This Father’s Day…Build the Fort Today!
Some years ago, I was asked to speak at a large parish in Atlanta, GA. Since the congregation was packed with young fathers—and it was so close to Father’s Day—I decided to end my lecture with a story I had once heard that I thought would have deep meaning for the many dad’s present.
Seems there was a young father who, early on a Saturday morning, was awakened by his three children. They wanted to go to the park just across the street to build a fort in the wooded area just past the playground. Knowing they would need his approval and help they had begun to jump up and down on his bed shouting, “Dad, let’s build a fort!”
“I have to go in to work today,” was the disappointing reply. “But next Saturday, we’ll build the fort, okay?”
“Okay, Dad,” the kids agreed.
Next Saturday came, but the kids were not taking any chances. To make sure their father would not forget his promise they again burst into his bedroom, but this time they brought with them a hammer, nails, and wood. Jumping on the bed they began to shout aloud, “Dad, let’s build the fort!”
“Oh, I’m so sorry kids. … I forgot all about it, and I’ve got to go into work,” said the ambitious father, now wiping the sleep from his eyes. As his youngest began to weep the father added, “But next week, I’ll take off. I promise. We’ll build that fort, you’ll see!”
Finally the succeeding Saturday came. The young father and his three children were now breakfasting together. At their feet lay the hammer, the nails and wood to build the fort. They were almost at the front door when the phone rang. All three children stood motionless waiting to see what their dad would do. Finally the young father could stand it no more. He quickly walked to the phone and picked it up. On the other end was his boss.
“Bill,” said the boss, “I need you to come in this morning. You are the only one who can close this deal.”
What do I do? agonized the young father. I don’t want to disappoint my kids, but I certainly don’t want to disappoint my boss. I guess it’s a choice between my career or my kids.
“I know what, kids,” the father began slowly, “I’ve got to go into work today, but I won’t be long. You start building the fort without me and then I’ll come home and put on the finishing touches.”
The children reluctantly agreed and headed across the street to start building the fort. About a half hour had passed and the youngest child, arms filled with wood, was trying to cross the busy street in front of their house when he was struck by an automobile and killed.
The young father now sat at the interment of his young son. Not being able to contain himself any longer, he stood to his feet, tears pouring down his cheeks. Slowly, he began to speak to the fathers who were in attendance that day, including his boss.
“Men, if I could leave you one piece of advice today it would be this: Build the fort today, dads, please build the fort today!”
After I had ended my message with this powerful illustration, dozens of men came forward. One in particular caught my attention with the words, “I’m a homosexual … I know I’ve been searching for my father in illicit sexual relationships with men.” I held him as he wept. The experience was for me a profound revelation. It lent credibility to the scientific studies that tell us: the more nurturing the father, the more masculine the son.
For Father’s Day, men, whatever you’ve been putting off in the way of meaningful interaction with your kids—don’t! Stop what you’re doing, put it down—whether it be your job, a hobby, or even activities at church—and pull your sons and daughters close to you. Tell them that you ardently love them; and for heaven’s sake, build the fort today, men, please build the fort today!