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Obama's Call: To Be a 'Good' Parent

On Sunday, Parade magazine published an essay by President Barack Obama about what fatherhood means to him. It was one of many, many father's day essays that appeared in all sorts of media.

In case you missed it, here's what he had to say:

"We need fathers to step up, to realize that their job does not end at conception; that what makes you a man is not the ability to have a child but the courage to raise one.
As fathers, we need to be involved in our children’s lives not just when it’s convenient or easy, and not just when they’re doing well — but when it’s difficult and thankless, and they’re struggling. That is when they need us most.
And it’s not enough to just be physically present. Too often, especially during tough economic times like these, we are emotionally absent: distracted, consumed by what’s happening in our own lives, worried about keeping our jobs and paying our bills, unsure if we’ll be able to give our kids the same opportunities we had.
Our children can tell. They know when we’re not fully there. And that disengagement sends a clear message—whether we mean it or not—about where among our priorities they fall.
We need to realize that we are our children’s first and best teachers. When we are selfish or inconsiderate, when we mistreat our wives or girlfriends, when we cut corners or fail to control our tempers, our children learn from that—and it’s no surprise when we see those behaviors in our schools or on our streets.
But it also works the other way around. When we work hard, treat others with respect, spend within our means, and contribute to our communities, those are the lessons our children learn. And that is what so many fathers are doing every day—coaching soccer and Little League, going to those school assemblies and parent-teacher conferences, scrimping and saving and working that extra shift so their kids can go to college. They are fulfilling their most fundamental duty as fathers: to show their children, by example, the kind of people they want them to become.
...On this Father’s Day, I think back to the day I drove Michelle and a newborn Malia home from the hospital nearly 11 years ago—crawling along, miles under the speed limit, feeling the weight of my daughter’s future resting in my hands. I think about the pledge I made to her that day: that I would give her what I never had—that if I could be anything in life, I would be a good father."

I'll go beyond the president. So many fathers are cooking family meals, doing laundry, reading books every night and answering "why" questions a thousand times a day. They are changing diapers, playing peek-a-boo and taking their babies on walks in baby carriers. In short, the old adage of dad "babysitting" his own children has gone out the window. Dads have joined moms in parenting, in RAISING their children, with all the good and bad, all the thanklessness, all the frustration and all the joy that comes with the job. And, on top of that, some, many even, are holding down jobs to put a roof over their kids' heads and food on the table ... just the same as moms.

How's that for equality?

What are some of your biggest parenting mistakes? And, following along the president's thinking, what moments make you feel like you're a "good" parent?

By Stacey Garfinkle |  June 22, 2009; 11:59 AM ET  | Category:  Relationships
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I'm a father of a 19 month old daughter with a boy expected any day. Pres Obama's comments about fatherhood are especially important to me right now.

It can not be said enough that the most important thing we do is raise our kids. Giving them good examples is a lot of what is important but explicit guidance is something a lot of father's forget or don't provide.

Communication is so freakin important! We have a great communicator as our leader, as our great white father, as the Indians used to refer to the President. What a refreshing change!

Posted by: farkdawg | June 22, 2009 2:04 PM | Report abuse

It never occurred to me until reading this - DH and the President have something pretty profound in common.

DH also lacked a father for most of his childhood, and he too is working hard to be a good father to his children. I think he's doing a fabulous job, too.

Posted by: SueMc | June 22, 2009 2:13 PM | Report abuse

I hope Mr. Obama truly has given up smoking. It was something that always bothered me about him, NOT because he was POTUS, but rather because of the example it sets for his daughters.

Children of smokers are more likely to think it is okay and take up the habit, despite what you tell them. In this instance, I sincerely hope he "walks the talk."

Posted by: cjbriggs | June 22, 2009 2:26 PM | Report abuse

I really loved that essay. I just feel the sincerity and honest emotions through the words. The moments I feel like I'm doing a good job as a parent come when my daughters demonstrate kindness and concern - in action and deed - to each other and friends. I was especially touched when my oldest told me she is definitely having children in the way, way future, of course. Maybe I make the "job" look fun.

Posted by: flabbergast | June 22, 2009 2:33 PM | Report abuse

I like the comment about "crawling along, miles under the speed limit" -- I gotta say, never before in my life had 25 mph felt crazy fast. :-)

Best parenting moments are when I see one of my kids internalize something and really get it -- especially when it's been something we've struggled with. When DD suddenly appeared one AM, dressed and ready to go, before I had even gotten out of the shower -- wow, all those years of too-itchy tags, too-tight waistbands, dancing-naked-in-front-of-mirror-instead-of-getting-dressed -- then poof, there she was, competent, independent, happy. Or when DS finally decided to be the Potty Boss: one day he's refusing big-boy underwear and won't try for more than 5 seconds; the next day, he's telling me he needs to go, instructing me to leave him alone, and sitting for 15 minutes! The ear-to-ear grin, huge hug, and multitude of high-fives were priceless.

There's just nothing better than seeing your kids proud of themselves.

Posted by: laura33 | June 22, 2009 2:57 PM | Report abuse

My son learned to ride a bicycle shortly after he turned 4. When I took him to the park one day, he dismounted his bike and introduced me to a complete stranger saying, "This is *MY* dad. When I grow up, I wanna be big and strong and smart, just like him!"

I live for this kind of stuff.

Posted by: WhackyWeasel | June 22, 2009 4:18 PM | Report abuse

My 4-year old was making a father's day card with her teacher last week, and the teacher asked my little girl what her father's hobbies were. She looked at the teacher and said (a little increduslously), "he plays with us!" Her dad was very pleased with this- the kid actually notices how much he's around!

Posted by: floof | June 22, 2009 4:42 PM | Report abuse

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