By Henrylito D. Tacio
At one time, a close friend of American president Theodore Roosevelt asked him why he did not take a more active role in supervising his free-spirited daughter, Alice. Roosevelt purportedly replied, “I can be president of the United States, or I can attend to Alice. I can’t do both.”
Such is the quandary of most fathers. They can’t have both worlds; one can be neglected over the other. “To be a successful father,” advised American author Ernest Hemingway, “there’s one absolute rule: when you have a kid, don’t look at it for the first two years.”
But Sigmund Freud contradicted that idea. “I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father’s protection,” he once said. William Shakespeare, the father of English literature, agreed: “It is a wise father that knows his own child.”
Joe Kennedy knew this. For all his shortcomings, his loyalty to his children was absolute. “My business is my family and my family is my business,” he said. At one time, he told Steve Smith, “You know, when I was just trying out for the freshman team for some of those swimming meets, my dad was always there. He was always there. He did the same for all the kids.”
Spending time with your kids as they grow is one of the best things a father can give to them. When Dr. Gordon Neufeld, a Canadian developmental psychologist, became worried about his 13-year-old slavish imitation of her peers’ language and bearing, he booked a week-long vacation with her at a rented cottage.
Predictably, his daughter balked at the plan, “but we gradually rediscovered the closeness we’d had when she was younger,” Neufeld recalls. “When the week was over, we both agreed that it had been a great idea.”
Of course, children can learn so many things from their father. Famous inventor Thomas Alva Edison had given his son, Charles Edison, one of the most remarkable lessons in life when he lost almost everything to fire. But Thomas was able, literally, rise from the ashes. Here is the story:
On the night of December 9, 1914, the great Edison Industries of West Orange was virtually destroyed by fire. Thomas Edison lost two million dollars that night and much of his life’s work went up in flames. He was insured for only US$238,000, because the buildings had been made of concrete, at that time thought to be fireproof.
“My heart ached for him,” Charles said of his father. “He was 67, not a young man anymore, and everything was going up in flames. He spotted me. ‘Charles,” he shouted, ‘where’s your mother?’ ‘I don’t know, Dad,’ I said. ‘Find her,’ he told me. ‘Bring her here. She will never see anything like this again as long as she lives.'”
The next morning, walking about the charred embers of all his hopes and dreams, Thomas said, “There is great value in disaster. All our mistakes are burned up. Thank God, we can start anew.” And three weeks after the fire, his firm delivered the first phonograph!
“The best gift a father can give to his son is the gift of himself – his time,” wrote C. Neil Strait. “For material things mean little, if there is not someone to share them with.” Another advice, “Live so that your son, when people tell him that he reminds them of you, will stick out his chest, not his tongue.”
Ah, to be father. “That is the thankless position of the father in the family – the provider for all, and the enemy of all,” deplored J. August Strindberg. And oftentimes, children have a hard time understanding this role.
Consider this story: A young man from a wealthy family was about to graduate from high school. It was the custom in that affluent neighborhood for the parents to give the graduate an automobile. Bill and his father had spent months looking at cars, and the week before graduation they found the perfect car.
Imagine his disappointment when, on the eve of his graduation, Bill’s father handed him a gift-wrapped Bible. Bill was so angry, he threw the Bible down and stormed out of the house. He and his father never saw each other again after that incident. Years later, it was the news of his father’s death that brought Bill back home again.
As he sat one night, going through his father’s possessions that he was to inherit, he came across the Bible his father had given him. He brushed away the dust and opened it to find a cashier’s check, dated the day of his high school graduation — in the exact amount the car they had chosen together.
However successful your father is and how famous he becomes, he will find himself old one day. When was the last time you have talked with your father or listen to his moaning? You can’t remember anymore? This story will tell you how much your old father needs you now:
It came to pass that a little boy and an old man meet in a hospital. There, the two talk on anything . “Sometimes, I drop my spoon,” the boy said. “I do that, too,” the old man seemed to agree. The little boy whispered, “I wet my pants.” The old man laughed, “I do that, too.”
“I often cry,” the boy said. “So do I,” the old man nodded. ‘But worst of all,” the little boy deplored, “it seems grown-ups don’t pay attention to me.” The old man touched the hands of the little boy as if he wanted to assure him. “I know what you mean,” the old man said.
“Be kind to thy father, for when thou wert young, who loved thee so fondly as he?” asked Margaret Courtney. “He caught the first accents that fell from thy tongue, and joined in thy innocent glee.”
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By Henrylito D. Tacio