Friday, June 15, 2007

Happy Fathers Day, Tony

Tony Woodlief poignantly states a problem many of us could identify with: "But what makes a good father? ... Though my father left when I was young, and my stepfather found me uninteresting, I now have three sons of my own..." Fathering is a trade learned by the ancient master/apprentice method of tuition. Without a master, it's a hard art to "master." As far as I know, there are no correspondence courses, distance learning modules, or night school offerings.

What do you do? You do the best you can. If you are smart you pray a lot. You learn from whatever sources and examples you can. You learn from your wife. You keep trying.

The tutor in the ancient apprenticeship gave a very concrete form of tuition. A blacksmith showed by example the very physical art of hammering on an anvil, of raising the temperature with the billows, and cooling iron in sizzling water. Most of our work is far more abstract. Have you ever tried to tell a bed time story about the exciting adventures of an economist? The problem was brought home too vividly when my oldest was four or five and asked his mom to take him to the bank so he could see the interest rates go up and down.

Tony stumbles on the most important grace of fatherhood for us. It is not what our apprentices learn about our trades, but how we learn from them. As we see our faults in them, we learn to change. We hope we learn in time. It is ultimately our sons and daughters who civilize us, if we make it at all.

No comments: