Friday, June 19, 2009

Jim Wallis of the Christian-centered group Sojourners says on his blog that one of President Obama’s most important roles is as “first father.”

Another blogger, National Fatherhood Initiative President Roland Warren, writes about a hugging-and-kissing lesson from his wife.

Both are timely commentaries as Father’s Day approaches.

“More than the primaries, general election, board meetings or the budget fight on Capitol Hill, this past week was a high-intensity roller coaster for me. It was Little League playoffs. The Astros, my elder son Lukes team, which I coach, won two cliffhanger playoff games, 4-3 and 7-6. We finally won the final game on Saturday, making Luke and his buddies the 2009 D.C. Northwest Little League champions. And now I get to relax a little bit,” said Mr. Wallis, a member of Mr. Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

“As the father of two young boys, Luke, 10, and Jack, 6,” Mr. Wallis said, “I know the great joys and real challenges of being a dad. As most of you know, Fathers Day is coming up soon - on Sunday, June 21. Much like I did with regard to the presidents speech in Cairo, I invited some of our regular blog contributors and guests to write about fatherhood.

“There is a lot on our presidents plate right now, but I believe one of the most important roles he will play is that of ‘first father.’ The presence of a father with young children in the White House is a powerful image for a nation that sorely needs role models. Much of the national talk about family values and the role of fathers, for better and for worse, has come from the conservative side of the political spectrum. But a Democratic president and political progressive with a primary focus on fatherhood and strengthening families could change that and turn this issue into a broad and bipartisan commitment.

“As a member of the Presidents Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, I sit on a committee whose focus is fatherhood and healthy families. Through this work I recently met the dynamic and inspiring Roland Warren, president of the National Fatherhood Initiative. National Fatherhood Initiative has great resources available on its Web site.

“Throughout the week we will be hearing from a variety of people, some fathers and some not, reflecting on the crucial role dads fill in church and society. Up next is a blog post from Roland to kick off this weeks focus on dads.”

“In ‘Dads healing holes and wounded souls,’ Mr. Warren writes, ‘When my oldest son, Jamin, was moving out of the toddler years, I started to have a difficult time hugging and kissing him. I wasnt really sure why, but for some reason, it felt strange and well … just weird.’

“Mr. Warren says he discussed the problem with his wife, Yvette, who advised him to just do it.

” ‘Well, youre just going to have to hold your nose and do it because he needs it,’ ” Mr. Warren quotes her as saying.

“I hugged and hugged and kissed and kissed,” he writes. “And, ironically, I found that the more I did it, the less weird it felt. So much so that my now 20-something son and his brother Justin still frequently get a ‘wet one’ on the forehead along with a daddy bear hug - or two.

“Some years ago, I reflected upon what was going on with me and concluded the following. First, this hugging and kissing thing didnt happen for me because I grew up without my father just like one out of three kids today (and two out of three in the African-American community). I realized that its difficult to be what you dont see and difficult to give what you didnt have. And, in my case, I didnt see this type of affection from my dad, so it was hard for me to give it to my own son. In fact, had it not been for my prescient and persuasive wife, I was about to pass on a not-so-good legacy to my sons that I had inherited from my fathers absence.

“Second, I determined that children have a ‘hole in their soul’ in the shape of their dads, and if fathers are unable or unwilling to connect with them physically, emotionally and spiritually, it can leave a wound that is not easily healed. Admittedly, for much of my life, I was a wounded soul. Truth be told, my difficulty giving the much-needed affection to my son was the result of unhealed wounds from years of feeling neglected and less than worthy.

“Interestingly, it was the act of truly embracing my role as a father that helped to heal me, because it required me to love not only my sons, but also myself. It became clear that I couldnt really love my children - the way that God wanted and needed me to - unless I did some ‘work’ on myself.

“Finally, I noticed that an interesting thing happened when I hugged and kissed my son. He hugged and kissed me back, even when I didnt expect him to. It was as if he needed to give affection as much as he needed to receive it. As a child, I guess that I missed something special because I did not have this opportunity with my father.

“As I have traveled the country to speak about the importance of fatherhood, I have met other wounded souls - adults and children - who long (or longed) for the special love and affection that only good fathers can give. Indeed, I am blessed with their burden. It is what motivates me to reach as many fathers as I can as fast as I can, even when the money is short and the days are long. After all, the easiest wound to heal is the one that is never received.”

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