Sunday, 9 December 2012

The influence of fathers

Listening to a Focus on the Family broadcast today got my mind stirring.  They noted that 40% of kids in America are born into homes without a father (a stunning 72% of African Americans.)  That just floored me.  Gratefully I was raised in a home with a wonderful father, and my children are being raised in a home with one also.  So while that statistic was alarming, it wasn't personally relevant.

What did hit closer to home was the statement that boys today are being raised by women.  They are in the home with their mothers for the most part, and Sunday school teachers and school teachers are generally women also.  And boys being raised by women will naturally be different than boys raised by men.

This got me thinking back to a favourite book "Better Off: Flipping the Switch on Technology."  It explored a Mennonite-like community.  In that community, just like it was for thousands of years up until the last century or so, boys spent the majority of their time with their fathers, grandfathers, or other male role models.  After just a few early years at their mothers' knees, they were transferred over to their father to help in the physical chores and family business.

Nowadays, boys are home with their mothers for most of the first four or five years.  Then they spend 5 days a week with by and large female teachers.  As they grow older, they spend spare time with peers, and even though those friends are often male, they certainly wouldn't be role models with life experience to inspire and shape others.

Culture today has created a world where half the families don't have fathers living with the children, and the other half are required to work long hours, often more than 5 days a week. The short time our fathers can scrape out to spend with children is often dominated by passive media or manufactured bursts of play.

These thoughts have made me vow to try and find ways my boys can spend time with their Dad when he can teach them, lead them, and model what it is to be a man these days.  I don't want society stepping in to shape my boys, as the pervasive media is trying to do to so many.  We have the great benefit of owning our own company, which means that down the road the boys will have the blessing of being offered work.  You will find no wistful coddling from this mother; moving furniture is hard labour, and working with seniors requires compassion.  I hope all three of my boys will be able to learn a strong work ethic and a sense of service from this "fall-in-you-lap job opportunity.  But more than that, I hope they can work along-side their father and see these qualities in him (they are two of the top reasons I love this man.)

While quantity time might not be possible right now, we can make sure that time is quality.  That will include some play time, but it must include leading time.  The guest on the radio program insisted that one hour at the kitchen table around dinner time is immensely profitable.  It can include eating, homework, and instruction.  It should be an hour that the father uses right down to the very last minute, exerting his righteous influence over his family, children, and most especially his sons.  He can lead them with definite purpose, with a plan in mind and very specific and thought-out road to walk.

It is so easy to fall into parenting just to get through the days; it is infinitely important to parent with purpose.  We must make sure our boys have time to spend with their dads so that our fathers are the primary (and proper) role model for their sons.

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