A gentleman with a microphone announced our entrance into a large meeting room converted into a magical dance hall. He unrolled a scroll and proclaimed, “I present Princess Christiana and her Knight Sir Marshall.” A little hand squeezed my thumb—just like she did the first day I first met her in the early morning hours at Potomac Hospital.
This was one of those life moments that hits you square in the heart. A wide smile blossomed on my 9-year-old daughter’s face and her eyes grew wide as she scanned the room. We walked into a room packed with proud fathers and smiling daughters—there was dancing, music, and refreshments.
As I surveyed the room, I saw no phones just fathers and daughters laughing, dancing and enjoying an evening together. There were Marines, businessmen, carpenters, government employees, doctors, policemen, musicians and at least one columnist. It was pure magic---no embarrassment, no shyness about dancing to ridiculous pop songs, doing the Whip, the Dougie, Macarena or a hilarious hip-hop Cowboy two-step. We pledged among ourselves to keep the success or failure of those dances quiet like some fatherly-fight club. A father’s code was in effect, free of judgement—this was about celebrating with our daughters.
What seemed like a frivolous bit of fun carried a deeper lesson. A universal hope that our daughters might learn that love, respect, civility and honor should always be given to them.
We should be their first examples of a knight in shining armor.
This brings me to a broader point that fatherhood is essential to the well-being of our children and our society. Good fathers create healthier societies.
Nothing irritates me more than watching the portrayal of the American father in popular culture.
How many television shows and films portray fathers as buffoons, or bacon-obsessed man children? How many men in our society fail miserably at being men? How many men of power, wealth and fame are vacant of honesty, respect, civility and honor?
How many good men are amazing fathers and receive little credit?
Does our culture value fatherhood? If it doesn’t… then why?
How many societal problems could we remedy if we focused on improving fatherhood?
Many have fatherly role models—some never knew their fathers. If you didn’t it’s up to you to end that cycle and stand up for fatherhood. If we bring life into this world, we should feel an obligation to teach, love, protect and nurture it. Baby birds with broken wings cannot fly.
When my late father was in hospice care he offered me a great gift in the final chapter of our relationship. He said, “If there is anything you and I need to get off our chests now is the time. I did my best to be a good father. I think that there are things I did well and there are things that I didn’t do well. I am proud of you and your brothers.”
This final act showed incredible bravery—a final example of love, honor and humanity.
Years later, I find myself trying to be a good father to my children and I remember what made my father great to me. He was a true warrior poet, a VMI alum, a Vietnam veteran, paratrooper, historian, a man of faith and a loving father.
It’s funny the memories that I hold fast to in regards to my father—Sunday afternoons drawing with him as a kid, hiking a mountain, searching for him on a military drop zone, laughing at his lack of fishing skills, watching movies, talking history, discussing the Redskins and all the hugs he gave us in good times and bad. Through all my good and bad decisions in life he always stood by me providing an exemplary template of honor, bravery, love and faith.
Sadly, the first time my father heard his own father say how proud he was of him was weeks before he passed away. My dad’s father died shortly before he did.
I am grateful that my father never followed that example of fatherhood.
Each week I listen to a CD my brother created from audio tapes recorded by my father while serving in Vietnam in 1967-68. He reads poetry and sends messages to my mother. It is 46 minutes and six seconds—of my father’s youthful voice. He recorded it during the first year of my life—the first year he became my father. The life and death that surrounded him then gave his words depth and focus.
The importance of fatherhood should never be taken lightly.
Our children are watching us, listening and building memories from our daily actions as fathers.