Family Groups - Fathers - Good dads being recognised
Across the country this Father's Day weekend, a happy surprise
awaited 1,000 unsuspecting fathers. Each of these men was
simply out with his kids in public --- shepherding them through
a children's museum, going head-to-head in an ESPN Zone game
or just roughhousing with them at a park --- when out of nowhere
someone would walk up and tap him on the shoulder.
"Congratulations," the intruder would say, smiling
at the man's startled attempts to pick grass clippings out
of his kid's hair, "You've been caught being a Golden
Dad. As part of the Golden Dad Award, here are free passes
to the children's museum over there. Happy Father's Day."
In their second annual campaign, Golden Dad awards from the
National Fatherhood Initiative and Rendezvous Entertainment/HUM
were given out in 10 cities. Next year, I hope it's 100. Recognizing
and appreciating good dads does something that reams of newsprint
about fatherhood can never do: encourage and inspire those
millions of men who are excellent fathers, and those who aim
The method for identifying Golden Dads was unscientific, but
very telling. In each city, the staff of local family-resource
groups spent time in a particular public place, watching family
groups come and go and zeroing in on those fathers who were
investing in their children's lives.
I asked one such "Golden Dad catcher," Jamie Self
of the Georgia Family Council, how on earth she could tell
whether a man was investing in his kids just by watching them
together at Centennial Olympic Park or the Imagine It children's
"You could tell immediately who was involved and who
wasn't," she said. "A dad who was engaged didn't
just passively walk his children through the museum. A good
dad talked and pointed things out and climbed in the sandbox
with his kids. He picked his children up and hugged them if
they got tired or wrestled with them in the park. It was easy
to spot the dads who were pouring life into their kids."
Pouring life into their kids. What a wonderful description
of a father's transforming influence.
I asked a few of the Golden Dad recipients for their reactions.
Malcolm Williams spoke for many when he said he was surprised,
but gratified. "Family is the most important thing in
our culture right now but doesn't get enough attention because
there's so much else going on in our world. But if we can
keep our families together. we can keep everything else together."
Another common denominator came when I asked what was the
biggest hurdle to being a good dad. "Time," said
Ross Sloop, who was out with both his own father and his son.
"There are so many conflicting demands placed on a father's
time these days. But without a doubt, the path to being a
good father is investing time with children.
"My own father made a conscious decision that he wanted
to spend as much time as possible doing activities with us
as kids, and told us how important that was to him."
A picture of the three generations of Sloop men reminds me
of the whole point behind the Golden Dads campaign and all
other fatherhood programs.
I see the twinkling eyes of a white-haired man who poured
life into his son, and I see that son, smiling at the camera,
holding his own 3-year-old boy. I think: That little boy has
a powerful legacy of father love. And I'll bet in 30 years,
someone is going to tap him on the shoulder and tell him he's
a wonderful dad.
Shaunti Feldhahn of Norcross is the author of several books.
Her column appears on Wednesdays.
The National Fatherhood Initiative