Stand-In Fathers

One of my favorite family pictures shows my husband, Stan, and our three-year-old son, Brian, side by side “mowing.” They are both shirtless and glistening with perspiration, sweat rags tucked into their waistbands. Brian, now 36, remembers believing his toy mower was actually cutting grass, partly because Stan heaped praise on him for “doing such a good job.”

My husband, Stan, was seven months old when his dad died, and his mother never remarried. So how did he learn to be such a loving and encouraging father to our two sons? My mother-in-law knew boys needed men to teach them to be good fathers and wisely exposed her son to positive male influences.

As a preschooler, my husband stayed with the Campbells while his mother worked. Their five sons, all much older than Stan, taught him how to handle male aggression through their good-natured camaraderie. They also took him under their wing and taught him an important trait of good fathers—to protect those they love.

When Mr. Campbell came home from work, he sat Stan on his lap while they read the funnies together or just talked. At other times they walked in the garden or played with the dog. Without realizing it, this kind and gentle man taught Stan how to focus on a child and enjoy companionship.

While staying with the Campbells, Stan had plenty of opportunity to see kids reprimanded. Not once did their dad raise his voice or react in anger. He used a conversational tone when he corrected his sons but clearly communicated the limits. Years later, Stan used these same techniques with his own sons.

When Stan was in grade school, he stayed with the Morris family which included three generations of males under the same roof. He and Rickey, who was Stan’s age, often followed Rickey’s dad to his workshop where he refurbished lawnmowers. There Stan learned valuable skills he passed on to his boys.

Another influence was Rickey’s Granddaddy Morris who loved to make jokes and play harmless pranks and showed Stan the lighter side of life. But even in jest, Granddaddy never belittled anyone and taught the boys to respect others’ dignity while having fun.

Granddaddy Morris also modeled a loving and committed husband. He often spoke in respectful, almost reverent, tones about his wife of fifty years. Always the tease, he would “get some sugar” or hug her until she said, “Stop that, Willie! The children are in the room.” But Stan had no doubt Granddaddy truly cherished his wife.

Do you know a boy who needs a man willing to teach him a skill, model godly attributes, or just spend time with him? You don’t have to be perfect to be a stand-in father. When you think about it, no matter how good a father is he’s still a stand-in for the best father of all.

And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.

Matthew 23:9 KJV

Tracy Crump is a Southern girl married to her high school sweetheart for more than forty years. She has published numerous articles, devotionals, and Chicken Soup for the Soul stories (18 and counting) and enjoys teaching other writers through her Write Life Workshops and e-newsletter, The Write Life. Her two sons have followed in their dad’s footsteps and are great fathers to her completely unspoiled grandchildren.

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