Dad ... Please Spend Time with Me (Part II)
By Sahar Kassaimah
These days, thanks to the recent celebration of holidays like Father's Day, fathers have a day in which they are the centers of attention. The holiday signifies a day in which families come together to give thanks to their fathers while expressing their love for him by giving him a nice present and sharing in a delicious cake.
But, as Muslims, we believe that we should always remember our fathers and make du'aa (supplication) for them in their life and after their death. We always appreciate their great role in raising, directing, and nurturing us. Therefore, we do not need a special day or occasion to remember them because they are always in our hearts.
This article will not focus on Father's Day, but rather discuss the role of fathers in parenting. This role makes them unforgettable in our daily life.
Part I of this series discussed the mother's role in nurturing her children, pointing out how much love, time, and effort she should provide to them in order to sustain the necessary demands and needs required for healthy development. There is no doubt that the mother's role is the most critical and that her influence in her children's lives cannot be compared to any one else's. She is the one who carried and bore the baby and is physically equipped to breastfeed him. So, it is reasonable to admit that Allah (SWT) has gifted her with innate "mothering" talents. The Prophet (SAW) echoed this when he answered, "Your mother, then your mother, and then your mother" in response to a question asking, 'who is the first person to deserves our good company in this life.'
Still, the father also has an essential job in parenting. And, there is no doubt that both, moms and dads, should work together to produce a happy family.
It is neither fair nor logical to neglect the great role a father can play in a child's life and the unlimited influence he can have on their future. There are some principles that no one can ingrain in children's hearts better than the father. Likewise, there are some problems that no one can face and protect children from better than a father.
Therefore, the mother and father's roles in nurturing a family are not independent; they complement each other, as each of them has certain jobs that they excel at more than the other.
At this time, I would like to mention an appropriately symbolic story. It is about a little boy who waited for his dad until he came back from work. His exhausted dad was surprised to see him still awake and asked him, "It's almost 10:00 at night. Why didn't you sleep yet?" The boy told him, "I couldn't sleep, Dad, because I have an important question I want to ask you."
His father told him, "Tomorrow son. I am so tired now and you better go to bed." The boy told his father that he could not sleep because he needed a quick answer to his question, which disturbed him and prevented him from sleeping. Finally, at his son's insistence, the father acquiesced to give the boy a chance to ask his question.
"How much do you earn per hour, Dad?" asked the little boy.
"Is that your important question? I earn twenty dollars per hour, son," answered the father, shocked by the question. His son pulled a little bag from under his pillow and said, with a big smile all over his face, "Can you loan me two dollars, Dad?"
The father was upset and said, "Is that why you were begging me to hear the question, which prevented you from sleeping? Because you want me to give you two dollars? I will give you the two dollars, but we need to discuss this tomorrow."
Nevertheless, the boy took the two dollars and pulled more money from his bag, mostly quarters and nickels, and started counting. Then, he gave the money to his father, while saying, "Here you go Dad. This is twenty dollars. Can you please give me an hour of your time?"
It is a very simple story, but it delivers a very important message about the importance of dads. It is a good reminder for parents that a father is not just an outside-wage earner whose job it is to merely provide his family with food and shelter.
A father's role is much greater and more helpful than this limited description. Although feeding and providing for children's needs and demands are an important way of saying "I care," they do not produce emotionally balanced and healthy adults.
In the past, fathers were seen as people to be feared rather than as loving parents with whom children could relax with and even talk to. Furthermore, in some cultures, there are people who believe that showing too much warmth and affection towards children might be viewed as a lack of "manliness." I wonder if there are people who still believe in such nonsense.
I also wonder if those people have read the Prophet's (SAW) Seerah (stories of the Prophet's life) about the way he dealt with children and how he played with his grandchildren…Al-Hasan and Al-Hussein…carrying them on his back, and holding and kissing them. When a companion told him that he did not kiss or hold his children, the Prophet's (SAW) answer was, " What can I do for you, if Allah has torn the mercy from your heart?"
So, limiting the father's role to a feared, breadwinning provider is neither fair for the children nor for the father. Though the father should be the symbol of force for his children, being strong and firm does not mean being cruel and should not be associated with beatings or remoteness. Rather, it means being strong in his Iman (faith), patience, emotions, self-control, self-esteem, and determination.
No one can deny the father's right to be respected and appreciated by his family. And, it is the mother's responsibility to generate these feelings among their children. The father represents the head of the household, but it does not abolish the importance of love, kindliness, patience, and mildness.
"Fathers who give love and strong leadership to their children are powerful weapons against many of society's problems. So, just as negligent fathers are part of the problem, caring dads are a big part of the solution."*
"What does it take to be an effective father?"
Effective fathers practice five key principles: Love, discipline, nurturing, instruction and training, and protection.
When actions are motivated by love, the father will succeed in disciplining his children and teaching them principles and manners. He will also succeed in nurturing them by showing affection, communicating affirmation and giving attention.
"These three things will likely define the quality of the relationship [fathers] have with [their] children. This is often the fun part of fathering, because one of the best ways to nurture children is to play with them. Other ways include hugging, listening, sharing activities, and just goofing around together."*
Our Prophet (SAW), a mentor, and leader, often played with children, kissing them and laughing with them. He taught us great lessons in being good and effective parents. And, today, psychologists have discovered and learned the benefits of what our Prophet did more than fourteen hundred years ago.
The father, with the guidelines of Islamic knowledge from the Qur'an and Sunnah, should play an important role in instructing and training his children to become stable and inflexible in the face of temptation and trouble. He should instill in them that nothing will help and protect them like Allah.
We have seen how the Prophet (SAW) taught, cared for and directed children. Didn't he teach the young boy to say "Bismillah (In the Name of God)" before eating, to eat with his right hand, and to eat from the front of his plate?
Haven't we seen how the Prophet taught the young man, who came to ask for permission to commit zina (fornication) that it is haram (forbidden), by asking him if he would have accepted such behavior from his mother, sister, and aunt. When the young boy replied "No", the Prophet told him, "And so are the people."
So, by following the steps of the Prophet (SAW), fathers will have more influence in their children's lives and will be more effective in their parenting. If fathers remember that they represent the example and the model for their children, and that they are the first source from which their children can derive their opinions and principles, they will persevere in their goals of being good examples.
Since children are more influenced by our actions rather than our words, fathers should also be aware that they are important examples for how to deal with the outside world.
It is important that fathers understand the real meanings of the fatherhood phenomenon and care about being effective figures. Herein, a man will enjoy being a father and his children will enjoy belonging to him. Furthermore, his role will be an effective one, regardless of how much time he is able to spend with them.
* Strengthening Your Role As "Dad," Todd E. Linaman, Ph.D.