Father moments can build memories, character in children

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Fathers are on our minds this weekend, and many people are thinking of their own father and other men who are father figures and good examples of what our society believes fatherhood should be.

I recall my own father and all the father figures in my life and how they affected my life in the formative years and into adulthood.

I also recall all those television fathers who always seemed to use love, sacrifice, wisdom and fatherly strength to pull the family out of one crisis after another as each week’s episode unfolded.

Who can forget the fathers in “Leave It to Beaver,” Make Room for Daddy,” “Father Knows Best,” “The Andy Griffith Show” and other television series that had strong fathers and children who sometimes had to learn painful lessons about relationships, behavior and other life situations?

In each episode there was eventually a clear “father moment,” usually near the end of the program, that brought all aspects of the situation into focus. The story line demonstrated how the father, sometimes with the help of the mother or another character, laid down the law, brought all aspects of the situation into focus and provided closure by helping the children see the error of their ways and guiding them into untangling the web they had created out of their immaturity and inexperience. The miraculous thing about these series was that the crisis was resolved in a period of 30 minutes.

Real fathers need much more time to bring about closure to family problems, and in some families, the problem might never really be solved.

Be that as it may, most families have father moments from time to time, just as they did in those memorable television series.

A father moment might be as simple as bedtime when Daddy reads a favorite book, sings a lullaby or gives his child a hug and kiss before he tucks him or her into bed. The father moment in such instances gives the child reassurance one more time that everything will be all right. These father moments are lined with gold.

Another father moment might involve a time when a child has to have a good talking to, as they say, a time when Daddy has to teach a painful lesson about lying or hurting another child or even stealing. Young children sooner or later learn to recognize father moments, and they begin to learn that Daddy is often right, even though the lessons may be painful.

Teenagers and adults continue to have father moments as they are around their fathers. Sometimes these moments involve humor so strong that the situation is remembered from time to time in family gatherings. We hear people say, “Remember the time that Dad...” or “I’ll never forget how much we all laughed when Daddy...” and then bend over double again in laughter.

No matter whether the memorable moment with Dad involved humor, pain, tender love, disappointment or some other emotion or sensation, the moment surely added another layer of character or wisdom that took hold in the conscious and unconscious realms of the child’s life.

Most of us can recall such father moments. I will share two of mine while you think about your own.

The first involves a snow day, a vacation from school, during the mid- or late ‘50s. The children in our family were, of course, frolicking in our snow-covered front yard, feeling our freedom from school, throwing snowballs and building showmen when Daddy, who evidently did not go to work that day due to the snow, suggested that we build an igloo in the front yard.

Always the builder, Daddy gathered some scrap wood from the shed and then designed and built a crude igloo, not too big but big enough to house our imagination. He made us think we were helping with the construction project, although he was the mastermind and the laborer for the most part.

And were we children proud of our igloo? You bet, especially when a television crew from WNCT stopped in our yard, filmed us as we went in and out of our igloo and told us to watch the news later that day to see if we could spot ourselves on the television weather report. The crew then went on their way to seek out other snowy-weather stories.

As they were driving away, I realized that Daddy had stepped away from the television cameras during the filming and let the story be ours, not his, even though he had done most of the work. I soon recognized this experience as a father moment. I hope I will never forget it.

The footage of our igloo did not make the cut on the weather report that night, but the father moment is filmed in my memory.

An entirely different father moment involved the time that Daddy’s brother was dying in the Veterans Administration hospital in Asheville. Family members had been taking turns staying with our uncle as he lay in bed, and our mother volunteered to travel to Asheville to stay for a few days to give other family members some rest. Daddy, who was so sad about his brother, stayed home, got all us children off to school and worked during those days while Mother was away. I was in the sixth grade.

On one of the nights as we were all watching television after supper, I found myself lying in Daddy’s lap while he was sitting in his stuffed rocker. He was holding me like a baby and rocking gently in the chair. I remember thinking how long it had been, my being such a big girl, since I had been in Daddy’s lap. What a powerful father moment, one that I think about often.

This Father’s Day, let’s gather up those father moments and give thanks for what they did for our lives.

Sanda Baucom Hight is retired after serving as an English teacher and is currently a substitute teacher in Wilson County. Her column focuses on the charms of home, school and country life. Email her at srbhight8@gmail.com.