16 June 2007

The Old Fashioned Father

What is an "old fashioned father"? Can you type it into your search engine and find a good answer? This became my quest: to find someone willing to tell us what the great men of old did to become good fathers. Or at least, if they were not good, what kind of fathers were they? (Now, I love Tevye, from "Fiddler on the Roof. " Maybe he's not the perfect father, but he was a little old fashioned. No?)

The Old Fashioned Fathers

I suppose not everyone can sit down and just read Emily Post's (1873–1960) writings on Etiquette, from 1922. But she does have a few things to say about the gentlemanly behaviour of fathers. Here, from Chapter XXXVI : Every-Day Manners at Home:
No child will ever accept a maxim that is preached but not followed by the preacher. It is a waste of breath for the father to order his sons to keep their temper, to behave like gentlemen, or to be good sportsmen, if he does or is himself none of these things.
. . .

Any number of busy men scarcely know their children at all, and have not even stopped to realize that they seldom or never talk to them, never exert themselves to be sympathetic with them, or in the slightest degree to influence them. To growl “mornin’,” or “Don’t, Johnny,” or “Be quiet, Alice!” is very, very far from being “an influence” on your children’s morals, minds or manners.

A Supreme Court Justice whose education had been cut short in his youth by the Civil War, when asked how, under the circumstances, his scholastic attainments had been acquired, answered: “My father believed it was the duty of every gentleman to bequeath the wealth of his intellect, no less than that of his pocket, to his children. Wealth might be acquired by ‘luck,’ but proper cultivation was the birthright of every child born of cultivated parents. We learned Latin and Greek by having him talk and read them to us. He wrote doggerel rhymes of history which took the place of Mother Goose. He also told us ‘bed-time stories’ of history, and read classics to us after supper. When there was company, we were brought down from the nursery so that we might profit by the conversation of our betters.”

Old Fashioned Fathers Today

If I were to sum up the manners lesson above and what I think of as a true gentleman into what a modern "old fashioned father" should be, I suppose I would say that he is to be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity. Wait, that sounds like a listing for an older man who desires to be an overseer in the church. Well, it sounds like a great father too.

Some people think that trying to follow those above virtues would be difficult. Okay, don't read them as if they're in the Bible, but just as some good qualifications to be a good Dad. Look up the word "Fatherhood" on your search engine, and you'll find a lot of information that will help you to find an ideal father. I can't vouch for all the content at the following sites, but try:

The National Center for Fathering, at Fathers.com
Fathers for Life
The Father's Network
The National Fatherhood Initiative, at fatherhood.org
The Fatherhood Foundation, at fatherhood.org.au

It seems to me that there is an awareness of the longing and need for valiant fathers to come to our rescue, and protect our homes and families. It sounds a little old-fashioned. But of course, I like that.
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