Saturday, June 20, 2009

Happy Father's Day!

Tomorrow, Sunday, is Father’s Day in the USA.

Gifts from the kids. A special meal. Good family time.

I have been watching the news reports of President Obama giving speeches with a Father’s day theme. A funny speech last night speaking in front of the Washington press corps.

In between jokes, he reminded us of his own father, and challenged us all to be better fathers than his own was.

Obama has written a whole book about his father, “Dreams from My Father”, in which he talks about the man who abandoned his family. But Obama mainly talks about his own parenting today; a father to his own Sasha, 8, and Malia, 10.

As usual, he is telling American men what sort of fathers they should be, what kind of father he himself wants to be. The method is pretty simple: just be the opposite of what his own father was like.

Barack Hussein Obama, Sr., was a sometime Kenyan Goatherder cum Harvard scholar. Or so the storyline goes. Left his Kenyan family behind for a U.S. education and started a new family there, only to return to Africa with another woman when Barack Jr. was 2 years old.

Senior worked for an oil company in Africa, and for the government. His promise never materialized and when his 21-year-old son in America was a student at Columbia University, the senior Barack finally succumbed to the bottle and then died in a car crash.

He left his son a Muslim name, an African heritage and a basketball. Not much else.

“I don’t want to be the kind of father I had,” the president says quietly.

Although Obama’s preaching is most obvious when addressing other black men, his message is for all men: Be better fathers.

"Let's admit to ourselves that there are a lot of men out there that need to stop acting like boys; who need to realize that responsibility does not end at conception; who need to know that what makes you a man is not the ability to have a child but the courage to raise a child."

"We need to step out of our own heads and tune in. We need to turn off the television and start talking with our kids, and listening to them, and understanding what's going on in their lives."

"Any fool can have a child. That doesn't make you a father.”

Obama is quick to acknowledge his own shortcomings as a father. His fierce career ambitions many times kept him separated from his family.

"I know I have been an imperfect father. I know I have made mistakes. I have lost count of all the times, over the years, when the demands of work have taken me from the duties of fatherhood."

But, during the recent campaign, and now that he is in the White House, Obama finds time - makes time - to spend time with his girls and wife.

Obama was a schoolboy in Hawaii when his father came back to visit one time. He gave his dad a tie. His father gave him some African figurines and came to his class to speak about Kenya. And then he left again.

Before he left, he gave his son a basketball.

Cat’s in the Cradle
by Harry Chapin

A child arrived just the other day,
He came to the world in the usual way.
But there were planes to catch, and bills to pay.
He learned to walk while I was away.
And he was talking 'fore I knew it, and as he grew,
He'd say, "I'm gonna be like you, dad.
You know I'm gonna be like you."

And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon,
Little boy blue and the man in the moon.
"When you coming home, dad?" "I don't know when,
But we'll get together then.
You know we'll have a good time then."

My son turned ten just the other day.
He said, "Thanks for the ball, dad, come on let's play.
Can you teach me to throw?" I said, "Not today,
I got a lot to do." He said, "That's ok."
And he walked away, but his smile never dimmed,
Said, "I'm gonna be like him, yeah.
You know I'm gonna be like him."

And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon,
Little boy blue and the man in the moon.
"When you coming home, dad?" "I don't know when,
But we'll get together then.
You know we'll have a good time then."

Well, he came from college just the other day,
So much like a man I just had to say,
"Son, I'm proud of you. Can you sit for a while?"
He shook his head, and he said with a smile,
"What I'd really like, dad, is to borrow the car keys.
See you later. Can I have them please?"

And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon,
Little boy blue and the man in the moon.
"When you coming home, son?" "I don't know when,
But we'll get together then, dad.
You know we'll have a good time then."

I've long since retired and my son's moved away.
I called him up just the other day.
I said, "I'd like to see you if you don't mind."
He said, "I'd love to, dad, if I could find the time.
You see, my new job's a hassle, and the kid's got the flu,
But it's sure nice talking to you, dad.
It's been sure nice talking to you."
And as I hung up the phone, it occurred to me,
He'd grown up just like me.
My boy was just like me.

And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon,
Little boy blue and the man in the moon.
"When you coming home, son?" "I don't know when,
But we'll get together then, dad.
You know we'll have a good time then."


  1. My father was a different kind of father. What I remember most about my childhood were walks and talks with my father on every topic I can remember. Later on, he had to do a lot of traveling, but I was in college. I don't know if my siblings remember him the same way, but he's the best model I have when I think about what kind of parent I want to be.

  2. Happy Father's Day Tom, I hope it is a grand one. The article was a good one and because tomorrow is Father's Day I will hold all disparaging remarks about our beloved President.:)

  3. @Stephanie B - I have fond memories of my own father. Although he worked hard and long hours, there was no doubt why he was working hard and long. All of us knew it was for us, and we all felt his love. We all treasured our time with Dad.

    @Ettarose - Thank you very much Sue. It's good to have you stop by. It just occurred to me I don't know anything about your childhood, except maybe it possibly occured in Arizona. Were you always a hick? :)

  4. My father would never let us celebrate Fathers' Day. He said it was a commercial fabrication and didn't want anything to do with it. I've never been able to forget it though, because it always falls on or around my birthday. So he always got a phone call, like it or not. I always felt very close to him. He made sure his family stayed close physically too, even when it was considered unconventional at the time to cart children into the back of beyond.

  5. Mr Obama must not feel alone and he is fortunate that he had a mother and grandmother who gave him a good life.

    In Africa the "father" figure has all but disappeared! The average African male has multiple sex partners and he sows his seeds (many containing the HIV?AIDS virus)all over and does not take any responsibility for his children, it is usually up to the mother or her parents to rear the children.

    Just think about the millions of "fatherless" children in Africa!

    Sorry to put a dampner on Fathers Day, but facts are facts.

    I love my father dearly and he is a superb, humble man who does also not celebrate fathers day.

    Every child needs their father's love and their father's time!

  6. Happy Father's Day - no matter how good bad or indifferent Dad's may be they are still 50% of you and I still miss my dad very much..and always will xx

  7. Tom, you are right we never really discussed my growing up. Not much to tell really. I stayed in Phoenix where I was born until age 36 when I moved here. My mother died in 1988 and my Father is somewhere in the Arizona desert with the woman he married when my mom had been dead 8 months. Needless to say we do not speak. I left home at fifteen and have been on my own since. The rest you know, not pretty eh?

  8. I realize as usual, I am a day late and a dollar short, but none the less, my wishes are no less sincere that you had a wonderful day and feel appreciated.

  9. @A. - I wanted to throw you a birthday party here, and show I care about your loyalty. But I blew it unbelievably because I was having some silly work done on my house. It's something I can't make up to you, but it's something I want the others know I am sorry for.

    Your father was probably the most interesting father of all. :)

  10. @Frostygirl - Fathers are becoming an endangered species all over the world, I think. You and I were lucky to have good ones. I cannot even begin to imagine some of the things and changes your father (and you) went through. You must write a first-hand report for me sometimes. I am so interested in those times.

  11. @Sage - Hello, Sage. I'm sorry you don't have your father, but I know you have memories.

    Can't argue with your percentages, either. :)

    I am always happy when you stop by.

  12. @Debbie - Thank you. You are never a dollar short. In anything. I hope things are going well for you and especially for your young world traveler. I wish him both excitement and safety until he returns to you.

  13. @Ettarose - You stayed in Phoenix until you were 36? I didn't know that. Then you took the stage east? :)

    I don't get the "needless to say" part. You had better find a way to come to terms. I don't know. You know best. All you can do is all you can do.



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