“Being a role model is the most powerful form of educating…too often fathers neglect it because they get so caught up in making a living they forget to make a life.”
― John Wooden, Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court
Sitting in meetings, talking with friends, listening to strangers, I have heard it over and over. Not every father was a daddy. It is heart-breaking. When people are trying to come to terms with God as a father, they are often turning the other way because there is nothing about a father that feels warm and loving to them. In many families, even the mother is no kind of parent who brings love and nurturing. That’s when the world has to step in and step up. That is when our eyes and ears must be aware. Luckily, that isn’t the scene before me just now.
On Friday morning the pictures began popping up on social media. Sweet photos of daddies holding daughters and sons–smiling, hugging, cheering. As I’ve done for so many years, though, I’ve been thankful for my own father and have considered those who don’t have those photos to share, and not because they lost the pictures, but because those pictures have never been taken. For some generations, fathers thought they had to be the firm ones, sometimes taking ‘firm’ to an extreme. For some generations, fathers thought they had to be the providers, leaving parenting to the mothers. For some generations, fathers haven’t thought they needed to be present. Wait, that’s not a generation, that’s just a mindset of many idiots out there who were able to donate sperm. The thought of what would follow never occurred to them, and in many cases never has. That’s where mothers, grandparents, and other relatives have come in. “Father” takes on a new meaning, and that is a great thing. Look around you. Who do you know who needs someone to step in and be a father? It doesn’t mean paying their bills or buying their clothes. It means being a role model, showing them love, encouraging them to be the best THEY can be. Sometimes, that’s a job you get as a neighbor or the parent of a classmate. Watch for the opportunities. There are so many mothers who have never known what it means to have a two-parent home. So many children who have never seen two adults share the burdens and joys of parenting. We were not created to do it all alone. “It takes two to tango” covers a lot of ground not on a dance floor.
Same sex parents have been a new thing to watch, but it has been eye-opening to be reminded that parents are people who love a child and bring them a sense of acceptance, encouragement, and guidance. I am so proud of friends who have chosen to embrace family without allowing stigmas to get in the way. What a beautiful lesson these children learn–that love is not limited to certain folks. For all of you who are quick to judge, I ask would you prefer that a child be raised in an abusive home by a set of parents who meet your standards or in a home where two people love each other? I can sleep at night knowing there are two men or two women who are teaching children that love isn’t defined by a judgmental standard. I can’t begin to explain why it works like it does, but there it is.
And then there was my daddy. (What would the post be if I am not allowed to speak fondly of the man who helped shape me?) The father who was too caught up in himself to be a daddy? THAT WAS NOT my daddy. He always had time for my brother and me. He wasn’t the father who got so caught up making a living he forgot to make a life. Part of what helped him in that choice of direction, though, was my mother. She took care of reminding him that we needed a vacation when summer rolled around. He obliged and was a great driver and participant. I never want to leave her out of his being a good father.
When I was in high school, he sat on my bed and assured me I was pretty and said those girls who kept me on the outside weren’t worth having as friends. When I was finally coming clean about a very difficult relationship, he said he had always known and had tried to just be nice–he was a rock for my shattered soul.
If he had known the horrors I had seen, he might have hurt someone, so I kept it to myself. I loved my daddy and knew he loved me unconditionally.
Daddy thought I would grow up to be a jet-setter, model, world traveler. I tried first to be a chemical engineer, hoping to make him proud, but then admitted that I just wanted to teach school–I had always loved working with children so much. I feared letting him down, but he was supportive of my choices. He also supported me by sending me on my way. When school had come in second place to life, I left the university and my parents’ home and set out to find my way in Nashville. It had to have been scary to watch his little girl travel that road. His wisdom was always there, though, he had shared enough through the years that I could hear his kind voice in many situations. He had a good sense of humor, which helped many situations. He liked and respected the man I married–that mattered to me, and that man has become a man I love and respect in ways I never dreamed possible. He, too, is a great father. Bernie Steen is Dad to his sons. He has loved them unconditionally. His father and mine would be so proud of the father he is, the man he has become. Our sons are lucky fellas. I’m sure they, like their father and I do, will one day look back and realize that neither of their parents was the best parent they were without the love and support of the other parent.
John Wooden was a wise man. I knew who he was at an early age because my daddy respected him so much. I knew what basketball was at an early age and have loved it for most of my life because of my own father’s love of the sport. I’ve never salted my beer like he did, and I never have eaten sauerkraut like he did. Maybe I’ll try to do something different today and be a little more like him. After all, everything else he taught me has turned out to be pretty good stuff!
Happy Father’s Day to all of you dads, moms, relatives, teachers, and friends who have jumped in to throw a ball, cheer a kid, wash some laundry, fix a car…the list could go on all day. You get the point. Thank you for being the “men” some children have needed you to be.
So you’ll know his name…John Allen Black, born July 14, 1929. Raised in DeMotte, Indiana, where the soil was black and full of burrs. Served the U.S. in the Marines in Korea. Graduated from Purdue University as an Aeronautical Engineer. Married to Elizabeth Park Wiggins Black. Raised two children, David Allen Black and Susan Lorean Black Steen. Had five grandchildren–Garrett Kendrick Black, Bernard Leo Steen III (Chip), Allie Elizabeth Black LeGuene, Parker Allen Steen, Hunter Allen Black. He died on May 27 1996. One great grandson has been born since Daddy’s death…Briggs Allen LeGuene.