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One thing about popular culture that I have never understood is its portrayal of fathers. Watch any television sitcom and five minutes in, the father is portrayed as a bumbling fool who is easily bamboozled not only by his wife (who is constantly conniving to keep a secret from him), but also his children (who view their father a as a complete fool). I see similar things in children’s cartoons, too. I recently watched a montage on a popular children’s channel all about the “power of princesses” encouraging women to be strong and powerful. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about strong, powerful, smart women, but what message is there for my sons? They too need to be taught to be strong, powerful, and smart. Then I picked up D. Todd Cristofferson’s latest book, “The Good That Men Can Do.” I was refreshed and exhilarated to read his recipe for what men can be and what many men are, especially as fathers: unique and irreplaceable.
Elder Cristofferson also mentions the target of dads in media and Hollywood. He writes: “We call on media and entertainment outlets to portray devoted and capable fathers who truly love their wives and intelligently guide their children, instead of the bumbler or buffoons or ‘the guys who cause all the problems,’ as fathers are all too frequently depicted.” Thanks, Elder Cristofferson. Thanks for saying what so many of us are thinking. I can think of one show in particular where every episode, the father is portrayed as a complete fool. I have asked my family not to watch the show for this reason. When I sat them down to talk about it, I could see how they had been convinced that it was okay he acted that way, that his wife mistreated him and all of the above because in the end you knew he really loved his family. I don’t accept the “in the end” justification. Wives, children, and dads all deserve to have the best from each other every day. Do we make mistakes? Of course we do! But that’s the beauty of repentance and forgiveness.
Think of a dad you know. It may be your dad, grandpa, or someone else you know, love, and revere. I highly doubt they follow Hollywood’s depiction of fatherhood and I bet they fall more closely in line with Elder Cristofferson’s. His book is based on his 2016 LDS General Conference Address, “Fathers.“ In the book, he calls husband and father the “highest of masculine roles.” I would have to agree.
I have always found it interesting that everyone seems to make Mother’s Day this huge, big deal – some women hate this “holiday” and as children clamor to make it the best day ever for their moms, it still is a struggle for many. Father’s Day, on the other hand, seems to be a bit of an afterthought. You never see long blog posts about dads who feel like they don’t measure up or how bad dads hate Father’s Day, but the big question is: “Did we ever ask dads how they feel about their role as fathers?” I’m not sure many of us have.
It seems to me that many of the things children love about their dads are the same things they love about their moms – the little things. The every day examples of hard work, love, and discipline. And as much as we may not think so, children really crave the last thing on that list – discipline. Elder Cristofferson addresses it beautifully in his book, stating: “Discipline in the divine pattern is not so much about punishing as it is about helping a loved one along the path of self-mastery.” Children look to fathers for that discipline – but it needs to be matched with love.
My dad has always been a master of that. I never feared my father, but I surely never wanted to disappoint him. I loved, respected, and admired him because he always loved, respected, and admired me. To this day, I don’t want to disappoint him and strive to make him proud. He doesn’t discipline me anymore and I can count on one hand the times he’s rebuked me in anger, although I know I made him angry many more times than that. What I do remember is long talks late into the night where he calmed my fears as a child and helped me see the big picture of what was important in life as a teenager. He would often bear his testimony of truths he knew about God and Jesus Christ during those talks and I treasure my memories of those moments.
Now I see my own husband doing that as my children are growing older. It warms my heart. Fathers walk a tight line. Elder Cristofferson reminds fathers of the things they “can do” which includes earning a living for their family. I love how he calls it a “consecrated” responsibility. But he also reminds fathers to not take it to the extreme one way or the other. Again, it’s a fine line for sure. But many dads I know walk that line with style.
Just like for moms, it’s easy for dads to get stuck in things don’t matter. Elder Cristofferson reminds them to steer clear of that, too. “Let us lay aside the exaggerated notions of individualism and autonomy in today’s culture and think first of the happiness and well-being of others,” he writes. He also encourages young men to prepare for the future of fatherhood.
I never love my husband more than when I am watching him be a good dad. I remember when our first child was born, I thought my heart would burst with love for this little one’s father and my companion. Watching him parent in love is the best part of my life, to be honest. Knowing that he gets up and ready each Monday extra early so he can email back and forth with my missionary daughter warms me. Gee, even knowing that he gets up at 5 a.m. each day to drive for 40 minutes to and from work reminds me that it is a consecrated act for our family like Elder Cristofferson says. At the end of the day I often hear him talk with our girls about their early morning conversations when he kisses them before he leaves for work each day and love hearing every word he utters in a groggy state of sleepiness during our morning couple prayer.
Husbands and fathers sacrifice plenty, they just don’t tell anyone who will listen like we mothers do. Fathers are a treasure. And they can do so, so much good. Thanks, Elder Cristofferson, for reminding us just how much.
Rachel J. Trotter is a writer at Evalogue.Life, where we tell personal and family stories that inspire, and help you tell yours. She has worked as a writer since her college days over 20 years ago. She loves telling people’s stories. She lives in Ogden, Utah and is busy raising six children and loves working on family history alongside her husband, Mat.