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Reflections on fatherhood–I almost missed the boat

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In light of last week’s Charleston massacre, people who know me probably expect me to write about gun policy. It’s tempting, but I’ll let other people deal with this latest instance of America’s gun problem. Instead, let’s talk about Father’s Day—and how I almost missed the boat about just how important fatherhood is.

I begin with my own father, who was always concerned for my welfare, even as I entered adult life and was married with two young children. When family and business challenges arose, Pop was my confidant, the man who would bolster my spirit and encourage me.

Our relationship began to blossom during my college years, when Pop began to prod me to being attentive to doing the right thing, because doing the right thing would lead to accomplishing my goals—a karma-like approach to life, though I’m sure the word karma never left Pop’s mouth.

His prodding generally came about by way of hand written letters on his business letterhead. The best was, “Do you practice good morals, and do you have charity in your heart? These are the ingredients that will lead to you getting what you want, like that special Navy assignment you’re pursuing.” Pop was prolific in his letter writing. St. Paul would have been impressed.

When I veered off course, he let me know. Not unlike a lot of college kids, I suppose, I wasn’t very good about calling home regularly. Pop put a stop to my lackadaisical approach to keeping in touch and made it clear—really clear—that I was to call home every Sunday evening, a practice that continued until he died. The only exception was when I was deployed aboard ship; I wrote home every week while at sea.

Even with a model like my own father, I didn’t fully realize the role I had as a father, until talking with a friend of mine about parenthood. I can’t recall how we came upon the subject, but this friend, both priest and Ph.D in psychology—I could confess my sins and be analyzed all at the same time—chided me for not fully appreciating the gravity of parenthood.

“It’s the most important thing you can do,” Father Steve said. “The most important?” I questioned. “How can that be, when nearly everybody has kids?”  “Just because so many people are parents,” he said, “don’t minimize how important the role.” “Huh?”

Really, I didn’t get it. In retrospect, I’m embarrassed. Go ahead and say it. Steal that line from the Shawshank Redemption and ask, “How could you be so obtuse, Jack?” Answer: being obtuse is easy. If you don’t feel compelled to ask that question, then you need to keep reading.

Don’t get me wrong. I took my role seriously. I wanted to be a good father. I wanted to do the best for my kids, but somehow, raising kids didn’t quite seem to be the most important thing one could do. Writing a book, being part of a landmark case—now those were important and true measurements of accomplishment. But heck, everybody has kids. Has does parenthood rise to the top?

I’d like to say the light bulb went on a few days after talking with Father Steve. That would be nice, but it took longer, maybe even much longer. I really can’t remember how long, except I know the bulb did go on. And maybe it didn’t even burn that brightly at first, but it does now.

We regularly get distracted, and much of the distraction is not that important in the grand scheme of life. Sure, we all want to be good parents, but do we all realize the power we hold as parents? Nowhere else can we have as much impact as we do with the development of the lives we bring into the world. Those lives are ours to mold.

Sorry for taking a quote from Marvel comics, but with great power comes great responsibility. Don’t miss the boat.

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Jack D’Aurora writes for considerthisbyjd.com

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Discussion

  1. BZ  June 23, 2015

    Jack, I’ve got your 6 rules pinned up in the work cubicle. Nice work.

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  2. Dan McCormick  June 23, 2015

    Inspirational…we’re all indebted for his philosophy and for making it stick.

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  3. Carl  June 23, 2015

    … and the effort never stops, and the hope that another boat will replace the one(s) we missed will always come to port again never ends.

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  4. Matt Schaeffer  June 23, 2015

    Thanks, Jack, for sharing the tribute to both your dad and to your spiritual father.

    I wish that the topic of fatherhood were in our media more promimently. I think that President Obama is at his best when he speaks about the the importance of fatherhood, and I also wish that he’d do it more often. Finally, with respect to the gun problem, I wonder whether it might be largely resolved if our society focused on the importance of fatherhood.

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  5. Victor  June 23, 2015

    Thanks Jack,

    Your comments on being a father and parenthood were outstanding. specially now that I am a grandfather. Happy Father’s Day to you Jack.

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  6. Ed Carr  June 23, 2015

    Jack,
    Your story hits home. I did not realize how much I miss being a father to my adult daughter, who passed away at 48 years of age. I now hold my two adult sons ever so close now. I am grateful all three children had 2 children each so I can watch them grow as they go off to college and their careers.
    Thank you, again for your message.

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  7. Helen P.  June 24, 2015

    Keep both oars in the water. I think the epistles from your Dad really worked. I, too, am proud of you.

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  8. RFB  August 11, 2015

    JD
    I have always thought that being a Father was the most difficult challenge there was, also being a Mother is also no easy task. I always thought that providing for them financially was going to bet he most difficult. That came more easily with the moral code and work ethics instilled in me by my parents. Like you I had a Father that was second to none.
    The most important life lesson that I have tried to instill in my four boys as a Father is,”To do the right thing when no one is looking”, it is easy when people are watching but very difficult when no one is around.
    The next lesson is in this order God ,Country and then family.
    I have a son in the service and he he took that to heart and as a parent I could not be more proud but I sure do miss him.
    My second son is with special needs and let me say that he has taught us more than we have taught him. Being a parent is an ongoing process and one in which we are always learning on how to be a better one. These are the real assets in our life and they are our legacy.
    I might add that your Father has certainly left behind a great one .

    PS. Thank you for your service.

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