All right, I’ll admit it. I’m old enough to remember watching “Father Knows Best,” “Donna Reed,” and “Ozzie and Harriet” on TV. But is that really so bad?
I was the oldest of three children and the only girl—and I adored my dad. He was my first hero (my husband is my second!), and there were several reasons for that. One of my first memories is of the day we moved into a brand new house, the one my dad had worked on during his off-hours for many months. I was three years old. I stepped out of the hot sun and into the entryway, immediately grateful for the cool air inside and impressed that my dad had accomplished such a thing.
It was also about that same time that I began having severe asthma attacks, often ending up with pneumonia and having to be hospitalized on many occasions. That was before the days when employers or the government provided health insurance, so my health care was strictly my parents’ responsibility. I may have been young, but I somehow realized that my going to the hospital meant that my already hard-working father would have to work even more hours to pay the bills. Because of that I tried not to show how really sick I felt, but eventually my dad would come into my room and say, “I think it’s time to take you to the hospital now.” Then he’d carry me to the car as I considered how very much he must love me to do such a thing.
In addition to being a hard worker, who nearly always kept two jobs in an effort to provide for us, Dad was a disciplinarian and had high standards. If we were capable of A’s, he did not accept B’s. He drilled us on math and geography, and helped me practice for spelling bees even when he was exhausted from a long day’s work. As a result, I learned to set high standards for myself and to pass them on to others.
And yet, if we are to believe the picture that is painted of fathers in today’s society, I’d have to say that my father’s generation was the last of that exemplary breed. TV sitcoms today are a far cry from the “Father Knows Best” era where Dad was admired and respected. Most of the fathers on television today can’t tie their own shoes without a woman’s help! Even commercials show husbands having to ask permission before eating yogurt from the refrigerator. Is that really the picture we want to paint for impressionable children who spend far too many hours glued to those TV sets?
Call me old-fashioned (seriously, go ahead—I don’t mind!), but I’m concerned about the shift I’ve seen in our culture regarding our view of men—fathers in particular. Not only are they often portrayed as helpless buffoons, but in many cases they are reduced to unnecessary annoyances. Who needs a man around when Super Woman is already there to run things? Even the children on most TV shows know enough not to ask Dad for anything except money because only Mom has enough brain power to answer their questions, and only she has the authority to grant them permission. Mom is in charge, and if Dad dares to challenge that assertion, he will have repented by the end of the program.
How sad. Now admittedly, I didn’t grow up in a Christian home. Neither Mom nor Dad was a true believer at that time, though both had been raised with some religious training. My dad even had a German mother who taught him of “Ye-sus,” as she called Him, but Dad had drifted away from the teachings of his childhood. His moral standards, however, lined up with what he had learned from the Scriptures, and he did his best to institute them in our home. We also had the advantage of growing up during a time when prayer and Bible reading were still allowed in school, so we had at least a smattering of Christian understanding mixed in with our moral upbringing. Our home was a home of absolutes; situational ethics just didn’t cut it. Some might call it harsh; I look back and call it “love.”
Though it was some years after I grew up and left home that our entire family came to Christ, it was Dad’s uncompromising values while we were children that gave us a moral compass on which to base our lives. How saddened I am when I see so many young people today who seemingly have no such standards or guidelines, no compass to point them in the right direction. Can we really be surprised when so many of them seem lost?
How different might it be if we returned to the teachings of the Scriptures, particularly Ephesians 5 and 6, which so clearly outline God’s purpose and order for family relationships? Wives are to respect their husbands, children are to obey their fathers, and men are to sacrificially love their wives and bring up their children “in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Somehow we’ve gotten it all backwards, especially on TV. Women do not respect their husbands, and children certainly don’t obey their parents. And no one in the sitcoms brings up their children in the training and admonition of the Lord. For the most part, even in Christian homes, that scriptural training of children is done by the mothers.
As I said, call me old-fashioned, but I miss the days of “Father Knows Best.” Even without a Christian father, I was blessed to be loved by a man with high standards and moral values, and for that I will always be grateful. The man I called “Daddy” will always be my first hero, and because he finally returned to “Ye-sus” in the last week of his eighty-eight years on this earth, I know I will see him again one day soon. And oh, how I look forward to it!
God in His infinite wisdom and unconditional love gave me the perfect dad, just the one I needed so I could grow up and become the woman I was meant to be. And for that I thank my heavenly Father, the One who truly does know best.