There’s this book beginning, of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, that says, "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." I disagree. I think it’s just about opposite. Misery is based on someone, or several people, breaking promises and failing to follow God. The same things are pretty much a given: selfishness, broken promises, hurting one another.
But in happy families, there will be a wide range of experiences, a lot of well-intended trial and error, fun, boredom, disappointment, exultation, and life spreading before us in all its variety.
I was thinking of this for Father’s Day weekend, about what it takes to be a good father. There’s not one single form; there’s as wide a range as there are good men. But there are some rules. (Someone reminded us of these in church yesterday, and now I wish I’d written them. I’m just relying on memory here.)
A Dad will:
· Spend time, more than money.
· Work hard for and with his family.
· Enjoy playing with his family.
· Love the mother of his children.
He can be athletic or not. He can be good with a grill or not. He can be loud or quiet. He can be polished or a little rough. He can be himself, whatever that is—if he’s trying to be his best self.
|Mr. Spherical Model, near the beginning of the Dad job,|
about 22 years ago.
Here are a few of the quirks we’ve observed in our household Dad, Mr. Spherical Model.
· Vacations are for doing things you don’t normally get to do, or see things you don’t normally see; so there’s no excuse for wasting a minute. You fill every minute. Ten+ miles a day should be minimum.
· Sports are for girls every bit as much as for boys—and Dad will just about always be the coach (which explains why daughter Social Sphere learned basketball instead of dance).
· A dad that is big enough to intimidate just by walking in a room and looming over everyone gets the luxury of acting friendly to the kids’ friends.
· Being considered an honorary teen for several extra decades is better than a lot of worldly honors.
· It’s good to be one of those dads/grandpas/neighbors who loves holding babies and is sure he has the secret formula for calming fussiness.
· When you say no to a daughter and she texts back that she hates you, you can be sure that she doesn’t really hate you and an apology is forthcoming; but you can save the texts to illustrate the amusing anecdote later.
· Sure, save for a daughter’s wedding, but no matter what, it will cost more than you ever envisioned—but if you’ve been a good Dad all along, then she’s probably choosing the right groom, and it’s worth it.
· Never swear around the Mom or kids, and the kids won’t swear around their Mom either (and maybe not around their friends either).
There’s more, of course. So far it’s been nearly three decades of being a Dad for Mr. Spherical Model. And so far we’ve raised our three children to be young adults we can be proud of (and thankful for). And we’re on to the dessert course—grandparenting.