Children do not come with an instruction guide.   It would be much easier if they did.   So much time and effort go into child rearing.  It is beyond a full-time job.   Let’s be honest, being a dad is actual work—and it is difficult yet rewarding work.    

Too many men in society today want the title of Father, but they want to put in the work of a part-time casual observer.  Men who fail to invest in their children miss the wonder of life.  The men will likely reap the results of that part-time status.  If not in their lifetime, then in the lives of their children.  It is a vicious and unnecessary cycle, that we perpetuate from generation to generation.     

Too often, children are subjected to fathers who do not know how to love them, or who are just not there.  The absent fathers and the emotionally distant fathers create more lasting problems, much more than physical abuse.  Not that physical abuse is ever acceptable.   Wounds heal, emotional scarring could last a lifetime—if you let it.    

We know that childhood abuse and neglect, cause so many people to embark on lives of drugs or prostitution, sometimes even worse.  The absent and emotionally distant father helps create adults full of bitterness and anger.  A man who takes the title of Father seriously, helps create children that are confident and secure as adults—they break the generational curse of men who fail to father their children. 

The writer and missionary, Floyd McClung, Jr., suggested that as people consider their past, that they “forgive their parents for their faults.” That is a deep thought.  As I came to grips with my own strained relationship with my Dad, it made me realize that I, too, had my own short comings as a parent. Self-reflection is bittersweet, but necessary.  Reflection benefits our souls. 

You wake up one day and twenty years have gone by.  I wish I had spent more time with my own daughters, listened more to what was going on in their lives, and been slower to criticize their youthful expressions of their generation.  I wish I had held my children closer and longer.  They were in a hurry to grow up, and truth be told, it was what I assumed was the natural passage of life.  To take them into my arms as children again and sing to them in my off-key voice is a dream that can never be fulfilled.  My children are what mattered most in the world, and while I was out making a living, I missed parts of their life—and deprived myself of enjoyment that was Fatherhood. 

This Father’s Day, embrace your children for as long as they will let you.  For those with a Father, forgive them for their shortcomings. The grace you give will return in your own children.  For those without a Father, recall the good times, and work toward moving past the hurt and pain. You will not regret investing in your relationships, and few are more important than the image a child has of a Father. 

Some of us still need emotional and spiritual healing, breaking out of judgmental cycles, and dealing with the inevitable disappointments of life. When we go through life with a distorted image of what a father is or what it means to be a father, it means we miss one of the most critical parts of our lives.  We can grieve and fail to recognize our internal pain, or that of others.   

We must acknowledge our life experiences for what they were, and recognize what should have been.  Yes, life is unfair.  All men may be created equal, but not all fathers are up for the difficult challenge of fatherhood.  The good news is that if you are a Father or have a Father who is still alive, you still have time to rebuild together. 

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JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the association are properly cited. For more information on this subject or any education issue please contact Professional Educators of Tennessee.

Humans are not designed to live alone.  We are by nature designed to live together in community to reach our full potential.  English poet John Donne wrote that “No man is an island.”   Our actions can influence everyone around us.  Lasting relationships are perhaps the key to a happy life.  It is one of the benefits of education and school as we meet and become friends with people.  Many of those friendships are lifelong relationships which can forever change your life.

In Christmas 1983, I was spending Christmas courtesy of the United States Marine Corps at the luxurious accommodations provided at the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa, Japan.  I was member of the Marine Air Support Squadron 2, nicknamed the “Pacific Vagabonds.” We were part of the Marine Air Control Group 18, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing.   It was perhaps the loneliest Christmas I had ever experienced.  Personally, I had lost numerous family members and friends.  I had just turned twenty years old.  And I was never more miserable in my life.

Fast forward 35 years, I am now a father and grandfather.  In the time since my days in the Marine Corps, I married my wife (whom I met in Junior High).  I have worked as a middle and high school teacher, worked for a governor and been a part of university and several think tanks and owned my own business.  There is no physical gift in the world that means more than me than actually being with my family.  No job or gift or experience matches that of grandchild yelling “Pappy” as they fly into my arms. The best gifts in life are never the ones you will find under a tree. 

Focus on your relationships.  Relationships develop when people spend time together.  Whether it is with friends or family, it is how you get to know people and how you become known to others.  Faith is also a relationship.  There remains hope for all of us.  It is never too late to change in life, until life is gone.   

Build relationships with those around you. Those relationships will bring more love to the world. Our self-worth is built in who we are in those relationships, not what we can accomplish in an occupation.  Good relationships are based on respect.  If you give up on people, you could miss out on something extraordinary. Never give up.  Live in the moment.  This Christmas give the gift of yourself to others.

JC Bowman is the Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee.