Obama's Father's Day Message

spotlight-obama-and-girlsWhile I can understand some of the criticism directed at President Barack Obama (the less over-heated criticism, anyway), I hope that even his harshest critics can agree that he seems to be a good dad. This Father’s Day, the Commander-in-Chief shares some of his thoughts on daddyhood in Parade Magazine.

First, a quick aside: Everyone who thinks that “print is dead” needs to realize that millions of Americans still read newspapers. Why else would President Obama contact Parade and ask them to publish his essay? He could just put it on the Internet, right? But if he did, many people wouldn’t get to read it.

And that would be a shame. Because what he has to say is important, and he says it well.

The essay is called ‘We Need Fathers To Step Up’. I would argue that we need ALL parents to step up, but the President is focusing specifically on dads. He grew up sans poppa, and was elected to the most powerful position on the planet. Obviously this means all things are possible regardless of your upbringing. (Having a really high IQ helps, of course, as does the drive and determination to do what he did. That’s true of almost anyone who runs for President and wins.) But it also shows that just because you grew up in certain circumstances, that doesn’t mean that you have to pass that experience on to your children.

The President writes that, when he was driving Michelle and baby Malia home from the hospital, he pledged that he “would give her what I never had—that if I could be anything in life, I would be a good father.” I’m tearing up as I type this. Not only because of the feeling behind those words, but because they describe exactly how I feel about my kids.

My dad moved out when I was too young to remember him ever living with my mom and I. He was around, sometimes, then died when I was 11. (It’s a long story, but let’s just say that he didn’t exactly die of natural causes.) I have some good memories of him, but most of the memories are confusing. I think that, in some ways, he tried to be a good father, or at least to be a father, period. He clearly didn’t have any idea how, and also wasn’t particularly good at it. None of this occurred to me when I was 11, though. I went through what most children who lose a parent at a young age go through — a feeling that somehow it was my fault. This isn’t logical or rational, of course, but it’s still very real. It took years to come to terms with that emotion, and I’m only now dealing with some of my more conflicting memories of the time I spent with my dad.

Both consciously and unconsciously, I made a decision before my children were born that I would not make the mistakes that my father made. I wasn’t going to screw up the way he did. (I’ll screw up in OTHER ways. But not those.) This doesn’t mean that I think I’m perfect. And neither does the President. Something else that’s wonderful in his essay is that he admits that feels doubts about his parenting skills and the choices he’s made. He tells us how “over the years, when the demands of work have taken me from the duties of fatherhood…I knew I was missing moments of my daughters’ lives that I’d never get back. It is a loss I will never fully accept.” And he’s right. You don’t get that time back. But the time that you are there, be as present as you can be and be a parent. No matter what happened to you when you were young, whether your dad was there for you or not, you can make a choice to be there for your own kids. And it’s the right choice.

How could anyone argue with that?

Source: Parade Magazine

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