You remember Clark Kent. He was a mild-mannered man … until he pulled open his shirt and revealed the superhero outfit underneath that announced his true identity. He was Superman, faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.
Dads don’t wear a superhero’s outfit under their clothes, but don’t let that fool you. They have true heroic power. Their mere presence can have a dramatic influence in the lives of their children.
When dad is in the home, every measure of a child’s life improves. They’re less likely to struggle with depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem, or to get involved in sex, use drugs and alcohol, or end up in jail. And they’re more likely to develop higher IQ’s, stay out of trouble, and graduate high school and college.
Dr. Meg Meeker recently told me about a crucial turning point her own dad brought about in her life. During her senior year of college, she applied to a number of medical schools and got rejection letters from all of them. Her entire future depended on getting into medical school, and she had failed. She felt her life was over before she was 21.
Then one day she overheard her dad in another room talking on the phone to a friend, saying, “My daughter, Meg, will be going to medical school in the next couple of years.”
That moment was life-changing for her. She remembers thinking, “I will become a doctor … because my dad said so.” Her father’s belief inspired her to pick herself up, shake off her disappointment, and press forward in her pursuit of a medical degree.
She’s been a practicing physician for over 30 years now.
Dr. Meeker’s story reveals the hero lurking beneath the surface of every mild-mannered dad. When a dad acts on his child’s behalf, even in what he may consider small ways, it’s enormous in his child’s eyes. Children hunger for affirmation from their fathers.
I was struck by one comment in particular by Dr. Meeker. She said: “Every woman takes one man to her grave. Her father.” The same is true for boys as well. That’s the powerful influence of a dad.
You’ll hear my conversation with Dr. Meeker over the next couple of days on our program “Encouraging Dads to Be Heroes.” You can hear it on your local radio station, online, or on our free phone app. We’ll lifts dads up and directly confront the cultural narrative that more and more portrays fathers as irrelevant. And we’ll encourage dads to use their heroic power to move heaven and earth if necessary to be present in their kids’ lives.
Dr. Meg Meeker has been practicing pediatrics and adolescent medicine for more than 30 years now. She has a new book called Hero: Being the Strong Father Your Children Need. That and other helpful resources are available in our online bookstore.