It has been commonplace to hear a lot of whining from men on Father’s Day about it being a second-class holiday. We compare it to the extravagant appreciation that’s doled out on Mother’s Day. On Mother’s Day there are cards given to everyone who has ever patted a kid on the head. Any woman who has influenced a child gets flowers and big, warm hugs. If they’ve actually birthed a human being, the gifts are presented, often with kisses. All the while, some men are making mental notes of every act of appreciation towards their wives, sisters, aunts, and female acquaintances (not our mothers because, of course, “MY mama” deserves it) . And as the calendar turns to June, many of us grow disgruntled. We begin to anticipate the disparity of treatment we’ll receive on Father’s Day. We will tell jokes about making room in the closet for more ugly neckties. We’ll wonder aloud about the plans being made for the Father’s Day weekend. Some will angrily decry the unfairness of single mothers getting Father’s Day cards – worried no doubt that the little recognition we DO get is now further diluted by sharing our day with females. Even those who don’t harbor such feelings will feel some type of way about seeing the negative comments on social media about dead-beats, sperm donors, and absentee baby-daddies.
Now I too believe that the Father’s Day celebration does not approach the level afforded our female counterparts. However, I consider this much ado about nothing. This is not to say that fathers don’t deserve to be heralded and treated to grand displays of appreciation. But as I think about what I do for my children, I have come to understand something about their relationship with me. When I think of what the Bible says about what I should be doing, I realize that it will invoke something much more valuable than love and kisses and gifts. In Ephesians, Paul says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4 (NIV2011) I think Paul starts with the admonition (do not exasperate your children) because of the nature of our tasks. As fathers, we do things like set limits and enforce rules. Or course mothers do this too, but you’re kidding yourself if you think that it has the same effect as fathers doing it. Fathers often deliver the hard message. Fathers give discipline – not just by taking the belt to the child, but also preparing the child for the hard, cruel world. Paul recognized that fathers could go overboard and frustrate our children. But we must train and instruct them. Again, it’s not that mothers don’t do this also. But most fathers feel a responsibility to drive their children in a way or to a degree that mothers may not.
The Bible tells us what this discipline produces. In Hebrews, it says, “Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. Hebrews 12:9 (NIV2011) I know my children love me. But, I also know that there is a difference in how they love me versus how they love their mother. And I know there are things that I did that have caused that difference. At times, I have been pretty hard on them. I’ve said and done some things to them that I knew would make them angry. On occasion I have followed them around, frightened them, and even caused them physical pain. And while I’ve tried to balance that with encouragement and positive feedback, I fully expect that these not-so-positive experiences have been etched in their psyche. That was the point. So if the cost of this discipline and training is a lower level of outward appreciation on one day of the year compared to their mother, I’m fine with it. Because what I receive from my children is of infinitely greater value to me…..RESPECT.