This Fathers' Day has been strange for me. My son turned nine just a month ago. He’s reached the point where he knows some stuff that I don’t. And it seems he’s starting to more quickly master the skill of independence. It’s any good dad’s dream, but it’s also a worry: What next can I teach my boy?
But this week also brought the weird sensation of being in Charleston when a 21-year-old boy murdered nine innocent people. It’s the type of terrorism you expect from minds reared on hate half a world away. But from a boy here — only 500 miles from my son, and only about a decade older?
I can’t pretend to understand the mind of Dylann Roof. I can’t pretend to understand the relationship he had with his father. What I can understand is that there are many, many minds — just like that boy, Dylann — who learn from their fathers how to hate people they don’t even know. What a young, fertile mind can do with that potent hate is creatively and devastatingly endless.
My son will find lots of people in life that he won’t like. He should make those judgments based on his own experiences with those individual people. Somebody might steal from him, maybe even hurt him — or somebody he loves. That’s an unfortunate, but very real, part of life. But there’s no reason for him to decide up front that he hates somebody because of the way they look, or walk, or talk, or really anything else.
It’s my job as his father to teach him that.
Moms often do the hard, daily work of nurturing a child’s life. That's why I believe it’s up to us dads to teach our kids to nurture ALL life. And while most dads — even me — will be celebrated today, I’ll make sure I remember that being a dad is a responsibility not just to my son, but to the rest of humanity.