandon their children, except as an income source. Women are taught raising children on their own, without the children’s father is nobler, somehow, than keeping dad if he is inconvenient.

Guys; do not believe it. Your sons and daughters need you today more than ever. They need you when they are born, when they are growing up, when they are adults. They need you changing their diapers, actively involved in their youth activities, guiding their life choices.

Be involved. Be dad. It is hard, but being a successful dad is the most rewarding job you will ever have.

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By Mark N. Lardas. Copyright © 2014 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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