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Fathers Invest in Your Kids!

Something on the front page of a New York Times Sunday Business section (1-15-06) caught my eye. (Disclosure: I already know that the market goes up and down and am bored by financial news so I almost never read these pages.) But the words “Where to Invest Now? In Your Children” were intriguing so I turned to Ben Stein’s piece in his weekly “Everybody’s Business” column.

Stein used his column to give advice to busy fathers. Wait, that’s my job, I thought, but I have to admit he wrote a great parenting column. His bottom line advice: no matter how busy you are at work spend time with your children, help them as they walk along the road to adulthood, encourage them every step of the way.

Ben Stein tells a wonderful story about the 5-year-old daughter of a friend. She wanted to look at the stars in his back yard after dinner. He told her to look up at the sky but she complained she couldn’t see the stars even though they were shining brightly. Her father said he would hold her on his shoulders and when hoisted up there she exclaimed, “Now I see all the stars, they’re beautiful.” She was, of course, but infinitesimally closer to the stars but she was infinitely uplifted by her father’s attentive love.

“That’s it, I thought,” wrote Stein, “With our fathers lifting us up, we get encouragement, belief in ourselves, confidence that we can reach out and grab the stars for ourselves. Without our fathers lifting us, we are out in the yard in the dark.”

He went on to admit there were lots he didn’t know about finance and economics despite his status as a financial columnist (Disclosure number two: there’s lots I don’t know about parenting and children but I manage to learn something new every day which keeps me going as a parenting columnist.) he was sure that investment in your children is a good bet and it pays off.

I agree! Because mothers generally spend more time with their children, even those moms who are in the workforce, fathers are somewhat overlooked and underestimated in their importance to the well-being and development of their children. One of the healthiest side effects of the increase in maternal employment has been the parallel increase in participatory fatherhood.

But, alas, not all men realize how important they are to their children. We still hear stories of men who take off when they learn their girlfriend is pregnant. We read about deadbeat dads who do not financially or emotionally support their children after a divorce. We hear about men who are indifferent to their children and are convinced child-rearing is not their job.

I remember my own father’s encouragement. I can still hear him saying to me, a day after my sixth birthday, for example, “A big girl like you, almost seven years old, of course you can do it!” I remember him patiently helping me with my math homework and, more important, helping me get over my fear of math. I remember how he imparted his love of science, his curiosity about the world, his wonder about the new technology that he lived to see.

An engineer, he always carried a slide rule in his shirt pocket as well as a notebook and sharp pencils so he could write down questions he though of that he wanted to find answers too. He taught me how to use a slide rule when I was still in grade school. He also taught me how to play chess and find the constellations in the sky. When I started college he suggested I go to one of the Boston newspapers and offer to write college news for them. They hired me and actually paid me (a dollar an inch). This “job” which would have never occurred to me gave me confidence in my writing skills.

My father believed in me and because of this I began to believe in my self. I instinctively knew as a child how important my father’s time and attention were. Now I know that ENCOURAGEMENT and high EXPECTATIONS are the essence of good parenting.

So I ask all you dads out there to lift your kids up so they can better see the stars and become the very best they can become here on earth.

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