On Fathers and Sons 

On Fathers and Sons 


There is a “sermon illustration” that is told that in the prisons when the prisoners are offered Mother’s Day cards to send to their mothers, the response is overwhelming. Thousands upon thousands of cards are provided and sent each year, But, so the story goes, when the same offer is made on Father’s Day, hardly any cards are requested or sent. Now if that’s true (and not all sermon illustrations are 😊) the reason may not be as straightforward as it seems.  

Of course, there is the phenomenon of the American father wound. We are nearly eight generations in now, to the absentee father syndrome that began just after World War II and has exponentially expanded in our culture. In the 50’s fathers came home from the war trying to re-find their place in a society that had learned to live without them. The sitcoms of the 60’s and 70’s made them look and feel even more unnecessary. And the resulting fathers who were raised without fathers have since generated a plague of baby-makers but not present, attentive, responsible fathers. The guys in prison really just have no one to send cards to. 

There is more though. Let’s be honest, men just don’t send cards. Hallmark learned years ago that created holidays, and excuses for card buying, needed to be female-centered. Best Friend Day, Teacher’s Day, Cat Owners Day, think of a day that is celebrated now that you never heard of 20 years ago and I bet you it has a woman at the heart of it. Even the more accepted ones, Valentine’s Day, Secretaries Day, are based on the guilt trip that men are made to feel because card giving and note writing is not in their DNA. 😊 We take guys out for coffee. We go to ball games together. We stop by the shooting range after lunch. We may even do the “three-pat hug” from time to time. But we don’t do cards. On those occasions when I do buy Doris a card, she reads every word, looks at it over and over, and then leaves it lying on her nightstand for several weeks so she can pick it up again. When she gives me a card, I immediately flip it over, gulp at the $4.95 price tag, and then mumble, “Thanks, what’s for supper?” The lack of card-giving in prison may have something to do with the lack of card-giving by men everywhere. 

But here is a more positive take on the dip in Hallmark stocks every June. Father’s Day doesn’t generate as many cards because there are things that are better, sons. Our sons are our Father’s Day cards. I am grateful for every card I have ever received (even at $4.95), but my real joy on Father’s Day is watching my two sons be great dads. I am so overwhelmed by the time and attention they give their families. I puff up with pride when I see them leading their families to church. I’ll be honest, my eyes fill with tears when I see them kneeling beside the bed at night and praying with their kids. Although I don’t have daughters, I think this is just as true for fathers of girls. Our great gift on this day dedicated to dads is being able to step back and see our kids parent well, or just live well. From grade school to full-on adulting, we get a thrill from the steps our children are taking, in most cases becoming better and smarter than we were. 

Now moms do that too, but they are supposed to. They just love their kids for whom they are, with no need for accomplishment. But fathers get their joy from what their offspring has become, not a successful businesswoman or an MLB shortstop, but a good person, a great mom, a better version of themselves. That’s the deal, children in general, and sons in particular, are dads’ do-overs. We men step back and say, “Well, I never became a millionaire,” or, “I never made it to the top of my company but look at my boy. He is something else.” And that’s all the cards we need.  

So, on this Father’s Day, don’t be miffed if you didn’t get a $4.95 card like your wife did. Instead, give your kids a call and say, “Thanks for who you are. You’re a gift.”

Thank you Josh and Jacob! You guys are my gift.

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