An afterthought about fatherhood

(An explanation: In gathering items for the 25 Year Ago column I found this editorial in the June 19, 1984, edition. It seemed OK for today, too. -Emerson Lynn, jr.)
Father’s Day came and went and I never told you how an ideal father should behave. There’s a reason for that. Such observances were never big deals in the Lynn family half a century ago and I tend to let them slip by still.
Our attitude was a little uppish. Both Father’s Day and Mother’s Day seemed to be essentially commercial opportunities. We decided against yielding to the urge to comply.
But we always did yield. Mother got presents, breakfast in bed, special chores done for her and cards made in school or, in later years, bought from the drug store. Dad probably got cologne, a tie or a carton of Camels.
The four of us did what we could to show love in appreciation for all the love shown us. Those efforts to reciprocate affection weren’t limited to special days, of course — that was the trap we were seeking to avoid by pooh-poohing the importance of those red-lettered Sundays.
The relationship be-tween children and parents is, after all, a 365-day-a-year thing.
But you were waiting for me to tell you what an ideal father should do and be. Well, I don’t know, of course, and that’s another reason why no resume appeared in time to make most Register-reading dads feel inadequate.
The truth probably is that kids and parents come matched or mismatched, much as husbands and wives do, and that blind chance plays a much bigger role in the relationship than is comfortable to contemplate.
The ideal way to “father” one youngster may not work nearly so well with the next: subjected to the Victorian father that Clarence Day described, one son may thrive and grow up to be a bank president while his brother rejects the discipline and runs off to sea to lead a mutiny.
What’s a father to do?
Step one, surely, is to pledge by all things holy not to try to be an Ideal Father. Ideals are models agreed upon by accepted taste makers. He who would be an ideal father — or lover, worker or board chairman — condemns himself to being something other than what he really is. He thereby forfeits spontaneity and genuineness and is defeated before he leaves the starting gate.
Step two is to realize that youngsters learn by imitation; to know that they are influenced far more by what a parent does than what he or she says. If you are not what you would like your infant to become, change.
Step three is to keep always in mind that youngsters need approval and affection almost as much as adults do. Being a good parent amounts to being a good friend — to an infant, a preschooler, a teenager or university freshman.
Chances are you won’t make it to Perfect Dad. But with a little luck you can get to good friend status within 25 years or so — and that’s even better.