The third Sunday of each June, Americans celebrate the value of a father’s role in a family and in the lives of his children.
Of course, fathers and their families are as diverse, as complicated and as beautiful as America itself. But what of those family men, those dads who hold children up for a better view and those who inspire them to fly? How do they do it?
What does a man tell a growing child about love, for instance, or work? What do these young ones need to know about where their father stands on the complicated topics of family or faith?
We invited four dads to puzzle this out for us: a lawyer with twin sons, an oilman with biological kids who adopted a child from Ethiopia, an engineer who is raising his daughters alone and a Japanese immigrant here for a decade and now a student and father of three.
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Here’s some of what they said.
Fumihiro Yamada, 31
Fumihiro Yamada — Hiro to friends — talks softly in Japanese to his sons, Yoriki, almost 4, and Motoru, 2, as they stack Lego blocks on the floor. His wife, Shiomi, 31 and also from Japan, is on the sofa with the baby, Tsugushi, 3 months.
Yamada came to the United States a decade ago to study business at TCU. In his senior year, he converted from Buddhism to Christianity, changing his life in unexpected ways. He earned a degree in entrepreneurial management, then operated his own restaurant until 2015.
Now, he is a student again, this time at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, determined to earn yet another degree. His wife, already a seminary graduate, stays at home with the kids. He works at Yamato Transport, a moving company. They hope to return to Japan, where Yamada will go into business with his father.
Here’s what he wants his sons to know:
About love: “Love means thinking and doing what is most helpful and kind for others.”
About family: “Family means to be unified and harmonized. Family is a strong bond.”
About faith: “Faith is the way of life.”
About work: “We should work hard and be diligent.”
Mike Maddox, 50
Mike Maddox was devastated when he lost his wife to cancer five years ago on his youngest daughter’s fourth birthday. That birthday party went on anyway. He wanted his children to know that, even in the well of heartbreak, life’s milestones must be acknowledged and even celebrated.
With help from family and friends and what he says is the invaluable support of the WARM Place, a grief counseling center in Fort Worth, he and his daughters, Amanda, 16, and Meghan, 9, are still welcoming the future.
Here’s what he wants his girls to know:
About love: “When we lost my wife, their mother, a lot of people loved us enough to fill in, to help us. I want the girls to know, to understand that a lot of people love them, not just Dad and their grandparents.”
About family: “It’s so good to have family here. It’s encouraging to see how the family grows; births and marriages … and life just goes on. It’s beautiful.”
About faith: “Faith in God gets us through all the hard times and gives us hope.”
About work: “I am an engineer … for Lockheed Martin. I love my work and my girls can see how enriching it is to do work that you really enjoy. I want them to do what they love, too.”
Joe Greenhill, 33
Joe Greenhill tries to coax his 2-year-old sons onto his lap to look at a picture book. James is willing, but his twin brother, Joe, wriggles away. No quiet time for him. Greenhill laughs. He says he laughed when the doctor said he and his wife, Melissa, 32, could expect not one but two babies.
He’s still laughing. “We’ve been in survival mode since they were born,” he says. It’s clear he likes being a dad.
As an attorney with Kelly Hart, Greenhill is busy building a career, but here’s what he wants his sons to know:
About love: “Their mother and I love them unconditionally. I want them to see that I am part of their lives and that I will always be part of their lives. Now as far as romantic loves goes … I haven’t gotten to that point, but I hope romantic love is in their future.”
About family: “Family is the most important thing they have in their lives. It is their support system. … They can always fall back on family.”
About faith: “I want them to have faith in themselves. In anything they do, they’ll have to have faith in themselves to accomplish it.”
About work: “Work should be meaningful. I’m a lawyer and I believe my work is meaningful. If you don’t enjoy your work, you’ll be miserable.”
David Simpson, 42
Oilman David Simpson and wife Amie, 41, already had three great kids, a spacious home and plenty of jingle in their jeans when he felt called by God to adopt a child from Ethiopia. They were soon in touch with the Gladney Center.
Asher, now 4, was 2 when he joined the family. The Simpsons’ other children are Taylor, 18 and a new high school graduate, Logan, 13, and Morgan, 10, and the family is still growing. The Simpsons are adopting a child from Colombia.
Deeply involved with HighRidge Church, Simpson is an advocate for adoption and foster-care families. He and his wife launched the B Loved Foundation three years ago. Now it operates seven group homes in Ethiopia.
Here are a few things Simpson wants his children to know:
About love: “I teach my kids about love by showing them lots of love. I tell them every day that I love them and give them hugs, and I also tell them I am proud of them. I teach them to love others as you love yourself.”
About faith: “I teach my kids that faith in Jesus Christ is the most important thing in life.”
About family: “We teach that family is more than blood.”
About work: “I’m in the oil and gas business … but the kids know my passion is working with orphans and adoption … saving the children.”
Mary Rogers is a freelance writer. firstname.lastname@example.org.