Iíve come to a rather solid realization of late, though. That conclusion is that there is one very powerful duty that underlies all other obligations we will ever face. For each of us, whether as men or as women, there is no greater nor weightier duty than as a parent. The worldís future hangs in that delicate balance between what will create decent, loving and intelligent adults and the day to day mistakes we all make in our relationships with our family.
As a man, I can only speak to that which a man faces within the parameters of attempting to be the best parent he can be. I mean no disrespect when I focus only on those acts that are required of a man since I have, obviously, no experience nor propensity in what is required of a woman and mother other than the superficial. Therefore, I can only speak as a man.
Within that capacity, I have had the rather sad opportunity to witness the destruction of a child over many years by an uncaring and irresponsible male parent. I cannot, in good conscience, refer to him as either a man nor a father inasmuch as, in his sonís life, he has forcefully abdicated both roles without even the slightest hint of self awareness nor guilt. His interactions with that child has always been one of distance and aversion. It has been a relationship in which the male never offered the boy any support nor showed any interest in his life save when the child expressed his confusion by acting out and falling into trouble. Whenever the child succeeded, the male behaved as if it were unimportant. Whenever the child failed, the male behaved as it that is only what was expected.
It has been that ravaging of a young life that set me to thinking about exactly what a fatherís role within his childís life must be. Granted, we are all different people and, as such, deal with our roles as we have been taught by our own parents. Nevertheless, to believe even for a moment that we are and will always be locked into those roles is to admit defeat and to refuse to step away from those lesser roles is to condemn those affected to another round of sadness and distraction.
I have been gifted with one of Godís greatest bounties, two wonderful step-daughters and a son of such depth and possibilities that I doubt that I will ever truly understand his worth. I must admit that having the girls brought into my life long after their basic natures had already been formed by their mother and father allowed me to see precisely the depth that we play as role models in our childrenís lives. To look at the children and their behavior is to see the parents at their best and at their worst.
Discovering that relationship between the actions and beliefs of the parents and the emerging personalities of their children, both for the better or towards misfortune, has surprised me by its power and consequesnce. This unfolding of his future has, as well, given me great pause about my conduct during that short and important period within my sonís life in which my actions and words imprint upon his sweet, little soul. To witness the moral and spiritual values and personal foibles being reflected back to the world through these children is the grandest proof I could ever imagine as to the power and endurance of a parentís every interaction with a child. It has allowed me to think and reflect about what values and ethics I want my child to perceive as important to me and to see how massive the damage can be when a child is faced with the hell of a parent who withholds love and acceptance and inflicts harm rather than teach those all important lessons of life.
We all want to see our children grow into adults and deeply wish them great happiness in their futures. (Okay, not all of us wish that, but the few who do not cannot be included within the definition of ďparentĒ anyway.) Sadly, so few parents will give their children that most precious and unique of gifts; our time and our attention and our support. When we give our children these offerings, then the need to set limits and to discipline or even or punish is largely eliminated as the children witness first hand our own personal ethics and behavior which, for all time, is vastly more impressive than the act of demanding one sort of behavior from our children while expressing a completely different set of beliefs in our day to day lives.
An excellent example of that confusion is embodied in a commercial about some brand of pudding desserts that uses the sentiment of how all parents wanting our children to learn to share with others. Of course, that is a fairly accurate reflection of what parents do, indeed, wish for their children. Why the nation is becoming a greedier and more selfish society, though, is that the adults happily preach one philosophy while openly living the exact opposite.
I tell my son that sharing his wealth, in the toys and games and books that he has been given, is a positive and loving thing to do because it brings us all closer together when we treat one another as equals and friends. If he then hears my constant complaints and witnesses my actions of taking from the poor all that they once had and to learn that, because of my beliefs, that there are millions upon millions of children going hungry every single day in America, then any small lesson that I had grudgingly offered about the blessedness of sharing is not only lost but the ďbenefitsĒ of greed and selfishness are reinforced and included into his young view of life.
If I tell my son that any action or deed is not acceptable for him but then engage in those activities or deeds myself, my actions will always speak far louder than my words. If I value something greater than my son then he will view himself and his life as having less significance.
A fatherís influence upon their child lasts for generations. The trite saying that the fruit never falls far from the tree is an absolute truth. Granted, some children have the inner strength to become far better adults than their role models and parents. The energy needed for that conversion and development is within few people, though.
A fatherís every behavior echoes down the long, unknown halls leading into the future. Every interaction between father and child has the potential for great harm or great importance. Watching the corruption being forced upon the child I spoke of above has, for all the damage and crippling horrors he will always endure, shown me that I must be ever vigilant and aware of who I am and how I behave towards my gentle, loving little boy.
If no other good comes from that poor childís life, perhaps some small profit can be found within myself for my boy. At least, I surely pray that some small good can from that poor young soulís misfortune in having been dealt a male parent of such low standards of decency and compassion.
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