Do Unto Others

A slushy snow/rain mix poured from the sky as I drove to pick up my son Nicco at football practice. I was acting on direct orders from his mother, who was not concerned whether the coach had formally called off practice. It was simply “time he came home with the weather like this.”

Fortunately, a flash of lightning took all the guesswork out of whether to cancel, and instead of merely picking up him, I suddenly had two of his friends in the car as well. They were soaked as the deluge continued. After considering their situation (both boys lived with single, working moms, who were not yet home), I suggested they come home with us to dry out and have some dinner.

The boys were greeted at the door with fresh towels from my wife, and as they were warming themselves by the fireplace, the homey scent of chicken soup wafted in the air. On the table were generous bowls with thick Italian bread for dipping. I commented that the boys were in for a real treat. The talk was at first light and comical. Then Nicco evidently had something to get off his chest, and as he and I discussed the problem, the other boys sat respectfully silent. The solution was found by my asking him about his integrity, honesty and commitment, and especially how he would want to be treated if he were in a similar situation. His final take on the issue was arrived at from the years of my tutelage (i.e., “give a man a fish vs. teach a man to fish”). My wife and I have always held a statement by Jean Paul Richter in high esteem: “The conscience of children is formed by the influences that surround them; their notions of good and evil are the result of the moral atmosphere they breathe.”

Face The Facts

Please note a few basic elements here. I went to get our son because his mother and I were concerned about his safety due to the weather. I did not call home before bringing two extra “guests.” She immediately welcomed them and provided for their comfort. The fire I built, the soup she made and the home we created were comforting because the boys felt welcomed. I credit most, if not all of this, to my wife. Women are simply better equipped than men to do that. This is simply a fact–the nurturing “tools” of home and hearth are honed by the feminine hand.

My role was to be an example, the enforcer and the overseer of all that our home stands for. Therefore, my part was deciding to bring the boys home then sincerely complimenting and respecting the work my wife put into the meal. And I helped my son find a solution to his problem by showing him a simple pattern for a quality life. Does this sound terribly sexist? Do these roles we play sound right out of the 1940s? Perhaps, but let’s admit something here, friends. The new, modern, single-parent approach, as my Italian great-grandfather used to say, “Sheesa notta worka so good.”

I know many single moms and dads are trying so hard to do it alone. They are often not in these situations by choice, and they are trying to make the world right for their kids, who are operating on “half-full” tanks. Sadly, despite their efforts, a piece is missing. The majority of those who are given the single-parent-raising-kids task are women, and no matter how hard they try, the missing piece is the stability and order of a man in the life, in the house, in the secure mind of children. Robert Redford as Roy Hobbs in The Natural (1984) said, “A father makes all the difference.”

Think It Through

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