[OUTLOOK]Students in the school of the fatherI went to Mongolia recently. Probably due to the low humidity, I could see the stars in the night sky as clearly as if I were looking at a celestial map.
Because I could recognize constellations such as the Big Dipper, Cassiopeia and Scorpius, Seung Hyo-sang, a renowned Korean architect, said I must have been good in science at school when I was a kid. I just smiled, because it was actually my father who taught me those things, not my science teachers.
I learned more than constellations from my father. When I was an elementary school student, I had difficulty calculating time. My father stayed up late at night to teach me how to do it. The way he taught me was different from the way I learned in school. His methods were easier ― I had no problem with that from that point on.
According to a recent survey, Korean fathers spend an average of 2.8 hours a day with their children on working days, the lowest figure for the six nations in the survey: Korea, Japan, the United States, France, Thailand and Sweden.
However, Korean fathers do not need to feel guilty about this. They do not need to make excuses about how they’re “busy working.” Two hours and 48 minutes is not a short period of time at all, if they pay enough attention to their children during this time.
I spent 15 years and nine months with my father, in all. He passed away when I was a freshman in high school. Roughly half the time he was alive, I attended the “school of the father.” He suffered from cancer, but strived hard to keep living those eight years.
During those years, I, the last of five children, felt the pain and aches of growing up and going through puberty. That started when I was in the third grade of elementary school and lasted until I was a freshman in high school.
In the school of the father, there was one teacher who was struggling with cancer and one student with growing pains, studying together for two hours every day. We didn’t miss a day for eight years.
Going to the school of the father was the biggest blessing I have ever had in my life. The school didn’t have a fancy sign over the gate. There were no ordinary textbooks or classrooms.
The room where my father stayed in bed was the classroom and his life was the textbook. My father was the only teacher at the school and I was the only student.
It was in this school that I learned how to find constellations and how to get my life figured out. In short, the school of the father made me who I am today.
Fathers are not there to make money. Gregory E. Lang wrote in his book, “Why a Son Needs a Dad,” that children need a father who stops what he is doing to watch them growing up, so he reminds them how important they are.
If a child goes through puberty without a father, it is like going on an adventure without a map. Having no father is a disaster for a child.
That’s why it doesn’t matter so much how long the father spends with the child. Fathers do not need to spend a whole two hours and 48 minutes with their child everyday if they can’t.
Half an hour can be enough, or even 10 minutes having a meal together will do, as long as they pay close attention to their children. Those small fractions of time will accumulate and have a big influence on the future of the child.
All fathers love and care for their children. However, children won’t know that until their fathers open up their hearts and show their feelings. We need more father schools.
My father did that when he was sick. It will be much easier for healthy fathers.
To pay for children’s private lessons or to send them abroad to study is not the most important thing. To feed them, to get them clothing and to give them an allowance doesn’t cover everything.
Sometimes fathers need to simply be there for their children. There are certain things that only fathers can do and other people cannot.
Open a school of the father on your own. You’ll see.
* The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Chung Jin-hong
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