Fathers — All Kinds — Are Important to Children
This year is a unique year for me. For those of you who have read my Father’s Day articles over that last 10 years plus, you know that I say that almost every year.
First, it was unique because my father and my grandfather died, making me the oldest male in my family. Then it was unique because my daughter got married and left home. Then it was unique because I turned 50, 51, and 52.
I think you see the pattern. I’m now convinced that every year you’re alive is a unique year. Not to overdo the phrase and lessen its importance, but this year is a unique year because last year I was blessed to get married to a beautiful woman who has two daughters. This will be the first that Father’s Day is not just for my natural children, but for what some call stepchildren and I like to call love children. This new position makes me nervous and scared.
Our family situation is nothing new; there are plenty of families that find themselves in this same position. There are a number of single parents who get married again and shed exclusive responsibility for bringing up the youngsters. It is a job that no one should try to do alone, although many have been successful at it. It is hard no matter how many are involved.
There are growing feelings among experts that more paternal involvement can have a significant influence on childrearing. Psychologist Henry Biller, author of “Father, Child and Sex Role,” says, “The presence and availability of fathers to kids is critical to their knowledge of social reality, their ability to relate to male figures, to their self-concepts, their acceptance of their own sexuality, their feelings of security.”
This kind of contribution is not a matter of biology alone. A survey done several years ago of 1,700 families by the Western Behavioral Institute at La Jolla, Calif., compared children who lived with stepfathers with those who lived with their natural fathers.
It concluded that the two groups were equal in mental and emotional development.
Many stepfathers, thinking themselves inadequate to the job, perpetuate a stereotype of the stepparent as being inferior to the natural one, although that is not always necessarily the case at all.
There are a number of studies indicating that attentive fathers are a factor in superior academic performance and in decreased delinquency, natural parent or not.
The late Clyde Dennis was founder of Good News Publishers of Westchester, Ill., the world’s largest tract publisher-distributor. His son, Jan, pays tribute to his father in the following incident:
“I remember an incident about my father that happened during the summer before he died. This summer was the last hurrah of carefree boyhood for me. We were renting a home on Balboa Island in Southern California, and I had the rare privilege of whiling away my days in whatever pursuits took my fancy. I knew Dad was sick, but I had no idea he had only a short time left. I think he knew, but, in keeping with his generous nature, he wanted me to get as much out of that summer as I could. Thus he kept up the appearance of cheerfulness and good spirits so that I would be free from worry during my vacation.
“He even went so far as to ask me if I’d like to play a round of pitch and putt golf with him. This was a small pleasure we had often shared before his illness, and something I’d always got a big kick out of. This particular day was vintage Southern California-temperature in the upper 70s, deep blue cloudless sky, balm sea breeze faintly rustling eucalyptus and oleander.
“The round began normally enough. He seemed in good spirits and looked healthy in his deep tan. About halfway through, he began to falter. His breath came in short gasps and his color was bad. And he was sweating far more heavily than this little exertion seemed to warrant. I asked if he was all right, and he made light of it. But when we got back to the clubhouse, he was plainly exhausted.
“What that round of golf must have cost him! But he wanted to do it. He wanted to share that time alone with me before time ran out and there would be nothing left to share. It was a lesson in courage and generosity that I’ll never forget.”
“George Muller never gives up!” exclaimed the 19th century prayer warrior who for more than 60 years housed, fed, clothed, and educated thousands of orphans in dependence on God alone.
In a new biography, Roger Steer emphasizes Muller’s convictions about prayer: “Once I am persuaded that a thing is right and for the glory of God, I go on praying for it until the answer comes. The great fault of the children of God is that they do not continue in prayer; they do not persevere.”
Steer’s first chapter, “Prussian Playboy,” describes Muller’s drinking, immorality, lying, forgery, and stealing and tells about his prison terms. At age 20, however, George Muller was converted. He took as his motto, “A servant of Christ has but one Master.”
Muller is remembered best for his orphan work. Radical for his times, he provided for children of the poor. The girls would be brought up for domestic service, and the boys would be taught a trade. All would be taught the Bible and led to Christ, if possible.
By 1981, Muller’s five homes were providing for more than 2,000 babies and older children. He did not ask for financial supplies or even pray publicly for funds. The children were taught to “be anxious for nothing” and by faith to thank God even when standing by empty tables. A knock at the door always meant provisions from some unforeseen source; and in all the years, only once was a meal served a half hour late.
Calling himself “a cool, calculating businessman,” Muller said he was never surprised at God’s answers. Muller’s orphanages still exist, although now the children live in family group houses and go to public schools.
No matter if you are a Clyde Dennis-type father, taking care of your natural children, or a George Muller-type father, taking care of children because of love, we wish you a Happy Father’s Day and know that we need you both.
Guest columnist Cummings is pastor of Bethlehem Apostolic Temple in Wheeling and Shiloh Apostolic Temple in Weirton.