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Family Groups - Fathers - Good dads being recognised

About time: Good dads recognized
Shaunti Feldhahn - For the Journal-Constitution

Wednesday, June 23, 2004
Across the country this Father's Day weekend, a happy surprise awaited 1,000 unsuspecting fathers. Each of these men was simply out with his kids in public --- shepherding them through a children's museum, going head-to-head in an ESPN Zone game or just roughhousing with them at a park --- when out of nowhere someone would walk up and tap him on the shoulder.
"Congratulations," the intruder would say, smiling at the man's startled attempts to pick grass clippings out of his kid's hair, "You've been caught being a Golden Dad. As part of the Golden Dad Award, here are free passes to the children's museum over there. Happy Father's Day."
In their second annual campaign, Golden Dad awards from the National Fatherhood Initiative and Rendezvous Entertainment/HUM were given out in 10 cities. Next year, I hope it's 100. Recognizing and appreciating good dads does something that reams of newsprint about fatherhood can never do: encourage and inspire those millions of men who are excellent fathers, and those who aim to be.
The method for identifying Golden Dads was unscientific, but very telling. In each city, the staff of local family-resource groups spent time in a particular public place, watching family groups come and go and zeroing in on those fathers who were investing in their children's lives.
I asked one such "Golden Dad catcher," Jamie Self of the Georgia Family Council, how on earth she could tell whether a man was investing in his kids just by watching them together at Centennial Olympic Park or the Imagine It children's museum.
"You could tell immediately who was involved and who wasn't," she said. "A dad who was engaged didn't just passively walk his children through the museum. A good dad talked and pointed things out and climbed in the sandbox with his kids. He picked his children up and hugged them if they got tired or wrestled with them in the park. It was easy to spot the dads who were pouring life into their kids."
Pouring life into their kids. What a wonderful description of a father's transforming influence.
I asked a few of the Golden Dad recipients for their reactions. Malcolm Williams spoke for many when he said he was surprised, but gratified. "Family is the most important thing in our culture right now but doesn't get enough attention because there's so much else going on in our world. But if we can keep our families together. we can keep everything else together."
Another common denominator came when I asked what was the biggest hurdle to being a good dad. "Time," said Ross Sloop, who was out with both his own father and his son. "There are so many conflicting demands placed on a father's time these days. But without a doubt, the path to being a good father is investing time with children.
"My own father made a conscious decision that he wanted to spend as much time as possible doing activities with us as kids, and told us how important that was to him."
A picture of the three generations of Sloop men reminds me of the whole point behind the Golden Dads campaign and all other fatherhood programs.
I see the twinkling eyes of a white-haired man who poured life into his son, and I see that son, smiling at the camera, holding his own 3-year-old boy. I think: That little boy has a powerful legacy of father love. And I'll bet in 30 years, someone is going to tap him on the shoulder and tell him he's a wonderful dad.
Shaunti Feldhahn of Norcross is the author of several books. Her column appears on Wednesdays.

The National Fatherhood Initiative


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