Father’s Day is a day when all types of fathers are acknowledged for the important role they play , not only to their immediate families, but also in our communities and society as a whole.
A good father is a protector and provider. He protects his family no matter what. In protecting his family, he ensures that they have all they need to develop and survive. In this societal environment, this can be very difficult especially when the resources to meet these needs are scarce. It is important that as men we plan ahead when considering having a family. We must consider, if and when we have a family—are we going to have the resources required to care for them? We are also responsible for the children in our society who do not have this in a father. Believe it or not there are children, in addition to your own, who are watching you.
A good father should provide unconditional love to his spouse/partner, children, and family. It is very important that the children’s mother is included in this love. Children who see their parents in conflict grow up thinking that conflict is the norm. This leads to children being unsure of how to give and receive love when they mature into adults.
A good father leads by example. I have found that there is something very special about fathers. Our children, both male and female, want to be like their fathers. I remember a commercial that aired during the Super Bowl years ago. A little girl and her father were sitting quietly drinking a soda. The little girl was intensely watching every move that her father made, imitating each move. Her father would pick up his cup, and she would pick hers up. He would take a drink, and she would do the same. She wanted to do everything that her father did.
Another example comes from my work in juvenile detention. I had a young man in my clinic that had been in and out of detention since age 12. I asked the young man, “What are you going to do with your life, as you are almost 18?” This young man blew me away with his answer. He said “Mr. Duvall, I’m going to prison. My father is in prison, my uncles are in prison, the men in my family go to prison.” Another example of a child wanting to be like his father. Whether good or bad, our children want to be just like us.
My answer to fathers when they ask me how their children will be in the future is for them to look in the mirror. If you don’t like what you see, then you need to change. Regardless of good or bad, your children want to be just like you. We have to be the good heroes that our children want to be like.
This leads me to my last point of supporting ourselves so that we can continue to support our families and those that we love. Men, your health and taking care of yourself is very important. You want to be around to take care of those who you love. It is paramount that we get regular checkups from our physicians. If you don’t have a medical provider, then you must seek out and get one. We must take advantage of the health screenings that are offered in our communities if routine testing is a financial challenge for us. We must think about the lifestyle that we practice; once again, our children want to be like us. If we don’t consider our health important, neither will they. We need to make it a point to be active, which is something that we can do with our families. Be it an evening walk with the family, playing ball with the kids, or an exercise routine—if you do this with your family, you are modeling both being active and spending quality time with your family. Both are important traits to model.
Your nutrition is also very important. I suggest making it a point to consume at least five servings of fresh fruits or vegetables each day. This, along with an increase in water intake and cutting sugary drinks from your diet, will not only support your health, but once again, you will be modeling this behavior to your family. I have had parents tell me that their children won’t eat certain things. I do believe that children are like any other living organism when it comes to eating. They will eat what is in front of them when hungry. You are the one who buys the food. If you only buy healthy foods, then your children will eat them. If your children never have the opportunity to eat unhealthy foods, they won’t miss what they never had. Your children want to be like you; this includes eating. If you don’t like what is healthy, neither will they.
Lastly, I want to speak on the importance of us not only being aware of our mental health but also seeking out help when needed. We need to break the cycle of thinking that mental health treatment and therapy are taboo. We are living in very difficult times that don’t appear to be getting any better. We must model responsible behavior and seek out help, rather than taking out our issues on those around us in the form of substance abuse, domestic abuse, and violence, as well as isolation, which leads us to not being available to those we love. With the times being as they are, your children too will also need to talk about what is bothering them. We must model this behavior if we want our children to be the best that they can be—to be able to deal with life’s stressors in a healthy and productive manner.
In closing, I pray that you all give some thought to the things that I have written. I wish you all a very happy, peace-filled, and inspiring Father’s Day!
Gordon Duvall, DNP
Community Research Liaison
Colorado Clinical & Translational Sciences Institute
University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus