Father(s) of the Year, 2013

With the recent announcement that Bill Clinton has been named as one of the recipients for the 2013 Father of the Year Award from the National Father’s Day Committee  I thought that it would be worthwhile to announce my own three winners.  It’s not necessarily that I dislike Bill Clinton – great politician, but like other great politicians, not someone you’d want to date your daughter – but the whole thing smells of an attempt to raise money for two charities and the bigger the names, the more the money.  The intent of the affair is to raise money for the American Diabetes Association as well as Save the Children and the efforts will raise millions of dollars for the charities, albeit by bestowing honors upon those who can deliver ticket sales and publicity; it’s just the way that the world works.

It’s honestly annoying and I know that everybody knows someone personally who’d be a great nominee.  So I’d like to nominate three men who I believe exemplify fatherhood in today’s fast-paced, economically stressed society.

Jeff is a former bank operations manager, stepfather of one son and father of two more.  When he lost his job – his bank was forced into a sale after major internal fraud – he returned to school to earn his teaching degree and proceeded to do so with all three boys still under the roof.  During that period, he worked multiple part-time and tutoring jobs to help keep food on the table and a roof over the heads and since earning that education degree, has joined the millions of college graduates in an ongoing search for permanent employment while working in temporary and substitute positions.  I’ve known him through this entire period and he’s been active in multiple volunteer roles, performed because he understands that the kids’ activities aren’t run with paid staff or by themselves and it’s not uncommon to see him at a son’s baseball game, grading student papers while he watches and cheers.

Rob is a small-town police detective with two children, a boy and a girl.  He’s been active in multiple activities apart from work and family, principally baseball, scouting and teaching Christian education at the elementary school level.  Rob’s like most fathers who are involved with the kids, running full tilt from work to activity and home, just to start up again early the next day, repeating the process.  What’s notable about the guy is that he’s fully aware that he serves as a role model, particularly for the boys, and is unceasing in his upbeat manner even when the kids’ antics might privately drive him to distraction or me to manslaughter.

Lou is a mechanic and divorced father of two boys, a guy who once told a major-league owner that his stable of pitches included a curve, a decent fastball and a beanball (if so requested).  He has custody of the boys and has to navigate the intricacies of parenting amidst divorce when ex-spouses might not see eye-to-eye.  Like the others, he stretches his time between work and activities, in this case acting as coach for both sons’ teams which might entail having to be in two places simultaneously or at the same location for the better part of an entire day as the boys share ball fields, if not teams.  Like his co-nominees, he recognizes that the events won’t occur by themselves and further acts as an umpire for other games so that the activities can move forward.

None of the three have President Clinton’s list of accomplishments, staff or peccadiloes and apart from the few who know them, none could be picked out by the masses of Americans were their photos tagged on bulletin boards.  What each does have in common – if not with the president – is an understanding that fatherhood is akin to a full contact sport that encompasses more than just putting a roof over the head and food on the table.  It requires persistence and energy, a willingness to engage the kids in more aspects of their lives than would have been thought of by fathers even two generations ago.  It is presence, conversation, education, encouragement, discipline, expectation, and yes, love.  They have family, but no paid staff, to help them and they understand that barring some weird quirk of fate, they will never gain such power or fame that their own kids will be able to rely on anything other than their own efforts to survive when they themselves become adults.  

So guys, Happy Father’s Day to you.  And to the millions of other men who quietly undertake a role that’s so much in transition from what their own fathers and grandfathers experienced, Happy Father’s Day to you as well.  There will be no audience recognition and any money for the charities will likely come from your own wallet.  But then again, raising children isn’t about ticket sales but instead, preparing them for the great wide world. 

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