Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Constructive Thoughts: Fatherhood

Greetings....Due to a migraine the past two days, I'm a little late with this post.

I have this group of buddies from High School and College. We still get together once or twice a month for a game night--our version of Poker night, I suppose. No poker is played, but we may play some board games, various card games, or some Role-Playing Games. Whatever strikes our fancy, in other words. Each of us leaves our wives and family at home and congregate for six hours or so of manly fun.

It started me thinking; the first thing that came to my mind were the teachings of two modern-day prophets: "No other success in life can compensate for failure in the home" (David O. McKay (1964)) and "The greatest work you will ever do will be within the walls of your own home." (Harold B. Lee (1973)). That in turn made me go even deeper. Are my priorities in order? Do I give my best time to those who mean the most to me? Does my family get steak and ice cream? Or do they get the left-overs: reheated hot dogs and warm soda? (And I'm talking the beef/chicken/pork wieners, not the all-beef kind).

So, I jumped on the internet and started doing a little research. The first thing that popped up was a discourse printed in 1973, recently re-printed in a 2002 issue of the Ensign magazine. The article was entitled, appropriately enough: Father, Consider Your Ways.

Let's just say that after reading this article, there were a lot more concerns on my mind than simply steak versus "mystery meat" wieners. There's a lot in there and I'd highly recommend any of my male readers to gird their loins and take a gander. In the interest of time, I'm only going to touch upon a couple of the article's points.

First, a father is a teacher, we're told.

LW and I home-school the Horde. We yearn after wide open spaces--maybe even some woods--on and in which the Horde can play, explore, and learn. What we have now is nice and large, but still: not to worry about neighbors, neighborhoods, strangers, et cetera? What would that be worth?

OK. I digressed. Suffice it to say, we home-school the Horde.

Realize, when I say WE home-school, I mean that my LW home-schools and I...ummm..., well, I'm the Principal who more-often-than-not stumbles over a history or art notebook on my way to my favorite chair. I admit that to my shame, actually.

And after reading the article? I admit that NOW with even more shame. New and improved guilt.

Teaching, this article reminds me, "is accomplished by precept and example. You cannot be one thing and effectively teach another."

Wow.

Now, I have not done anything REALLY bad. Most of the Ten Commandments are reasonably out-of-range and safe. But still, I can remember both times I ever heard my mother or father use a four-letter word. And by both, I mean once each. I mean, I can remember CLEARLY. Where I was, the circumstances surrounding them. Not sure of my ages, but I can remember just about everything else. They just never used the words, although I'm sure I gave them cause once in a while.

Me? Hmmm.... Not so much.

Don't get me wrong; I don't use the worst of the worst. I'm not even in the same class as the father from the movie A Christmas Story. But if I slice my thumb open with a carving knife or wrack my shin on the piano bench, the family usually knows about it in loud and certain terms.

I can gain some aid and support from the article as well as the guilt, though: "Your children may or may not choose to follow you, but the example you give is the greatest light you hold before your children, and you are accountable for that light." While that is a daunting statement, it also provides a crutch--remembering the examples I have set and the example I MUST set and for which I'm accountable--that gives me an impetus to do better.

Second, a father is responsible for the welfare of his family, we're told.

Specifically,

"It is God's plan that you work for what you get. Your occupation should be honorable and should provide sufficiently to meet the needs of your family. Are your duties and labors undertaken with a joyful and thankful spirit? Do your wife and children feel secure because you feel good about your occupation?"

I'm in trouble here as well. While I believe my occupation is honorable (although some would beg to differ [insert your own lawyer joke here] ) and while our needs are met (barely), I cannot truthfully say that I undertake anything in my professional life with a joyful and thankful spirit. I certainly don't feel good about my occupation; rather, I do not necessarily feel good about my current employment situation. While my LW understands how I feel, I do my best to hide it from the Horde. They certainly do not need that worry in their life.

You see, I grew up in a family that was living on the razor's edge and I never knew it until I was married. I was taught that a Big Mac was two sandwiches and should be eaten that way. My mother froze Arby's sandwiches that she bought in bulk when they went on sale. My parents did odd jobs throughout my childhood to supplement the household income and I never thought twice about it. I never knew that we did not have money, until--as I said--I was married. I still am not convinced I know just how poorly off we were.

And that, I think, is how it should be. That is how I try to raise the Horde.

But the "happiness in my labors" factor? Not so much. As most of you know, I am not extremely happy in my current situation. Most of that is because of inner-office politics. However, I will admit a portion of that unhappiness comes from a personal negative attitude.

Even worse, I am afraid that the Horde--or at least, the older members--are all too aware of my unhappiness. That's not a very good example. And I don't know--honestly--how secure they feel. I'm afraid to ask them, frankly.

What can be done? Well, obviously the complaining about the job while I am around the Horde--that has to stop. The "joyful and thankful spirit" that I have to cultivate? I'll have to take a second look--or third, fourth, and fifth look--at my attitude and try and do better. Maybe looking for a change in atmosphere would not be a bad thing.

What I know is that I'm going to have to change.

"Father, you are accountable to the Lord for what you have and what you are. In the future you will surely stand before Him. What will be your report concerning your family? Will you be able to report that your home was a place of love, a bit of heaven? . . . Will you be able to report that you created an environment in your home to build faith in a living God, to encourage learning, to teach order, obedience, and sacrifice? . . . The day will come when you will stand before the Lord and report your stewardship as a father on earth. Father, consider your ways. What will be your report?"

A lot to think about. What do I need to change?

Does my monthly game night have to go? Do I sufficiently balance that time with time given to my family? Something to consider....

Family definitely comes before anything at the office, a fact that my boss does not appreciate and only barely tolerates.

Does my family come before the internet? before blogging? before television? before books? Yes, yes, yes, and yes.

"It takes hard work and planning to rear your children in righteousness and have unity with your wife, to build a constant feeling of love and harmony in the home."

What do I need to change?

What will be my report?

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