The ad in the paper had a great looking dad, not too sexy, clean-cut, looking out from the page in a charming manner. Standing on a chair was a lovely ballerina complete with tiara, about 8 years old, whispering in his ear.

The caption was CELEBRATE HIM EVERY DAY (but give him all your confidence).

Really cute — it probably sold lots of shirts and ties for Father's Day.

But, I thought, cut to five or ten years from that moment when the kid is standing there with baggy clothes and pierced body parts, and then we'd really like to see the look on his face.

This reminds me of an experience we had with our fifth child, Jim.

He was nine years younger than the sibling closest to him, so it was really joyful to have a small person who adored everyone and ran to greet his old dad when he arrived home from work.

Cut to Jim as a senior in high school during football season with the courage to tread where his brothers had dared not tread.

He went out one evening to study and came home with a hat on and gave me the sign to come in the other room. He removed the hat showing a Mohawk haircut bleached blond. He looked positively ridiculous.

Jim said, "See if you can work dad into this."

I returned to the family room and told my husband, Grit, to prepare himself for something he wasn't going to like, that the state championship game was a week away and after the game Jim would shave his head.

Grit took one look at Jim and, through clenched jaws, informed him he was not willing to raise a Dennis Rodman.

Jim kept his hat on at all times while in his father's presence, even at dinner, and they made it through the week.

Parenting is no easy business. When children are small, you lose sleep because of the feeding schedule or for some nightmare that awakens them. When they are older, you lose sleep waiting for them to appear.

To be a good parent is a lifetime commitment that is sometimes rewarding and other times challenging and frustrating. You are led to experiences you never dreamed of being involved in.

They can make your life happy and wonderful or a living hell.

If children came with a user's manual, our parenting role would be made much easier, but since they do not, we are left to self-help books and advice handed down but mostly just trial and error.

From my vantage point of many years being married to a dad, I've seen changes in the scope of the father's role in parenting, but as the old saying goes, 'The more things change the more they stay the same."

The point is to develop a person who can go out into the world and contribute.

A father or a father figure's contribution to the mental health and welfare of his children can truly be measured by the time and concern they give to their parenting.

Our son Michael chose to go to medical school, which meant his wife had to keep up her gymnastics business to keep them fed. He truly was "Mr. Mom." He got a little baby carrier and off they went to classes or wherever life took him for the day. It was a necessity that opened this door for him, as it has for many men whose wives are working, and he found out just how rewarding "hands-on" parenting can be.

As a society we need to reinforce the need for fathers to be involved with their children.

We need to convince divorced fathers that, even though it is more difficult, they are so very important in their children's lives and must make those extra efforts to meet those children's needs.

Having a child is a covenant with God that you will attempt to make that child better than you were.


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