Book Title: The Real Home
The Privileges of a Father
Chapter 9
by: Mrs. Vesta J. Farnsworth

An Arkansas farmer bought two hundred forty-three acres of land for two hundred dollars. One day, while walking over the tract, he picked up a small stone which he thought might be valuable. It was examined by experts, who pronounced it a diamond.

The two-hundred dollar farm was sold for thirty-six thousand dollars. Diamonds have been mined there worth more than four times the money paid by the second purchaser. Values still increase, and the mine bids fair to rival those of South Africa.

Children are treasures outvaluing the most costly gems. In the humblest home, a character may to-day be developing which will outshine the greatest and best on earth.

Much is said and written of the love and influence of the mother. She is rightly honored and revered. But the faithful father is also worthy of honor and reverence.

It is a great privilege to be a father. He possesses tremendous power for either good or evil. The Christian father is the connecting link between God and his children. He is their earthly mediator. He is the priest of the household. He is the houseband; he binds the family together.

A father understands his children as no other can. He knows their weaknesses. In them he sees his own failings reproduced. Parents who expect that their children will be an honor to them must themselves lead noble lives. The law of heredity is too little studied or understood. Every child is entitled to the best his father can give him. No other teacher can be as well qualified to deal with children as their own parents if they sense their responsibility and prepare to meet it. The true father will aim to make his children nobler than himself, to lift them above the place of his own faulty living.

“PLEASE LIFT ME HIGHER”

A little child was lying on his deathbed. His father bent over him, and the lad whispered, “Please lift me up.” Tenderly the father placed his hands under the wasted form and raised his child from the bed. “Lift me higher,” came the faint request. And again the child whispered, “Father, please lift me higher.” The request continued until he was lifted high above his father’s head.

Many children by their weak and faulty characters are beseeching their fathers to live a higher, holier, unblemished life, and thus lift them to a higher place, where they too can walk in unsullied purity. There would be fewer prodigal sons if there were fewer prodigal fathers. To devote his life to the uprearing of his children is the best earthly investment any father can make. It will surely bring back large dividends. Father, thank God if it is not yet too late to train your children to walk the royal path of life.

In “Quiet Talks on Home Ideals,” S.D. Gordon truly says:
 “Whatever a man might wish to have his child be, that he must be himself for long years before. And what he would not have the growing son to be, that he must not be. For the man gives himself out physically and mentally, habits and thoughts and purposes, to become another like himself. There are a great many men who are not fathers except in the barren technical and legal meaning. … Fatherhood does not begin at the birth of a child. Its beginnings go as far back as a man is making his character by his habit of life.”

Dr. David Starr Jordan declares:

 “Fathers are quite as hard to train as boys. … The father can promote the plain virtues of sobriety, honesty, tolerance, and friendliness. The most effective way of teaching these virtues is to illustrate them in himself. … This is your problem in life – the problem vastly more important to you than any or all others. How will you meet it, as a man or as a fool? It is your problem today and every day, and the hour of your choice is the crisis in your history.”

WHY NOT FATHER’S DAY?

“Mother’s Day” is quite universally observed. Why do we not have Father’s Day as well, a day when father, who bears the heavier burdens of the family, may be encouraged and honored? Father is as worthy of the children’s love as is mother if he is a true father. …

The absorbing distractions and attractions of modern life force men to be home-providers rather than home-abiders. Much of the training of the children is left to the mother, and the father is the breadwinner. Such relationship is one cause of estrangement between fathers and children.

A daughter went to her mother with the request that she ask a favor for her of her father.

“Why not ask him yourself?” the mother replied.

“I don’t feel very well acquainted with him,” was the daughter’s answer.

A father misses much if he is not “well acquainted” with his children, if he is not their comrade and confidant as well as their bank to which they go for funds. Father can make no better investment than to devote his life to the rearing of his family in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. To him, as well as to the mother, the task is given. It costs, but it pays. Such an investment calls for all that is best in a man. From the moment he looks into the face of his first-born, - yes, long before that moment, - there is a price to pay. The heart must be enlarged, ennobled, purified. There is no experience which can bring a man into closer touch with his Creator. His whole soul will cry out in its love and longing that he may not mar the wonderful trust committed to his keeping. This heart-longing can never be expressed in words.

KEEPING FAITH WITH CHILDREN

Luther Burbank, the plant wizard, thinks that most of the lawlessness and corruption starts with the early experiences of the child. He says:

 “Be dishonest with a child in word or look or deed, and you have started a grafter. Grafting, or stealing, - for that is the better word, - will never be taken up by a man whose formative years have been spent in an atmosphere of absolute honesty. A child knows instinctively whether you are true or dishonest in thought as well as in deed; you cannot escape. It may not always show its knowledge, but its judgment of you is unerring. Its life is stainless, open to receive all impressions, just as is the life of the plant, only far more pliant and responsive to influences. Upon the child, before the age of ten, we have an unparalleled opportunity to work; for nowhere else is there material so plastic.”

Nothing can be more disastrous to a father’s influence than for his children to learn that he is not strictly truthful. A story illustrating this principle is aptly told by Annie Porter Johnson in American Motherhood:

 Eight-year-old Bobby had been guilty of lying. The parents had tried many remedies to break this habit, but without success. Finally the boy was called to the sitting room for a conference with father and mother. He was playing ball, and the game was at the crucial stage.
 “What d’ye want, father?” he panted
 “I want to talk to you, Bobby. Put your bat in the corner and sit down.”
 Bobby obeyed with a sigh. He had a foreboding that something unusual was about to take place, or he might have argued the question. As it was, he glanced doubtfully at his father and mother. There was a discouraged, unhappy look on his mother’s face, and in his father’s eye he could plainly see a solemn determination that was not exactly reassuring.
 “Bobby,” began his father sorrowfully, “your mother complains that you have a very bad habit of telling lies. Don’t you know, Bobby, that it is very wicked to tell lies?”
 Bobby swung his feet and chewed his tongue vigorously while his father propounded this question.
 “What does mother tell ‘em for, then?” he asked, squarely.
 “Why, Bobby,” began his mother, in horror.
 “Yes, you do, mother! You know you do,” blurted Bobby, stoutly.
 “Robert,” warned his father sternly; “be careful what -”
 “She does, father, and so do you. You both do!”
 “My son, be quiet at once! I shall have to punish -”
 “Why, Bobby,” interrupted his mother, “when did you ever hear me tell a lie?”
 “You’ve told three today,” he announced bluntly. “You said you’d whip me if I told another lie, and I told two just to see; an’ you never whipped me at all. An’ you said I couldn’t have no cake if I run away, an’ I run away, an’ I got the cake all right. An’ you told Mrs. Smith you’d be so glad if she’d come over, an’ afterward you said you hoped to goodness she wouldn’t come, ‘cause you didn’t like her anyway. Ain’t them lies?”
 Mother’s eyes fell beneath Bobby’s searching arraignment. “Well, Bobby,” she stammered, “I – I – didn’t mean -”
 “Well, mother, I didn’t either,” assented Bobby. He realized that he was getting the upper hand, and was ready for more worlds to conquer.
 Bobby’s father spoke rather reproachfully. “I am very much surprised, Lucy; very much surprised to hear -”
 “You needn’t scold her, father; you tell ‘em too.”
 “Not another word, Bobby! not another word, or I shall punish you severely. When did I ever tell a lie?”
 “You promised the preacher you’d go to church, and I heard you tell mother afterward you told him that just to get rid of him, and you didn’t mean to go at all. An’ you said if I’d weed the onion bed, you’d get me a new rubber ball. I worked awful hard, but you didn’t get me any ball.”
 Bobby’s father looked at Bobby’s mother sheepishly. “I didn’t think. I – I – forgot,” he stumbled.
 Bobby’s bright eyes saw the mutually sheepish look pass between his father and mother, and he knew he was master of the situation.
 “I forgot, too,” he replied. “I guess the whole family forgets,” he added, glancing wistfully at the bat in the corner. As far as he was concerned, it was time for the conference to adjourn.
 “That is all for this time, Bobby. You may go now,” said Bobby’s father, trying to look stern and parental.
 Bobby grabbed the bat, and with a whoop rushed out of the door.
 Then Bobby’s father and mother had a conference in the sitting room all by themselves.

It will bear repeating that all promises to children must be carefully made and kept. If for any reason it is impossible to keep a promise, the reason must be explained, for children have a keen sense of justice which cannot safely be ignored. Frankness and fairness should enter into all dealings with them.

This story is told by Elizabeth Palmer Milbank:

 A little friend and neighbor, aged five years, came in to see me the other day. Shadows were in his eyes and his rosebud mouth drooped. I love the little chap for himself; I love him because for two years mother-love has been to him but a memory. So I welcomed him with a smile and a “What’s the matter with you, Billy-Boy?” but there was no answering smile, just a doleful “I got somefin’ dreffel to tell you, Mrs. Mason.”

 Something too “dreffel” to be said aloud evidently, for he climbed into my lap, put the drooping mouth close to my ear, and whispered, “Mrs. Mason, my papa isn’t a right promiser.” The hopeless, despairing tone made the confession tragic.
 “Why, Billy-Boy, what do you mean?”
 “He promised to bring me some candy, and he didn’t do it.”
 “Oh, but he is such a busy man, dear. He just forgot it.”
“Yes,” he answered soberly, “I thought about that. But he promised to make me a swing, and he didn’t do it.”
 I struggled to hold his faith. “Billy, he probably didn’t have the things ready to make a swing.”
 “Yes, I thought about that, too. But he promised to take me uptown last night, and he didn’t do it; and,” in a tone of sorrowful finality, “I know now he isn’t a right promiser.”
 His voice broke on the last word and his blue yes filled; but too manly to shed tears, he whistled to his dog and hurried away before I could make further excuses for the father who I also knew was “not a right promiser.”

“HE MAY COMMAND HIS CHILDREN”

Of Abraham, the friend of God, this testimony is borne: “For I have know him, to the end that he may command his children and his household after him, that they may keep the way of Jehovah, to do righteousness and justice.”

Though Abraham loved Isaac devotedly, yet no foolish fondness held him back from commanding his son to do right. This was apparent when Isaac became a young man; for he preferred to lose his life as a sacrifice rather than fail to carry out God’s plan. The father is the commander in chief of the family. His commands will be given in love, but he knows they must be given, and that children must learn to obey. He cannot commit this work to others.

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