Fatherhood better without instructions

Published 11:00 pm Saturday, June 20, 2009

As much as we may like for them to, newborn babies don’t come with an instruction manual. Neither does fatherhood.

Men have to learn on the fly what it takes and what it means to be a good father, a process that I have enjoyed tremendously over the past 17 months or so.

For me, fatherhood is about doing the right thing in all your decisions to ensure that you are there to love and support your children. It is about making sure your child or children know how much you care and that you will always be there for them, no matter what.

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Having faced some trials and tribulations as most of us do, I’m proud of many accomplishments in my life but none more so than efforts I have made to become a good father and husband.

Becoming a father also gave me an even greater respect for my own Dad. It reminded me of a quote by one of my all-time favorite authors and an American genius — Mark Twain.

“When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around,” Twain wrote. “But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.”

Truer words may not have ever been written to describe growing up and the transition to adulthood.

Seeing as how this is only my second year filling this role, I wanted to ask a few others what it means to them to be a father.

I asked a variety of people who I feel are community leaders but who also have to lead at home with their children and families.

Read on:

“To me, being a good father is more about being there for my children, for their plays, science fair projects, softball and basketball games, karate tournaments, and the like, than what I can buy them. Providing the latest fad is not my primary role. Being a good father is about a stable home life that my children can feel relaxed when at home and feel comfortable to bring their friends to visit, knowing they also will be welcomed. I want my children to know I am there for them when they need me, no matter how large or small the issue. Being a good father with the same priorities still holds true even though one of my children now owns his own house.”

— Mark G. Compston, financial advisor Wells Fargo Advisors

“Being a father is about being supportive and encouraging to my children’s dreams. If I am half as good to my kids as my dad is to me, everything will be fine.”

— Ironton Mayor Rich Blankenship

“Being a good father means you are always there for your children: To care for them, to nurture them, to teach them and, most importantly, to love them.

“Being a good father has been the one of the most rewarding things, next to my relationship with my wife, in my life.

“… My family has always come first in my life. I cannot wait for time off from work to spend time with them. I have dedicated my life to loving and caring for my sons and I am fortunate to have a close bond with them that nothing will break. Their future and their success means everything to me.”

— Lawrence County Sheriff Jeff Lawless

“Being a father is the ultimate test of courage and strength. You have to have the courage to let your children fail as long as they are trying to succeed and have the strength to continue loving them regardless of the choices they make, even if they do exactly the opposite of what you advise.”

— Michael Lutz, Ironton City Councilman

“Being a good father to me means providing genuine interest in your children. I feel that you get out of this life what you are willing to put into it and that includes raising your children.

“Children are very intuitive, more so than many may think. If you are simply going through the motions, ‘putting in your time’ and just providing ‘lip service’ to your kids, then your children are aware of that insincerity and lack of genuine interest in their well being.

— Rob Slagel, Ironton businessman

“I think fatherhood is at once one of the toughest and most rewarding things that can happen to any man. My father, who is gone now to that Tanks Stadium in the sky and his great reward with his Lord, was a guy who worked hard all of his life. He did it selflessly with his only motive being to provide for his family. … To me, my Dad was the supreme example of what it means to be a good father. I pale beside him.”

— Butch Huff, Ironton City Councilman

“Being a father is life’s greatest joy and pride, but also ones greatest responsibility. It is a mother and father’s daily walk that can later be observed in their children.”

— Bill Dingus, economic development leader

“Being a father, to me, is the ultimate responsibility in life. It extends itself beyond just the biological connection to one’s own children. The level of energy and understanding that it requires has astounded me.

“I have been lucky to have four children, two boys and two girls, with diverse interests which have only made my life fuller. Being a good father to me is maintaining an understanding that each child is an individual with varying needs and desires which may or may not be the same as their father’s, but which a good father will go out of his way to help their children find their own way to what fulfills them both spiritually and physically in moral ways.

“My father always provided me with great advice. Very seldom have I ever found his advice wrong. He reminded me to never give up for what is right and to pass that on to my own children. If I can do as good as job as he did then I will be satisfied. “

— Bob Clyse, owner Bob Clyse Buick-Pontiac-GMC

All these comments reinforce my thought that this will always be a work in progress. I am learning each and every day, just like my beautiful little girl.

And you know what? I’m glad that there wasn’t a step-by-step guide to fatherhood because the journey is truly more important than the destination.

Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Tribune. To reach him, call (740) 532-1445 ext. 24 or by e-mail at mike.caldwell@irontontribune.com.