Today I saw a fantastic father. He was sitting in an exam room in the clinic, and I caught sight of him as I walked by. He had a three-year old girl draped across his knees. He was drumming on her back with the sides of his hands, karate-chop style. She was saying “Ahhhh” and laughing at the way his drumming made the sound come out bumpy, “a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-h.” They were both having a great time.
I remember another dad who came to the clinic with his teenage daughter. She had a serious weight problem, and there was a real danger of diabetes. This dad could have talked about her compulsive eating or her couch-potato habits. Instead, he wanted to make sure I understood that his daughter was bright, hardworking, and creative. He clearly adored her. With support like this, I thought, she might just have the strength to make the difficult lifestyle changes she so badly needed.
Dads do so much for their children, and I say this not just because I happen to be one. The research is clear that fathers can shine as primary parents, and can raise healthy, well-adjusted children. But even when fathers don’t take the main responsibility for child-rearing, they can do so much to enrich it.
For one thing, they can add fun and excitement. Mommies give cuddles and comfort, but daddies, more often, are the one who throw you in the air, again and again, your first flights. A magical children’s book, which I loved reading and re-reading, is Danny, The Champion of the World, by Roald Dahl. I won’t spoil the story for you, but only say that the book ends with the idea that every child deserves “a parent who is SPARKY!” You have to read the book – trust me.
Other dads bring other gifts. They are strong, courageous, gentle, inquisitive, faithful, caring, tough, protective. Courage takes different forms. One father struggles to say No to his strong-willed, overweight son. When this dad was a boy, his own father was distracted by work and alcohol. So early on, the dad of my patient promised himself that he would be different, that his son would never want for affection. Now this overly-kind man has to work hard to set limits. He doesn’t always succeed, but he also doesn’t give up.
So, what’s all this have to do with the best fathers’ day present? Just this: Go ahead and buy that new power tool, that tie, that electronic gizmo or book. But while you’re wrapping it up, be sure to add a note to your dad. Tell him what he did, and what he does, to bring fun, excitement, security, and meaning to your life. That will be the best fathers’ day present ever.