FATHER’S DAY 5771
Tomorrow is Father’s Day. Tomorrow visits are made, gifts and cards are given to Dad, to Pop or to father. With the arrival of Father’s Day, it’s time for the re-telling of my annual joke of the inquisitive child who asked his friend, “What’s the difference between Father’s Day and Mother’s Day?”
And his little friend replied, “They’re both the same…except for one thing. On Father’s Day you can give a cheaper present!”
Before we had unlimited long distance calling, it was on Mother’s Day that the most long distance calls were made and on Father’s Day that the most collect calls were made! We laugh because we know that it’s true!
We desperately need to celebrate fatherhood today, because it’s now under assault as never before. Granted that many young fathers are now more involved in parenting than their fathers ever were, but more and more it seems as if having a father is no longer necessary, or at least not essential, in raising a child. Yesterdays Atlanta Journal-Constitution had some startling statistics. According to the Pew Research Center, the latest census data shows that, “Nearly ½ of American dads under 45 this Father’s Day say they have at least one kid who was born out of wedlock.” And more than one in 4 fathers live apart from their children—more than double what it was not so long ago. 52% of children being raised today will spend at least 2 years in a home without 2 parents. There are now all sorts of new family arrangements: single moms, step-parents, adoptive parents, partner parents, gay and lesbian parents. Being a parent today can be complicated.
So this Father’s Day I’d like to encourage fatherhood by speaking about what a true nachas, a true joy, being a father is. It is an honor to be a parent and us parents aught to be grateful for this growth opportunity—and that is what it is—a growth opportunity—make no mistake about it.
There’s a story of a new dad who was left by his wife who went out to do some errands a week after they brought their newborn infant home from the hospital. Soon after the mother left, the baby started to cry. The father did everything he could think of to do but the baby wouldn’t stop crying.
Finally, the dad got so worried he decided to take the infant to the doctor. After the doctor listened to the father tell all that he had done to get the baby to stop the crying, the doctor began to examine the baby’s ears, chest and then down to the diaper area. When he undid the diaper, he found that the diaper was indeed full. “Here’s the problem,” the Dr. said, giving the father an impatient look, “Why didn’t you change his diaper?”
The father was very perplexed, “But the diaper package says it’s good for up to 10 lbs.!”
Yes being a parent is every bit as much a growth opportunity as being a child. Viewed in this light, children are surely one of the biggest bargains that any of us ever acquire in our lives. I can see you saying to yourselves, “Did I hear the rabbi right? Children are a bargain?” But children are an enormous expense! If someone would tell perspective parents what it cost to raise a child from birth to adulthood, one could make a good case that there would probably be far fewer children! Do you want to know how much it is? I did some research online and found that it takes about $234,000 to raise a child till age 18—and that’s not counting the cost of giving birth, Jewish Day School or private school, or summer camp or the costs of college. It costs more for our children to take one course in college today than it cost me for a year’s tuition when I was in college.
So how can I, in my right mind, say that having a child is a bargain? I saw an article by Rev. James Hayford Sr. of the Eastside Foursquare Church in Bothell, Washington, in which he tries to put this statistic into proper perspective. He did so by doing 2 things. 1st he explained that you don’t have to put out $234,000 at one time. If you break it down, it comes to only $13,000 a year or to $1,083 a month or to $252 per week or to $36 a day. That’s not so bad, is it?
Then Rev. Hayford explained 18 things that you get for this money. Let me read you some of them:
You get naming rights, 1st, middle, and last! Do you know what it costs to get a school building named for you, or a museum? Believe me, they cost a lot more.
You get glimpses of Gd every day; when you watch them laugh, or learn an idea, or catch a ball or go to sleep with a smile on their faces.
You get more love than your heart can hold.
You get to see endless wonders such as rocks, clouds and warm cookies, that you might not notice yourself if you didn’t have a child’s eyes to see them through.
You get a partner for blowing bubbles, flying kites, building sand castles, and skipping down the sidewalk. Things you would never do by yourself.
You get someone to laugh yourself silly with, no matter what happened at the office that day or how your stocks did.
You get to be a hero, just for retrieving a ball from under a car…or for removing a splinter from a hand, or for treating your kid’s team to ice cream after a game.
You get a front row seat to the unfolding of history, as you mark the 1st step, the 1st word, the 1st report card, the 1st date, and the 1st time behind the wheel.
You get to be immortal, when they quote you, or act like you, or have a child themselves, who looks like you.
AND in the eyes of a child, you rank right up there with Gd. You have all the power to heal a boo-boo, to scare away the monsters under the bed, to patch a broken heart, to police a slumber party, to ground them forever, and to love them without limits, so that someday they, like you, will love without limits.
And you get ALL THAT for a measly $234,000??? What a bargain!
So on this Father’s Day Weekend, may all of us who are fortunate enough to have children be grateful to Gd. Father’s Day was created by the retail business world so that each father would receive cards and gifts from his wife and children. We will, therefore, receive an assortment of shirts and ties and wallets. But among all these gifts will be one—the one gift that really matters the most—and that is to realize what a blessing it is to be a parent. Father’s Day then becomes a day when we should give thanks to Gd for how very fortunate we are.
I have a colleague who has a unique custom for expressing his gratitude on Father’s Day. He buys each of his children a very special present—something that only they would appreciate—to show them how much he appreciates them and how grateful he is for being their father.
Oh, and there is one more thing I forgot to mention that we get from our children that we ought to add to Rev. Hayford’s list. It’s that famous saying, “Insanity is hereditary; you get it from your children.”
It’s true, but in a wonderful way. Our children drive us a little crazy, at times, and we become a lot crazy when we have grandchildren. Yet, I would insist that any grandparent who isn’t crazy about his grandchildren, should have his head examined. If for nothing else but just giving us grandchildren, we owe our children a great debt of gratitude.
So what might you give your children on Father’s Day? Ultimately, what is it that we will give our children? Annuities? That’s not what they need. More than one heir has been crippled, spoiled, ruined, by an inheritance that kept them from learning how to care for themselves.
The Talmud calls upon us to do 5 things for our children:
1. We circumcise them—by which it means—we give them their Jewish identity.
2. We teach them Torah—so they may know who they are and for what they stand.
3. We teach them a trade—so that they may earn an honest living.
4. We find them a mate—though nowadays for some reason, kids seem to think that they can pick their mates for themselves better that we can pick one for them.
5. And we teach them how to swim—which I think means we teach them how to be safe and how to go against the stream and be themselves.
And for us, our children give us the nachas we couldn’t find anywhere else. I wish all of you a Happy Father’s Day and ask that you use the day to thank Gd for the blessing of your children. Amen!
Rabbi Mark Hillel Kunis