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February 10, 2014
Life on Planet Kathy
The Lessons of Our Fathers
by Kathryn H. Kidd

We have a temporary boarder, here on Planet Kathy. A gentleman who goes to church with us needed a place to stay while he got some health issues sorted out, and we were asked to provide a room for him.

We couldn’t put him upstairs, seeing as how our current bedroom is our former living room, which is open to the entire top two levels of the house. In order to provide us the level of privacy that we need, Fluffy’s solution was to put Temporary Boarder in our basement, which is a house in and of itself.  The basement is huge, and it provides a suitable living area plus a nice level of privacy of all of us.

I haven’t been down to our basement for many years. When I had heart and lung problems, I couldn’t negotiate the stairs. Now that my heart and lung issues have gone away, I don’t have any working feet. If it’s not one thing, it’s another. But Fluffy assured me that no human being wanted to go into our basement, which was a catch-all area for all the unused items in the house.

I tend to trust Fluffy when he says things like that. After all, he is the one who put all the junk down there. (My part was to acquire the things that Fluffy put into the basement, which is another story altogether.  Mainly kitchen stuff.  I'm a sucker for all of those neat kitchen pans and tools, and there was probably enough of those in the basement to furnish three kitchens.)

Anyway, Fluffy spent a week of his life in the basement, getting it ready for Temporary Boarder. He took the food storage shelves out of the bedroom and replaced them with bookshelves. He took the pioneer bed out of the bedroom and replaced it with a queen-sized bed. He put a lamp next to the bed for illumination.  He changed the locks on the doors so that our boarder could have his own door and key.

The project did not require any plumbing projects or electrical wiring or sheetrock, but if it had, Fluffy could have done the work. He learned all those things as a child, watching his father do them. In fact, Fluffy once rewired an entire house of ours, all by himself, because his father had passed along those skills along to Fluffy when he was a tyke.

Fluffy organized a living area for Temporary Boarder, in the open area outside the bedroom. He created an eating area, complete with a table, dishes and a microwave oven. He made the bathroom presentable. (I have never used the bathroom in the twelve-plus years we have owned the home, and I have not seen the bathroom since George W. Bush was president, so this may have been a big job.)

The basement project required several trips to the home improvement store, and Fluffy explained what he was doing for some of the tasks he did. But he never asked me how to do anything. He never consulted a book or, to my knowledge, the internet. He just got up every morning and went to work. After a long, long week the project was finished.

When Temporary Boarder moved in, the contrast between him and Clark could not have been more dramatic. Temporary Boarder is a bright man who has no developmental problems, but he cannot do a single thing for himself. This is not an exaggeration. If a light bulb burned out in those 12-foot ceilings, I don’t think Temporary Boarder would have a clue what to do about it.

Everyone knows that I am not a tactful person. When Temporary Boarder and I were conversing during the course of the week, I happened to mention, as gently as I could, that some of the problems we had been solving for him were problems that your basic ten-year-old routinely solves for himself.

“I know that,” he said cheerfully. “My father didn’t give me the tools I needed when I was growing up. All he taught me how to do was to buy drugs and to hustle.”

Watching Temporary Boarder try to navigate life has given me a new and huge appreciation for my father, and for Fluffy’s father and for fathers everywhere. Fathers, you have no idea how much your sons need you. You have no idea how much your sons will not learn if you do not teach them.

I’m not talking about technical things, like rewiring a house, repairing an appliance, or rebuilding an engine.  Although these are all handy skills, boys can turn into men without ever learning tricks such as these.

I’m talking about the things that make up a life — things that determine what kind of human being you grow up to be.

Dads, your sons are watching you a lot more than you know. You see them and smile when they are two and they imitate you as you button your shirt or you shrug your shoulders or you comb your hair just so. In these days of telephone cameras and Facebook it is common to take pictures of them imitating you in the smallest of ways.

But they will also imitate you in the big ones. They are watching your demeanor as you get stuck in traffic or deal with unreasonable neighbors. They are seeing whether you automatically and cheerfully do household chores such as taking out the garbage or drying the dishes or picking up your dirty clothes, or if you neglect whatever tasks are yours in your family (or complain about the things you do).

They are watching you as you kiss their mother goodbye as you are leaving to go to the office, or say hello after a long day at work. They are watching you as you look at their mother across the dinner table, or play with their brothers and sisters, or read stories to the little ones, or even discipline children who have broken the rules. They are learning lessons from you every moment they spend in your presence.

They are even learning from you how important you think scriptures are, or that you believe home teaching is worth the trouble it takes to do the job. They are learning from you to stick to a task so that when they go on a mission they will not quit the first time it stops being fun. Later on, they will have learned from you that mature adults get up and go to work even if they would rather stay home and watch TV.

Or maybe they won’t have learned those lessons from you, and they won’t believe any of those things. Just in the past week I’ve seen what happens when a father doesn’t teach those things. Some sons may not do their home teaching. Other sons may not even get out of bed and go to work. After all, if they don’t go to work, the government will just send them a check.

A young friend of mine, Seth Adam Smith, recently wrote an essay called THIS is The Most Damning Belief of All Time, which is a smarter essay than I could have written.

In case you’re too busy to follow the link, the damning belief that Seth writes about is the curse of victimhood. It is responsible for the epidemic of people who sit back, doing nothing, and then beat their chests and say they could have succeeded and would have succeeded except that life is just too hard.

They are victims of life, and please send them their government checks, and why isn’t that government check bigger?

Fathers, please remember that your sons and your daughters are always watching. They watch when you set good examples. And if you set good examples a hundred days in a row, they will see you on that hundred-and-first day when, in a moment of weakness, you set a bad one. That’s the nature of life.

To a small extent or to a large one, your children will be reflections of you. Teach them good things. Teach them how to be adults when they grow up. And then teach them even more than that. Teach them to be heroes to their spouses, their children, and to everyone around them.

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