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What Fathers Need to Know

June 15, 2022 | by Slovie Jungreis-Wolff

This Father’s Day, take a moment and appreciate the primary mission of being a father.

A mother confided with me what her kids wanted for a Passover afikomen present.

“Daddy, we’d love for you to come home once a week for supper. We never really get to see you and talk to you. That would be the best present.”

A week later, the kids waited to see if their father would honor their request. He came home and gathered the children round.

“Kids, I want to talk to you. I have something much better to give you.”

Their eyes opened wide with expectation.

“You mean you’re going to come home even more than once a week?”

“No,” he laughed. “Even better. Laptops for everybody!”

“He just doesn’t get it,” the mother said to me. “They don’t want his laptops. They want him.”

Some fathers believe that successful fatherhood means amassing investments and growing financial accounts. But I have met children who grew up with great wealth and yet they remain impoverished. The greatest poverty is poverty of the soul. A child waiting for a good word, a hug, or a game of catch – any sign of love or attention that goes unanswered will slowly put away his hopes and erect barriers that become difficult to take down.

There is a “love bank” upon which our children draw throughout their lives. Beyond the material, it is our legacy that provides children with strength and stability. Every father has the ability to transmit his unconditional love, which forms the bedrock for transmitting values, faith and resilience. Our children need to feel that their fathers are a steady presence in their lives, especially in today’s crazy world. They need to know that they’re not invisible to their fathers.

Dad, do you see me? Do you know who I am? Do you even love me?

When a father has a rough day and returns home to his family, he has a choice: Where do I put my energy? Do I recede into the background or focus on my family?

Being a dad means that despite your stress, you never lose sight of your mission. No matter how you feel, you put away your pressures, sit down, take a moment, look into your child’s eyes and unlock your heart. You decide that you are man enough to listen despite the noise going on in your head.

To be a father means that your love is endless. You are daddy even when you feel depleted inside. You give time, you listen, and you draw upon patience you never knew you possessed.

As a child, I recall my father returning home each night after supervising the teachers and children in the synagogue’s Hebrew school. It was only when I grew older that I learned of the daily aggravation my father faced. I had no idea how most kids did not want to sit there after a full day of sitting at their desks in public school. There was all types of mischief, destruction of property, and disrespect to deal with.

I waited to see my father each night. When I heard my father humming a tune as he opened the front door, I knew he was home. I remember running, exclaiming, “Abba!” and jumping into his arms. He’d scoop me up and laugh. Then, as he’d sit down to supper, he’d share a few bites with me because somehow, everything looked more delicious on my father’s plate. And he would listen as I chatted on about my day.

Now that I am a mother and bubby myself, I can appreciate the incredible effort it must have taken to smile and be interested in my stories and words. Years have passed. I strain to remember the sound of my father’s voice, his melodies at our Shabbat table, and the feel of his hand holding mine. But in the stillness of the night, it is that scene of my father opening the front door and being delighted to see me that remains vivid, and provides me strength and comfort.

Dear dads, this Father’s Day take a moment and focus on the primary mission of being a father. Know that each smile and hug, each moment you take to help your child feel that you care, each time you put away your own worries and ease your child’s pain, you are building your greatest legacy.

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