Father's Day is such a mixed bag of emotion for our household. This year, it seemed especially so. I think part of it was that it was also graduation weekend and there was a flurry of activity keeping us busy and not allowing us to really have a Father's Day event at our house (which is out of the norm). But there were other factors.
With my dad killing himself a month ago, it sort of took on a different feeling for me. Not that we spent time with my dad on Father's Day, but it just made me think... a lot.
Jessica had the traditional upset over her dad(s) inability to really be there for her. She called Ben and Vince, but neither one answered or got back to her, which really hurt her feelings.
Tim was feeling sad as well. The kids didn't make it over for this weekend. We spent the morning doing odds and ends and went to Watson's to pick up some plants for the yard. We also went to see his parents and then dropped down to pick up some seafood for Cioppino. Tim has it occasionally at a restaurant, but I've always intended to make it for him, so that was on the agenda.
When we got home, we puttered around for a little while and then I started cooking. Tim was instructed to "relax" so he got on the computer and ran across a speech given by Barack Obama. It is amazing. I've copied/pasted the bulk of it into the body below.
Excerpt from Remarks of Senator Barack Obama (As prepared for delivery) -- Apostolic Church of God - Sunday, June 15th, 2009
"...Still, I know the toll that being a single parent took on my mother – how she struggled at times to the pay bills; to give us the things that other kids had; to play all the roles that both parents are supposed to play. And I know the toll it took on me. So I resolved many years ago that it was my obligation to break the cycle – that if I could be anything in life, I would be a good father to my girls; that if I could give them anything, I would give them that rock – that foundation – on which to build their lives. And that would be the greatest gift I could offer.
I say this knowing that I have been an imperfect father – knowing that I have made mistakes and will continue to make more; wishing that I could be home for my girls and my wife more than I am right now. I say this knowing all of these things because even as we are imperfect, even as we face difficult circumstances, there are still certain lessons we must strive to live and learn as fathers – whether we are black or white; rich or poor; from the South Side or the wealthiest suburb.
The first is setting an example of excellence for our children – because if we want to set high expectations for them, we’ve got to set high expectations for ourselves. It’s great if you have a job; it’s even better if you have a college degree. It’s a wonderful thing if you are married and living in a home with your children, but don’t just sit in the house and watch “SportsCenter” all weekend long. That’s why so many children are growing up in front of the television. As fathers and parents, we’ve got to spend more time with them, and help them with their homework, and replace the video game or the remote control with a book once in awhile. That’s how we build that foundation.
We know that education is everything to our children’s future. We know that they will no longer just compete for good jobs with children from
You know, sometimes I’ll go to an eighth-grade graduation and there’s all that pomp and circumstance and gowns and flowers. And I think to myself, it’s just eighth grade. To really compete, they need to graduate high school, and then they need to graduate college, and they probably need a graduate degree too. An eighth-grade education doesn’t cut it today. Let’s give them a handshake and tell them to get their butts back in the library!
It’s up to us – as fathers and parents – to instill this ethic of excellence in our children. It’s up to us to say to our daughters, don’t ever let images on TV tell you what you are worth, because I expect you to dream without limit and reach for those goals. It’s up to us to tell our sons, those songs on the radio may glorify violence, but in my house we live glory to achievement, self respect, and hard work. It’s up to us to set these high expectations. And that means meeting those expectations ourselves. That means setting examples of excellence in our own lives.
The second thing we need to do as fathers is pass along the value of empathy to our children. Not sympathy, but empathy – the ability to stand in somebody else’s shoes; to look at the world through their eyes. Sometimes it’s so easy to get caught up in “us,” that we forget about our obligations to one another. There’s a culture in our society that says remembering these obligations is somehow soft – that we can’t show weakness, and so therefore we can’t show kindness.
But our young boys and girls see that. They see when you are ignoring or mistreating your wife. They see when you are inconsiderate at home; or when you are distant; or when you are thinking only of yourself. And so it’s no surprise when we see that behavior in our schools or on our streets. That’s why we pass on the values of empathy and kindness to our children by living them. We need to show our kids that you’re not strong by putting other people down – you’re strong by lifting them up. That’s our responsibility as fathers.
And by the way – it’s a responsibility that also extends to
We should be making it easier for fathers who make responsible choices and harder for those who avoid them. We should get rid of the financial penalties we impose on married couples right now, and start making sure that every dime of child support goes directly to helping children instead of some bureaucrat. We should reward fathers who pay that child support with job training and job opportunities and a larger Earned Income Tax Credit that can help them pay the bills. We should expand programs where registered nurses visit expectant and new mothers and help them learn how to care for themselves before the baby is born and what to do after – programs that have helped increase father involvement, women’s employment, and children’s readiness for school. We should help these new families care for their children by expanding maternity and paternity leave, and we should guarantee every worker more paid sick leave so they can stay home to take care of their child without losing their income.
We should take all of these steps to build a strong foundation for our children. But we should also know that even if we do; even if we meet our obligations as fathers and parents; even if
And that is why the final lesson we must learn as fathers is also the greatest gift we can pass on to our children – and that is the gift of hope.
I’m not talking about an idle hope that’s little more than blind optimism or willful ignorance of the problems we face. I’m talking about hope as that spirit inside us that insists, despite all evidence to the contrary, that something better is waiting for us if we’re willing to work for it and fight for it. If we are willing to believe.
I was answering questions at a town hall meeting in
Now, I have to admit that I wasn’t quite prepared for that one. I think I stammered for a little bit, but then I stopped and gave it some thought, and I said this:
When I was a young man, I thought life was all about me – how do I make my way in the world, and how do I become successful and how do I get the things that I want.
But now, my life revolves around my two little girls. And what I think about is what kind of world I’m leaving them. Are they living in a county where there’s a huge gap between a few who are wealthy and a whole bunch of people who are struggling every day? Are they living in a county that is still divided by race? A country where, because they’re girls, they don’t have as much opportunity as boys do? Are they living in a country where we are hated around the world because we don’t cooperate effectively with other nations? Are they living a world that is in grave danger because of what we’ve done to its climate?
And what I’ve realized is that life doesn’t count for much unless you’re willing to do your small part to leave our children – all of our children – a better world. Even if it’s difficult. Even if the work seems great. Even if we don’t get very far in our lifetime.
That is our ultimate responsibility as fathers and parents. We try. We hope. We do what we can to build our house upon the sturdiest rock. And when the winds come, and the rains fall, and they beat upon that house, we keep faith that our Father will be there to guide us, and watch over us, and protect us, and lead His children through the darkest of storms into light of a better day. That is my prayer for all of us on this Father’s Day, and that is my hope for this country in the years ahead. May God Bless you and your children. Thank you."
Wow. As Tim read this to me, both of us felt totally emotional over the words and the meaning behind them.
Could there be a better message? Doubtful. What a Father's Day gift to the country... he *has to be* our next President.