Win Marsh: Father's Day Talk, June 21, 1998

I have really struggled with this talk. I have thought of all the great father-child stories I have read in the past. Stories in which Dads have long lasting nurturing relationships with their children. Stories in which children are guided with a strong, knowledgeable hand. Stories in which in the end -- all nod in agreement and state " well, gee, Father really does know best."

This past week at work there has been much discussion about Fathers Day and about who was scheduled to work today. One nurse stated that she had no relationship with her father and as both of her children had been born out of wedlock - her children had no relationship with their fathers either. Another staff member was planning to spend the day honoring her father and her husband. Yet another was so excited about today because it was going to be his first year of being a Father on father's Day.

Today is a day of mixed feelings for those who have lost beloved fathers or have lost spouses who were the fathers of their children. A day of remembrance and thought about what that special father would have thought about where the family is at this point in time. Today is also a day of reflection of those of us who have fathers with whom we still have rocky uncomfortable relationships. Today is a recognition of all fathers -- tall, short, fat, skinny, loving, and abusive fathers. It is a day for fathers who have many children and fathers whose broods are singular.

A few months ago I had the opportunity to listen to someone with a long history of child abuse express their love for their children. They talked very disapprovingly about someone else seriously beating a child. The comment caught me off guard. I had assumed that someone with a long and current history of child abuse would approve of the practice -- that they would see someone else's abusive situation and not flinch. I was amazed at how loving their intentions were. I was surprised at how much they truly cared about there children -- and how poorly that love was communicated.

I have long read in health journals that all parents want to be good parents. That no parent ever wakes up one morning and decides to ruin their child's life. That all fathers want to be good fathers -- but many don't know how. They have just never learned how to be effective fathers.

As I have looked at my own relationship with my father, I realized why the Lord states in EXODUS 20:12 --"Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord has given you."

I recognize two things.

One, my children learn how to treat me by watching how I treat my parents and my children. That it is through Heather watching my interactions with my parents and my spouse and with her that she will learn how to treat me in my older years. In fact, many cases of Elder Abuse stem from parents abusing their children in their young years. As the children grow up, the abuse is turned around - and it is suddenly the children who are abusing the parents. The children are doing what they were taught.

Secondly, the following scripture reminds us that parents do the best THAT THEY KNOW HOW. The Lord knows what is in their hearts. He knows what their intentions were. He knows what the actions were. It is his right to judge, not ours.

MATTHEW 6:9-10: "Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give hm a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?"

It is so important to recognize that our fathers want only the best for us. But sometimes they don't know how to give anything other than stones.

My own relationship with my father has been rocky. My father is not good at being able to see situations from any viewpoint other than his own. If he was ready to leave a party, well, then we all must be ready to leave. If we went camping and he was warm enough in his sleeping bag, he just knew that we really couldn't be cold in ours -- we just thought that we were.

It is a trait that I vowed that I would never emulate. But as I grew up and married, I found that my parents ways were all I knew. I found that I did not have the training to do anything different. I did not know anything different. When I married, I found myself rolemodelling after my parents. Learning to do different has been a very conscious learning process. I had to learn how to think and how to feel in ways that were very foreign to my upbringing. I was blessed to be married to someone who grew up in the most functional family I know. I have used his family as a rolemodel.

Steve came from a family with wonderful family patterns of love and concern. I watched, I tried, I learned. Steve is a wonderful father. He is a true Daddy. That is what he was raised with. He has taken that upbringing and information and he has built on it .

What does every child desire out of a father? Isn't it the same thing as what our universal image of home is -- a person of love, acceptance, and kind guidance. Someone who will give guidance, and still love us when we exercise our free-agency and end up with lousy consequences. Someone who doesn't say " I told you so". Someone who exercises priesthood authority righteously and judiciously. Someone who leads with love.

Yes, my relationship with my father has been rocky. But he is also the one who got up at four in the morning to pick me up at a bus station in the ghettos of downtown Oakland California -- 20 miles from home. I had decided to come home early from a vacation with family friends -- and I was just certain that at the old age of 21 that I could find my way from the bus station to the subway station in Oakland. I planned to call home when I got to the local subway station 2 minutes from the house. I remember looking out the bus window and seeing my Dad as the one clean face in a sea of street people and worse.

Another memory is of my father sitting up on the stand during church -- he was in the bishopric for 7 years -- and giving me and my siblings the "eye" when we wiggled too much. The threats he made that he was going to make me go sit on the stand with him if I didn't behave -- and the humility I felt on the Sunday that it finally happened. I was terrible that Sunday. Truly awful. But I never expected my father to make good on his threat. But suddenly, he stood up during a song, walked down to us, and gently took my arm and led me up to the stand. I didn't want to go -- but I didn't want to make a scene either. So I walked very quietly with him, sat quietly down, and hardly moved through the rest of sacrament meeting. My four siblings were sure one of them was next -- and so they didn't budge either. The bishop's children wondered if this form of discipline was contagious -- it was suddenly one of the quietest meetings I have ever attended. It was "THE WORST THING IN MY LIFE" at the time. It makes me smile now. This is the same man who hated dancing or any other sort of social event -- so he always arranged to be out of town on business on the same nights Daddy-Daughter functions were held. I always had a substitute Daddy to escort me -- some wonderful man from our ward who went the extra mile for an event that my father for whatever reason could not deal with. I would have preferred to have gone with my dad -- but because of this experience -- I have great empathy for any child with a parent-child event who is suddenly without a parent. It was a painful but valuable lesson.

My father taught me to stand up for what is right. To never just go with the crowd. To not be afraid to stand alone. As a child I felt that I had too much practice with those things -- I didn't want to learn how to be different. I didn't think I needed to voice an opinion different from my peers. Now .. I am glad I had the training. Peer pressure did not end with elementary school. It did not end with high school -- or college. Every day I am somehow pressed upon to compromise my standards, my beliefs or my convictions. Sometimes, it is little things. Sometimes it is big things. Big or little they are issues that affect the type of person I am. My father taught me correct principles and led me to a point where I could guide myself.

Gentlemen, I wish you a Happy Father's Day. I thank you for the influence you have had on children. Both your own children and those others you have the opportunity to instruct, nurture, or uplift in some way.. I thank you for the priesthood you exercise righteously, for the leadership you give, for the example you set. Thank you and happy father's day.

Copyright 1998 Win Marsh
All Rights Reserved


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