"Big Four" Highlights


Five Tips for Fathers

What we do has eternal importance

By Randy Hain

“Dad, want to throw the baseball?”

Baseball season is in full swing and this is an almost daily request from my 12-year-old son weekdays when I get home from work, and it is repeated throughout the weekend. Depending on the sports season, weather and the whims of my children, the requests can become, “Can we throw the football?” or “Can we shoot some hoops?” or “Wanna ride bikes?”

Translation: “Dad, spend some quality time with me.”

Like many of you, I lead a rather hectic life. I run a small business, have a 15-year-old son with high-functioning autism and the 12-year-old mentioned above, and am blessed with a loving wife of 18 years who needs me as well (and I, her!). Since converting to Catholicism in 2006, I have been very involved in various ministries, serving on nonprofit boards in my community, writing books and articles, speaking and fulfilling my duties as the senior editor of the Integrated Catholic Life™ eMagazine. I do my best to get all of these things done throughout the day and before my wife and children wake up in the morning so that our evenings and weekends can be reserved for family time. I would love to tell you that it all works out beautifully, but it is a daily struggle. Yet it is one well worth the effort because my sons need me now, and I have only one life in which to be there for them.

Of course, I could relinquish my responsibilities to others and allow peers, TV, the internet, video games and a godless, materialistic culture to raise my sons and hope for the best. Or, I can live up to my responsibilities and vocation as a father. The choice is clear, and what I decide has eternal effects.

As fathers, our vocation is to help our family get to heaven. That is a tall order and requires courage, hard work, difficult choices and lots of prayer. How often do we say we want to do the right thing but lose focus, get busy and allow the culture to creep in?  I am afraid it happens all too often.

How can we do a better job? None of us is perfect, but perhaps we can follow these five basic steps to stay on course:

1. Make the most of our time together. My younger son and I have been having great conversations on the way to lacrosse practice and when we play catch in our front yard. The important thing is to maximize every minute with our children, creating opportunities to both share our wisdom and guide them to good decisions in life. Making family dinner time a priority is one way to help make this happen. Know that efforts to get our attention may be cries for help. They need us, but are we available

2. Listen before lecturing. This is difficult for me! The fastest way to make my son clam up is by cutting him off with a “coaching moment.” I can coach later, but I need to hear him out first and encourage him to share his thoughts.

3. Be great Catholic role models. It doesn’t get more basic than this, but do we realize how often our children are watching our every move? They will love God, be excited about Mass and have devotion to our Catholic faith if we do the same. They will likely pray faithfully if we do. They will be more likely to grow up following the Magisterium and staying out of the “Catholic cafeteria line” if we set the right example.

4. Honor the Sacrament of Marriage. Want to see our children get married and start great families someday? Love our spouses and model the kind of marriage we want them to enjoy. Show open affection, say, “I love you,” and make sure the kids know how much we honor and respect our wives. We deny our kids a great blessing if they grow up in a home where the Sacrament of Marriage is not treasured and valued.

5. Tune out popular culture. Guess what? If we are obsessed with “American Idol,” buying junk we don’t need and trying to keep up with the neighbors, our kids will emulate our behavior. I am beginning to feel that every minute spent in front of the TV or the computer is wasted time and a missed opportunity to interact with the family. This may be the hardest thing on the list, but we can do a better job with our time and focus.

I feel like being a better father is a wrestling match that never ends! This subject often comes up in my daily prayers as I seek discernment and courage to do the right things. The alternative to my daily struggle is to be apathetic, which will virtually guarantee our children, especially our youngest son, will grow up drifting without a good foundation of faith, values and a sense of what is truly important. Kids are like clay to be formed and developed. In our absence, those who only see our children as consumers or who seek to do them harm will step into the vacuum. Children are God’s gift to us. Taking excellent care of his creation is our gift back to him.

Randy Hain, Senior Editor and co-founder of The Integrated Catholic Life™, is the author of three books by Liguori Press: The Catholic Briefcase: Tools for Integrating Faith and Work, Along the Way: Lessons for an Authentic Journey of Faith and Something More: A Professional’s Pursuit of a Meaningful Life.