By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
Dad knelt beside me during Mass on a holy day of obligation when I was in grade school. It felt like an honor to spend time with the Lord and my busy dad who worked long days. I cherish that memory. I asked Dad, now 85 and still mentally sharp, “Do you remember when you took me with you to Mass on holy days of obligation?
No, he did not. But he diligently tried to reconstruct a memory that had vanished. “It would have been at Nativity (of Our Lord Catholic Church in St. Paul, Minn.). I’d just go to work a little later,” he said.
So much for memories of bonding! “Next question,” I said to my dad, during our pre-Father’s Day interview. “What do you like most about being a father?” “It’s growing up all over again through your kids,” he said. “The things you did when you were young you duplicate when you get older: taking (the kids) skating and playing ball. And as the kids get older you can have good heart-to-heart talks.”
Dad relished seeing his four kids mature to adulthood, marry and have their own kids. “It’s just life going on, like the Lord intended. You have kids and you see them grow up and they have kids … you hope each generation improves more.”
“What has been the most challenging aspect of fatherhood?” I asked. “I suppose discipline,” Dad said. His dad died when he was 4-1/2 and his mom had to work to support nine kids. So, “I had to learn on the run how to discipline. My brothers and sisters kept me on the go. We took care of each other. My mom wasn’t a strict disciplinarian. She was good, but most of the time we didn’t get in trouble. We felt our mother had such a big job to do that we tried to make it easier on her. When I became a parent, I had to learn to teach my kids discipline. Your mother helped me with that a lot.”
Each child’s uniqueness impacted his approach to discipline. The bottom line: “You try to give them the same love and affection. … You want to see them treat people nicely and to have friends.”
Fatherhood was hectic in the early years, he said. “It didn’t seem like there was enough time in the day to get everything done. There was hardly any time to just sit down and read a book. But it was interesting and the time went by fast. Being a parent is a good job.”
Dad believes that fatherhood is about paying it forward. “Everything you hope you did for your kids you hope to see them doing for their kids.”
“What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned as a father?” “Wishing I had had a father myself that I could have gone to when I needed help or advice. I never had that. I could go to my mom, so that was good.”
I asked him a trick question: “Who was your favorite child?” “That’s a leading question, especially when your oldest child is asking it, he laughed. “I enjoy all four of my children.”
“What have you learned from your kids?” “When you have kids you learn to share. Maybe when I was a kid I didn’t share as much as I should. When you are a parent, you have to share.”
“How has your Catholic faith shaped you as a father? I asked. “It’s made me more religious,” he said. “Faith helps you get over the hurdles of problems. With your faith you can rely on the Lord. You have someone to back you up.”
Happy Father’s Day to all who are fathers or have been like a father to others.
(Editor Barb Arland-Fye can be reached at email@example.com.)