In Praise of Good Fathers

In Praise of Good Fathers June 18, 2011

Have you noticed that it’s much easier to find a good man than Flannery O’Connor first suggested? Seriously. I don’t know where you have been looking, but over the past few weeks while traveling to eight states and the District of Columbia, I kept running into such fellas.

There was the father in church in Murfreesboro, Tennessee who cradled his fussy newborn son as his wife sat beside him, no doubt zoned out. The dad in D.C. who gingerly rolled his daughter’s stroller onto the Metro at Foggy Bottom, taking care not to wake her from her nap. A soldier wearing DDUs in Fort Benning, Georgia, balancing his boy on one hip while placing a breakfast order at Burger King.

And the man with tattooed arms in seat 10C on the Delta flight to Salt Lake City, who tried his level best to calm his toddler daughter. Despite the hissy-fit she was pitching, this devoted father persistently attempted to soothe his baby girl. He offered her coloring books, cookies, and even a chance to sit on Daddy’s lap. Nothing worked, but he never gave up, not even after he asked her for a kiss and she resolutely refused him.

It’s become so commonplace to see a father tending a child that nobody hardly pays any attention to it any more.

But there was a time, oh not so long ago, where men were expected to do anything but “babysit” as Grandpa Zacharias used to call it. Grandpa Zacharias was a tough-as-nine-penny-nails kind of fellow. While his young son endured countless surgeries to treat the debilitating damage of polio, this family’s patriarch did not sit by his boy’s bedside offering comfort.

Instead, he was out in the fields cutting hay, or in the barn tending to cattle. Grandpa Zacharias would rather have chopped off his right arm than to be caught changing a baby’s diaper. He thought raising children was women’s work and he expected his sons, and grandsons to follow his lead in that matter.

But they didn’t, which is the primary reason why I think my brother-in-law is one of the most remarkable fathers walking the wheat fields of Oregon’s Baker County.

Mark has managed to raise up two fine young men all on his own, without the benefit of a woman to help him. Divorced early, Mark fought for and won custody of the two boys before either was old enough to read. An incredible thing considering only one of the boys was biologically Mark’s son.

“They are brothers,” Mark explained whenever anyone asked. “They belong together.”

It hasn’t been easy, rearing two boys without a woman to help console broken hearts and wounded spirits. Not to mention helping with the cooking and shopping and all the myriad of details that go into making a house a home. Or all the extra niceties that a two-parent income affords, like sports camps and new saddles.

When Mark comes home dog-tired there’s nobody there to take over for him. He still has to peel the potatoes and mash ‘em, but he does it all without bitterness or complaint because Mark lives a life of intention, and it is his intent to be more than just a babysitter to his boys.

A good man isn’t all that hard to find. All you have to do is look for the big fellow in the cowboy boots sitting on the couch after supper folding the laundry.

That’s the man Lane and Robert call Dad.

Karen Spears Zacharias is author of Will Jesus Buy Me a Doublewide? ’cause I need more room for my plasma TV. Zondervan


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  • Okay, can I eat THIS one with a spoon?

    Triple-love.

  • This is so good. There ARE a lot of good fathers. I’ve often thought that I’m glad I wasn’t a wife or mother in my own mother’s era.

  • Seems like every year around father’s day, we here as much negative as positive. Stories about how men need to do better: pay more attention to kids, work fewer hours, etc., all of which are worthy goals. But the implication in many of such stories is that most men are dropping the ball, and I don’t know if Father’s Day is the best time to make such blanket accusations, especially when one cannot back them up.

    Fatherhood is a great thing, and I am loving it. I am doing some things wrong. And I’m doing a lot of things right. Just like most men I know. Thanks for highlighting the good, Karen. Hopefully it will, for one weekend, drown out all the people who are highlighting our shortcomings.

  • I loved your article very, very, very much. The three
    very s, were intentional. Please, email me an address to where I can mail you a copy of a project I’ve been working on for years.
    The name of my narrative is “Not of Olympus”, and it’s my story; what millions and millions of Divorced/Single Dads want to decry to the world and to their children.
    I think you’d really like it… THANKS
    Peter, a 62 year old ‘Single Dad’ (not by choice).

  • Gloria

    Thank you for honoring all fathers with this post but especially thank you for the words you wrote about Mark. Though there has been many rough patches through it all he has been a good father. Bless you for recognizing him. Bless Tim also for providing such a great example for Mark to follow. My kids count Uncle Mark and Uncle Tim as second dads!

  • Miss Karen,
    I had to look at that image three times to determine if it was one of mine with my fellas. 😉

    As you know, seeing my husband being a dad is what has broke my heart wide open for what I missed. My husband comes home for the weekend and is dog-tired from catching up on all the honey-does that I cannot get done in a week, but he still plays old maid, tosses the baseball, throws a frisbee, goes fishing, and loves up our son (and me) — probably more in his 30 hours at home that most kids get two weeks time.

    As always, thanks for sharing.

    Blessings.