On this father’s day, I’m going to take my lesson on being a Dad from a mom.
I never could’ve imagined what one Mom, Lauren Warner, learned from sipping lemonade. It’s the big lesson; the biggest. And not surprisingly, it came from the littlest of teachers. Take a look.
There’s a tendency to think that Father’s Day should be about ties and after-shave and lawn mowers. And why not? I have no problem with any of these gifts and men do need them—well, maybe not everyone needs a lawn mower. But I love the idea of celebrating Dads and Moms. I’ll miss my Dad on Father’s Day this year and for as long as I live. I loved celebrating him when he was alive.
But there’s something about Father’s day that has always bothered me: it’s the idea that Dad’s are all about the outdoors and sports and being tough but not about relationships and tenderness and love. I’m not sure that generalization is fair, but I feel it a lot. Men just aren’t supposed to be the kind of tough that includes tender. When it comes to discussing things like pregnancy and birth and childhood, the conversation is left to women. A man’s role? To stay out of it.
But I sometimes wish we could have a Father’s Day discussion about how to get Dad’s into the work of creating a society where every mother and every father and every child was supported in affirming the goodness of all life. I wonder what it would look like if we asked Dads to be part of the work of building communities where every family felt that their child was welcomed and valued and cherished.
I like to think Dads could be part of a “choose life” agenda—to be “life coaches” in the broadest sense. What might it involve? What would it look like for pediatricians offices to have “life coach” volunteers who included men who are ready to support moms and dads who are struggling to adjust to the news that their child will be different in some way? For child care centers to have “life coach” specialists who include men who know and value the diversity of children’s needs and happily inform parents that their children with differences are wanted and needed? For both male and female health care professionals to focus as much on care as on diagnosis and cure? For both men and women to affirm the ways in which vulnerability and love; grit and bravery; hope and acceptance guide our deepest aspirations and longings as individuals, as citizens, as people who believe in the dignity of life? For Dads to be people who make children feel safe enough to be vulnerable?
I’m not smart enough to know all these answers. But I am open enough to try to listen to Moms like Lauren Warner and to do my best to follow her guidance wherever it leads. At the simplest level, I believe she will lead me closer to being fully present to my own children, fully open to the children of others, to being fully alive.
And that’s a goal worth choosing for me—as a Dad.