I chose strawberry-rhubarb pie. Sure, there were dozens of other fancier choices, most of which were probably delicious, but I went with the old-school pie. I was the sole voter in this decision because today is Father’s Day.
The reason I picked strawberry-rhubarb is because, as we were looking at the list of choices, my son Ryan said, “I’ve never had rhubarb before. What’s it like?”
That’s all it took. Decision made. Time to introduce my son to the deliciousness of rhubarb. Or witness his distaste for rhubarb. Who knows? (I’ll report back.)
My other preparation for Father’s Day included figuring out what to blog about on this day of recognition. What thoughts could I add that won’t just be a re-hash of my last four Father’s Day posts? Then it occurred to me that the rhubarb is very telling – it represents one of the key aspects of Fatherhood.
From the moment our children are tiny, we spend our fathering years introducing them to new stuff. We sing them new songs while we rock them, we walk them around the house showing them things and pointing out who’s who in family pictures. From there we graduate to introducing them to new language, new tastes, new sights, new sounds, new smells, new sensations. (Including but not limited to tickling, animal voices, wrestling, ice cream, spicy foods, rock-n-roll, and of course, Dad Jokes.)
We eventually introduce them to games, sports, math, skills, tools, nature, technology, music, movies, etc. The list is endless. It is no surprise that all of my kids listen to some of Dad’s old music. It is imprinting at its simplest.
We facilitate their growth by introduction – and it appears that I’m still doing that with a strawberry-rhubarb pie. And ice cream.
Through childhood and adolescence we introduce them to work, finances, religion, history, politics, culture. We try and help them make sense of these things by introducing them to things like logic, philosophy, and religion. We introduce them to many of these things in an effort to counteract the introduction of fear, hate, heartbreak and evil that they will inevitably encounter. We introduce them to places that we feel are worthwhile and important, whether for their beauty or history, or for plain old fun.
Of all the introductions we can offer our children, those of the heart and spirit matter most. We introduce them to hope, to obedience. We focus on the “principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.” (link)
Through us they learn about choices and the consequences that inevitably follow. We introduce them to the Savior and His gospel. Through the way we treat them, their siblings, and their mother, we introduce them to the love of a father and husband. Frightenly symbolic, no?
And hopefully…if we are paying attention…we can introduce them to the Holy Ghost – and that can be a life-changer.
(And some would think that showing a son how to throw a curveball is somehow qualifies as important.)
Being that I am just finding my way in this next phase, I don’t claim to know much. Most of my kids are adults now, two are married, one a parent – but I still have one at home. They are smart, capable and good. A father’s hope is that when they leave the nest, they’ve left equipped to handle what the world throws at them. Equipped mentally, socially, spiritually and physically.
Sure, now and again I can surprise them by enlightening them with new knowledge, or introducing them to something that haven’t experienced before, but it doesn’t happen nearly as often. So what is my role now that I can’t carry them around on my hip and introduce them to new things?
I did a lot of stewing and searching, and the best word I could find to describe this next phase is that of being a “Mentor.” A mentor is defined two ways:
- A wise and trusted counselor or teacher or,
- An influential senior sponsor or supporter.
I think either works, but combined, they fit better. In a very literal sense, I have had the opportunity of working with four of the five in a professional capacity, but this “mentoring” as a father pushes far beyond those boundaries.
Now my kids are independent adults. They are “agents unto themselves.” (link) They are accountable for their choices. Which, of course, means I can wash my hands and stop worrying. Cue the hysterical laughter. The reality is that I still worry about my kids just as much as I always have. I don’t have to worry about a lot of the stuff that concerned me when they were younger, but those simpler worries give way to worries that have greater reach and impact more people. Yet I acknowledge that my role is now different.
I am available as a mentor. When my kids want to talk to me, they know they can talk to me. If they want to talk to me about careers or education, or if they want advice, I will gladly give it. – but I won’t tell them what to do – that is their call.
If they are having health issues, and want my help, I will research doctors and help fight the insurance battles to the hilt – If they ask.
Want my opinion on your love life? You betcha!
If they want to talk politics, I’ll gladly spout my views – but I won’t tell them how to vote.
(One thing the FOMLs know, as you all do, is that I am never short on opinions, and I have a thousand blog posts to prove it. I do find solace in knowing that no child of mine will leave my nest and be able to claim that they did not know how their dad felt about things, and where he stood – especially about the things of God.)
If they are having spiritual questions, or struggles, and ask for my thoughts, I would leap at the opportunity to talk to them about the things of God. Should they want advice in this area, I will gladly give it – if they ask for it or not – such is the role of the family Patriarch. But I’ll try not to push my way in, uninvited, “unless moved upon by the Holy Ghost.” (Link)
I can, and will, pray for them on a regular basis – sometimes with more intensity than others.
The main thing I want them to know as adults is that I love them, and I have their backs. I am their biggest fan, and will walk through fire for them. I find great joy in watching them grow, learn and succeed. I will love who they love, and celebrate their lives, and mourn when they mourn.
I will be here for them when they are searching for answers, when they are struggling, when they need help, when they need counsel, or when they need to be blessed. I love them, and I want them to live with me eternally.
Like a father does. Like our Father does.
(Yes, I am aware that most of this post applies to moms as well, but please let us have our moment today, thanks.)
Happy Father’s Day! If you would like to look at some past years posts, here they are:
2014: ‘Fathers and Lawnmowers.”
2013: “Keep Peddling.”
2012: “King of the Castle.”
and some silliness: “Fathers Day Coupons for Teenagers.”