Sunday, May 30, 2010

Here's To The Good Guys

Father's Day is coming up on June 20. For our family, Father's Day is timed just after a line-up of family birthday celebrations, Mother's Day, Memorial Day weekend, the start of summer, and graduations. It could easily get lost in the parade of other events.

We can't let Father's Day go unheralded. Great men, and the important role they play in our lives---as fathers, step-fathers, and grandfathers---deserve to be celebrated. These good men provide families with stability, protection, integrity, honesty and wisdom. They are role models to sons and grandsons, and set high standards for their daughters and granddaughters to look for in their own partnership.They set a foundation for family and traditions to be built on.

Fathers and mothers are NOT interchangeable for children. Mothers bring children into the world and nurture them with tenderness and understanding. It is fathers who take children out into the world and develop a child's independence and journey into real life. Yale University did a fatherhood study comparing men and womens' parenting style, and found that even with their toddlers at a playground there were interesting and significant differences. Men gave their children more space and freedom and pushed toddlers higher in swings, while women kept their little ones closer.The gender-based differences aren't good or bad, but they do suggest that fathers consistently play a different role in childrens' lives. They often encourage more adventure and healthy risk-taking than mothers might. At times we mothers need to be reminded to let go a little and not overprotect.

A special salute to fathers who end up divorced from their childrens' mother, but stay involved and attached to the chidren. While we would never choose to have children experience their parents divorcing while they are trying to grow up, it does happen. A 50 year longitudinal study at the Center for the Family in Transition in Mill Valley, California, lead by researcher Judith Wallerstein found important implications for fathers. While children have their own grief process in dealing with their parents divorce, one of the worst potential impacts is if the father disappears and is no longer emotionally or financially involved with his children when he is no longer with their mother. Let's praise the divorced dads who hang in there and stay in the game with their childrens' lives.

Lets honor step-fathers, too, who roll up their sleeves and get involved to help finish the parenting job in a loving and kind way. Children who have lived through their parents' divorce need undertanding, friendship, stability and kindness. None of the step-family relationships come instantly. They develop over time and with patience. It may take time to trust. Divided loyalties normally occur in step-families. Taking a gentle, long-term pespective is important. The American Stepfamily Association says that it takes on average 7 years to fully integrate a blended family. Kudos to the stepdads whose hearts are big enough to love not only their own children but also the other hearts entrusted to their care. You will end up being loved by all and having a richer life. The heart is an amazing thing.

Grandfathers who are true patriarchs, and get involved in the day to day lives of their grandchildren, are incredible blessings to their families. Grandchildren can hear advice and loving wisdom from you that they would react to if it came from mom and dad. Grandfathers, if they wish, can teach life skills, and because they have more time, can be more patient than parents. If you have made your own passages in life, grandfathers can be the wise sages and infrastructure of the family core. Hooray for excellent grandfathers who are unselfish enough to share of themselves and help impart life lessons they've learned.

So Happy Fathers' Day, and here's to the good guys who appear in our lives and in our families. We are grateful for your special contributions to our families. What a difference you make.

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