Teenaged Sam had a solution when his toddler brother got cranky at the dinner table. “Dad,” he said, “do the teapot.” I wondered then, but never asked, if he was speaking from having seen “the teapot” change his little brother’s attitude or if he remembered the days when he was the teapot for his father’s song.
I also can’t tell who gets the most pleasure from the games that have continued with adjustments for the age and stage of life – the father or the sons. Now, Sam and his dad enjoy one-on-one basketball on a pleasant Saturday afternoon. The newest little brother, toddles the yard yelling, “Hit! Hit! Hit!” as he swings a plastic bat at a plastic ball. With a little fatherly help, he sometimes makes contact. As they say, “A good time is had by all.” I’m thinking the sole purpose of father and sons is having fun. I’m hesitant about taking away from the joy by mentioning the long term results of fathers who play with their kids.
However, in the May/June issue of The Saturday Evening Post, an article called “The Daddy Factor” by Paul Raeborn addresses the importance of dads who have fun with their kids. They quote studies that credit the fun factor for many positives including language development, warm relationships, ability to read reactions in social situations, and increased intelligence. That article may give permission and acclaim to dads who would like to justify that they are not wasting time as they amuse themselves along with their kids.
I picked up on that lesson many years ago not long after I entered teenage. My three sisters and I had friends with finer, more expensive recreational paraphernalia at home, yet the group always congregated at our house. I noticed and tried to figure out why. The only difference I saw was that Daddy was out with us, tossing a cheap undersized basketball through a makeshift hoop. We knew where he drew lines in the sand for our behavior, but having already established that, he got out and have a good time with us. I doubt that he was considering any of the benefits noted by the magazine article. He just had fun along with us.
So as we approach Father’s Day, let me salute dads who have fun playing with their kids. They don’t even have to know how much good it is doing them.