Word from Lowell: The privilege of being a dad

I have always held to the philosophy that there is nothing more important than your faith, your family, and your health. Including a job. If you sacrifice any of those things for work, you not only do yourself and your family a disservice, you are also short-changing the people your organization serves, as they are only getting a part of who you are as a human being. We cannot do or be our best, when we are not the whole person God intended us to be. Our families make us complete. We dads play such a pivotal role in making a family strong. Contrary to much of what you may have heard, black fathers are not all missing in action when it comes to be involved with their families. This dad in particular is present still, and believes in being there for my children, even as they have grown into wonderful young adults following their own paths.

We recently celebrated Father’s Day. After spending wonderful quality time with my wife for lunch, a movie, grilling out for dinner, and speaking on the phone with all three kids and my mom, I spent some time in reflection of what being a dad really means. A mother’s love is certainly very important to a child’s healthy development. However, the time that we fathers give to our families may be every bit as critical in the grand scheme of things. To you young fellas out there, remember that being a father is not about making babies. As the character Furious Styles in the movie “Boyz N the Hood” said: “Any fool with a [expletive] can make a baby, but only a real man can raise his children.”  Forgive my language, but this presents quite plainly, a lesson more of our young men need to learn. Too many of us blame young girls for getting pregnant, but the boys share equal responsibility in the matter.

LowellreadingThink about the responsibility that comes along with fatherhood. Our sons look to us for inspiration and guidance of what it takes to be a man, and our daughters learn how they should be treated by a man based on how we interact with our spouse. Do we open doors for ladies? Are we careful about the language we use in their presence? How about giving up a seat on a crowded bus to a woman? And do we show proper reverence to our elders? While each individual is, of course, unique, a father’s imprint on our children can be indelible. The question is whether that impression is a positive or negative? When we approach fatherhood as a privilege, I submit to you that a positive outcome is more likely.

Both my wife and I love spending time with our kids, and now grand-kids as well. She likes to say that life is all about making great memories together. I agree. After all is said and done, those memories with loved ones will be all we have left.   The impression we leave on our families will be our real legacy that we leave behind. Not a building with your name on it, or stories about how you were some kind of misguided workaholic. How do you want to be remembered? I don’t know about you, but I want my kids to be able to smile when they are asked – tell us a little about your dad.

My kids enjoy making fun of many of my foibles, and I am sure they will have big laughs years from now when they think about me after I have transitioned on to be with the Heavenly Father.  It may sound morbid to some, but will you want your loved ones to be able laugh and shed tears of joy at your memorial service, or cry because they never really got to know you? I often think of my own dad who passed away more than 16 years ago. I can still see his smile, hear his laugh, and recall how just a reassuring look coming from him from the stands of one of my basketball games, gave me strength. I miss his friendship and encouragement so very much, especially every Father’s Day. But I can still draw strength from those memories of the man he was.

My wife and I have made a point of attending most of the events our three kids have been involved in. Whether it was football, rugby, or CYO basketball with Trey, plays and singer/songwriter nights for Tucker, or basketball games with Trenton, we made it a priority. It is a privilege to be a parent, and with privilege comes the responsibility to be there for our kids. Sure, sometimes work gets in the way. But those were exceptions, not the rule. We have to build our work schedules around the time demanded by our kids, not the other way around.

Even to this day, we are available to our kids as much as humanly possible.  As we age, it is those precious moments that give us solace, and dominate our thoughts and conversations. From a selfish standpoint, when our kids are all grown up and have families of their own, the reality is, we will have more memories than time with our kids at that point. Are you storing memories up to tide you over in the autumn of your life?  In some ways, that is even more important than your 401k. Our children grow up so very quickly that we will miss many exciting moments in their lives if we are not careful. We will also lose out on our MSA or “memories savings account.” Those memories are the residue of love we invest throughout the years with our families.  Stuff you can recover, but memories are a fleeting thing that you had better hold onto with everything you have.

Somebody might say “well I don’t have any children.” Then spend time with your nieces and nephews or volunteer to be a mentor to a boy in your neighborhood who needs to “see a man to be a man.” I happen to believe that the African-American male in this country is being systematically removed from the landscape, much to the detriment of the next generation of young men and black families. But that is a subject for a future article. Suffice it to say, many of us have to do double duty as role models for those in our communities who may not have a dad in their everyday lives.

In a Father’s Day speech in 2012, President Barack Obama offered the following regarding a father’s role: “For many of us, our fathers show us by the example they set the kind of people they want us to become. Whether biological, foster, or adoptive, they teach us through the encouragement they give, the questions they answer, the limits they set, and the strength they show in the face of difficulty and hardship.” What an awesome responsibility God the Father gave to us earthly fathers from the very beginning of time.  It is an ordained privilege to be a dad.  There are many men out there who believe that with all of our hearts. More of us just need to stand up and be recognized.

Lowell Perry Jr., director, Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood