Matt Archbold graduated from Saint Joseph’s University in 1995. He is a former journalist who left the newspaper business to raise his five children. He writes for the Creative Minority Report.
My wife recently chaperoned a dance for junior high schoolers at a Catholic school. She working the door when another of the chaperones, a father of one of the students in attendance, hurried over and asked her what he was supposed to do about an eighth grade girl making out with an 8th grade guy in the middle of the dance floor.
“That’s not ok, is it?” he asked her. “Should we be doing something about this?”
The man truly didn’t know what his responsibilities were. My wife was stunned by the question. She was about to answer when another man came up to her and asked her the same question about the kissing couple. “It’s not O.K.,” she said. “Tell them to stop!”
From what I understand, after a lot of eyerolls from the couple, they stopped mauling each other with their mouths. But here’s the thing - what they were doing was completely expected. Kids do dumb things. What the kids did was something kids have been trying to do since kids were invented. Nothing new there.
What has changed in recent years are parents. Can you imagine just forty years ago two fathers frozen and completely unaware of what to do about two eighth graders kissing passionately on the dance floor? What’s happened to men? What’s happened to Dads?
“Leave room for the Holy Ghost” is an anachronistic punch line meant to elicit laughs about a stodgy time gone by. But it shouldn’t be.
I’d hope that if it was his own daughter out there on the dance floor we wouldn’t have to suffer through the same existential angst about what his responsibilities were. I scarily suspect I might be wrong.
I think so many modern Dads are so frightened at the prospect of being uncool that it makes their hairplugs stand on end and their spray tan melt. I fear most men haven’t the faintest idea of what being a Dad is about. I’ve heard it said so many times that kids grow up so fast these days. I don’t think it’s true. I think parents have stopped being parents too soon these days.
Dads are supposed to protect kids. It’s what we do. But the consequence of a generation of boys having been taught not to be boys is that men don’t know how to be men. This second generation relativism has left men confused about right and wrong. And right and wrong don’t change based upon time, last name, or venue. Our willingness to distinguish them might, however. Men no longer trust their own moral compass. When they see kids rubbing up against each other on the dance floor most men shrug their shoulders and say that the world’s changed but what they really mean is they don’t have the strength to change it back. Nobody wants to be John Lithgow from Footloose telling the cool kids not to dance.
There is a world out there and at last count it seemed to be filled with more wrong then right. Responsible Dads should give their children the tools to fight it off or at least to know the difference. So many times I’ve heard from other parents that I shouldn’t shelter my kids. But protecting their innocence isnt sheltering them, its arming them. Protecting them is preparing them for the world.
I’ve never heard of a Dad laying on his deathbed wishing he’d exposed his child to sin earlier. Regrets, I've had a few but that won't one of them.
A Dad has to be willing to be the bad guy when it counts. And that’s hard and it can be lonely. But my ambition is that my children will love me in Heaven. And I think the best way to make sure that happens, is for them to fear me a little now.
Too many children equate their parents love with the word, “Yes.” But it seems to me that “No” can be a much more loving word. When children equate love with permissiveness, it’s no surprise they start believing God just wants them to do whatever they want to make them happy. That’s what they’ve been taught about love. Love to them means letting me do whatever I want. But sin has consequences, always. A father's swift and clear consequences helps them to avoid a much worse kind of sin down the road.
A father gives life. A Dad helps his children build one. We need more Dads. The world is crying for them.