Dr. Eric Ernest is an assistant professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. He wrote this letter for his five sons.
My dear boys,
As Father’s Day approaches, I can’t help but reflect on the men that you will become and the challenges you will face in adulthood. If you are fortunate enough to become fathers, might I pass along a few words of wisdom to try to help you along your way.
The first and most important point is your relationship with the creator. To understand that you were uniquely made and to find awe and inspiration in your own creation is truly important. It will help you understand your place in this world and will provide both a sense of strength as well as humility as you move through life.
From there, your next true love should be your wife. One of the best ways to teach your own children how to treat others is to model those qualities with your wife, including love, honesty, respect and devotion. Never stop developing the love you have with your wife, and may it never stagnate or fizzle out, especially with the burdens of parenthood.
I would also encourage you to understand your true vocation. In this ever-busy world built on materialism and personal success, realize that, as a father, your true vocation is just that, fatherhood.
Ask yourself: Is my work serving my family? Or is my family serving my work? Take it from me that it is all too easy to get caught up in the demands of work, for it can truly be a difficult balance to strike between work and family life. But realize that as you look at where you invest your time and energy, your greatest return will be that which you invest in your family.
Be present. Make the effort to put down the phone, turn off the TV and truly focus on fostering a relationship with your children. Try to understand who they are, their hopes, their fears, what they are excited about and interested in, and what they are scared of. In turn, don’t be afraid to be vulnerable to your children, sharing of yourself what you are asking of them, for in this you show both your strength and your humility as a father.
Be protective of the time with your family. It is all too easy to get wrapped up in the demands and activities of this world.
Be mindful of the simple things — family dinners, holidays, volunteering and family traditions. It is in these times that you are able to share and model the morals and values you desire for your children; for as a father, you should be ready to stand up to a culture that may not desire the same.
Lastly, understand that you will be one of your children’s greatest role models. You may not do fatherhood perfectly, but know that your children will value the effort you made long after they have gone on and become adults themselves.
This article originally appeared in the June 2019 issue of the Momaha Magazine.