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Let’s celebrate all the fathers in our lives

“Every father should remember that one day his son will follow his example instead of his advice.”
Now, I’m not trying to drop a subtle hint – it’s not subtle at all – but it will soon be Father’s Day here in Britain (Sunday, June 17 this year).
Father and son building
sandcastles together
Becoming a dad has helped me to understand and appreciate my own father more deeply. The sacrifices he made for me throughout my life never went unnoticed. But it took becoming a stepfather and father myself for the extent of his generosity to sink in. His quiet selflessness and devotion to the people around him (and his voluntary work) has been an inspiration, as has his super-human patience in helping me, as a child, to understand my maths homework.
I think fathers do a lot for their families that goes unnoticed, probably out of sight and out of mind, behind the scenes, not seeking reward or recognition. And that’s even more reason why it’s worth making an effort on Father’s Day.

Fathers – good, bad, indifferent, absent, or surrogate – play a life-shaping role in our physical and emotional development. And, as with all parenting, it is more by what they do – and how they relate to the world and the people around them – than by what they say.

Of course, the men who fathered us are not necessarily the only fathers in our lives: many people have stepfathers, foster fathers, adopted fathers; older brothers, uncles, grandfathers and friend’s fathers might also fulfil that role; so too might youth and religious group leaders, older work colleagues or bosses, mentors and friends. Counsellors, also, may be treated like father figures.

Inspiring teachers past and present might also be a source of fatherly guidance – in my case, the Buddha’s teachings and example have been of great benefit recently in helping me to disentangle a messy mind. But there are many others.

Boys especially need caring, encouraging, inspiring male role models who can help them to value themselves and their role in society, who can teach them how to harness their energy in ways that are personally fulfilling, community enhancing and world embracing.

In fact, it seems fitting that Father’s Day is so close to the Summer Solstice – the high point of the solar year – when the sun (depicted in some mythologies as a goddess, but in many as a god - and I'll go with the latter for the purposes of this article) inspires us to be the best we can be; to shine from the heart as brightly as we can that we may bring as much light and warmth and love as we are capable of into our lives and the lives of those around us.

In our family, when either child is ill, mum is first choice. When it’s time to play or to explore places or ideas, it’s dad who’s favourite. And it is dad who lets them take more risks and push beyond boundaries. I am more likely than my wife to encourage our son, for example, to climb a tree (though I’ll advise him on how to do so safely – which branches to use, where to get a secure handhold, etc). I would sooner he learn (possibly the hard way) with me there than find out later when no one’s about to guide (or rescue) him.

As the earth and the rain nourish and nurture a seedling, so the air gives it the space to grow and the sun’s warmth encourages it to bloom. I think these are the gifts of good fathers: space and encouragement (meaning “to inspire with courage or confidence”).

So, with Father’s Day on the horizon, let’s celebrate all the fathers in our lives who encourage us to be the best we can be for the benefit of all.

And if we are fathers, let’s be the warmest, kindest, most encouraging dads we can be – because there are youngsters learning from our example.


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