Day Writing by Heather Hamilton-Maude: Fathers
I was on my sixth or so errand of the day, with my then one-year old son in tow. The location was an equipment rental/home building supply store. Right next to the entrance was a mini-excavator, and my son zoned in on that bad boy from across the parking lot.
It was clearly a rental machine that had seen harder hours than a toddler could inflict, so I let him climb aboard and check it out. He was about 15-seconds into a fascinating set of levers and mysteriously missing key when a 20-something year old man sporting construction yellow came out the door.
He stopped dead in his tracks, and thoroughly took in the little boy doing his little boy thing. Then he turned to me.
Come to find out, he had been dating a girl quite seriously, but they broke up in large part because she refused to let her son do anything outside the house. He couldn’t get dirty, play rough, go along to fish or work, and most definitely could not do anything like what my son was currently doing. This man said he couldn’t take fighting about it anymore, and since he wasn’t the biological father, he wasn’t in much of a position to do what he believed was right by the boy. But, he also couldn’t take letting him just sit in a house for his entire boyhood. You could tell it all really weighed on him.
We chatted for a minute or two. Then, as he drove off, he honked and waved. My son looked up, and gave him the head nod. To which he hollered, “Never take those hands off the wheel when you’re operating machinery, good job buddy!”
I have given that man an awful lot of thought ever since that day. That little boy and his mom, too.
I never gave a second thought to letting my son climb on a piece of used machinery. Largely because I grew up doing the same, to the point of extreme boredom as my younger brother explained all the intricacies of various machines and vehicles.
I have a good dad who took my brother and I along a lot. Who made me learn how to change my oil, but once I had it fairly down, happened to change it for me most of the time. A dad who taught me to back a trailer, and drive a five-speed pickup as that same younger brother sat in the passenger seat and whined that I was going to take out the transmission. I also have a good mom who let both son and daughter go with dad and learn life skills, only occasionally putting her foot down in response to hearing we would both be learning to, say, run the chainsaw.
I married a guy who has much the same mentality. At four and six, my kids have been busy this spring riding horses, packing the staple bucket, and eye balling for prairie dogs where ever we go. They’re seemingly permanently dirty, scuffed, and critical of any fence missing a staple. If I ever fuss much about the state of their clothes or shoes, someone is always there to remind me, “they’re just clothes,” or, “they’re just shoes.”
This is normal to me – probably to a lot of you, as well. But, to so many people, it isn’t normal, and that’s too bad. It is especially too bad for little boys, as they truly need a masculine, fatherly influence. They need to get dirty, obtain a few bruises, build things, break things, and fix things. They need someone to give them some responsibility, some physical work, some consequences when they dodge that work and responsibility, and a manly, “job well done,” when they succeed.
Here’s to all the dads, regardless of how they became a dad, who fulfill that role in their child or children’s lives. May we women realize what a rare gift a true man is in today’s world, and also remember the value of allowing them to fulfill that God-given role.
Happy Father’s Day.
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