Some reflections during this month of celebrating fathers...
"As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him." Psalm 103:13
It has always struck me as strange that we should "fear" God. In this case, I believe the meaning is not "fear" as we think of it, but rather that we should recognize and respect how awesome God is. The Hebrew word "pachad" is defined as respect or awesomeness. We were created in God's image. God surely has both male and female qualities, but we generally conceive of God as father.
Children should be able to look to their human fathers in a similar way. Most recognize and respect their father's power and awesomeness. Fathers are large, from the perspective of a child. Imagine being a child, holding an adult's hand and looking up to their face. How large and frightening they can be to a small child. Yes, children can be a little afraid of their fathers, but
respect is the goal - not fear.
It is quite common today that children grow up with a single parent or in a blended family. There are fewer nuclear families than fifty years ago. An interesting Oxford University research project found that it doesn't really matter where a father lives. What matters is positive involvement with his children. The same study found that boys who are involved with caring, loving fathers have far fewer encounters with the police, develop a more positive identity, have more self-esteem and learn to be far more aware of their feelings and emotions.
Also interesting is that the father image for a child doesn't need to be the biological father but could be a step-father, uncle, grandfather, good friend, big brother, as long as these men are emotionally involved in a positive way. Boys may benefit the most by having a "strong" father or father image, but girls benefit as well. Girls who grow up without a consistent and secure relationship with their father or a father substitute have been found to have far more serious emotional problems. Boys and girls raised with an involved father also develop better language skills, excel more often in school and have fewer problems in general.
Being an involved parent is the goal. According to one study, the average parent spends less than twelve minutes of quality time with their children each day. Reading a book to children, tucking them into bed at night, asking them about the best thing that happened to them during the day are just a few ways to be involved.
Many children don't have nurturing and positive connection from their father. These children often develop what we refer to as "Father Hunger". They feel an emptiness, a void. My experience as a therapist confirms that many adults also suffer from "Father Hunger" due to having "lost" their father to death, divorce, military service, abandonment, or a simple lack of satisfactory involvement.
Some studies show that contemporary fathers are far more involved with their children than their counterparts in past decades. This could be the result of a number of factors e.g., two income households, sharing of parental responsibility, and increase of stay-at-home dads. If true, this is an important improvement and should be every father's goal. What a tough but worthwhile challenge!