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Sabbath suggestions for dad
By Orson Scott Card November 4, 2010

There's a reason why the Church does not provide us with a list of Sabbath-day dos and don'ts.

First, as soon as the rules are spelled out, people start finding ways to get around them -- to obey without obeying, by following the letter of the rule while defeating its intent.

Second, lists like that quickly become a source of contention and fault-finding in the little villages we Mormons live in.

Third, as soon as we start making lists that are the same for everybody, we run into cultural differences -- places in the world where this rule or that can't possibly work.

Fourth -- and perhaps most important -- a list of rules would remove from us any reason to think and pray about how we should go about honoring the Lord on the Sabbath.

It's a day of worship, a day when we show the Lord his "worth-ship" in our lives -- in other words, how much we respect him and his many gifts to us, from scripture to sustenance, from ordinances to the loved ones who are part of our lives.

We share his gifts on that day by teaching each other at church. We set aside our ordinary worldly labors and amusements in respect for him. We devote ourselves to the people in our village -- and to the people in our homes.

Which is why I have a small suggestion to the men of the Church who are fathers with young children.

In most such households, it is primarily the mother who tends to the needs of the children during the week, feeding and dressing them, amusing and teaching them.

In a home governed by the priesthood principles of Section 121, the father already pitches in as soon as he comes home from work; or if both parents work away from the home, he bears an equal share of this burden.

Yet it is still in the nature of most children that they look to their mothers for comfort, to their fathers for judgment.

Here's what fathers can do, as part of their Sabbath worship, to ease the burden of their wives while blessing the lives of their children in ways that will redound through the generations.

You can create a three-hour block of time on the Sabbath -- morning, afternoon, or evening, depending on your church-meeting schedule -- in which you devote yourself completely to your children.

No, I don't mean a time when you sternly organize them in yet another Sabbath duty. The goal is not to make the children resent you and dread Sundays.

Nor do I mean commercial amusements, jaunts, or trips. They must see that you stick to whatever line your family has drawn between worldly activities and Sabbath ones.

What I suggest is that you join the children in their age-appropriate activities.

Do you have little girls? Learn to play house. Feed a doll. It's good for them to see that you know how.

Do you have little boys? Face the humiliation of losing to them at their own games and show them how a good sport acts.

Building with Legos, reading aloud from children's or family literature, or even watching some uplifting DVDs may, depending on your family's Sabbath practices, be things you can share with children of any age.

I suggest DVDs like From Lark Rise to Candleford, Sense & Sensibility, A Man for All Seasons, Gandhi, or even some comedies can give rise to family discussions about what is good or bad in human behavior, even when the movie doesn't refer to Christian values directly.

Men, I promise you that when you let children direct your play -- or your television or movie watching -- you will sometimes be bored out of your minds. If I tell you how many times my then-four-year-old son made me watch the Robin Williams Popeye with him, you will shed manly tears for me, I know.

But I watched without complaint.

Don't try to cheat: Don't have your children watch you play a videogame that is too hard for them, or make them sit on the couch with you to watch your ballgame. Not for one second is it about you. Your Sabbath project is their joy.

Three hours with your children, unbroken. Unless someone is bleeding and 911 must be called, your wife is not to be summoned for any reason. It is your time with them, their time with you.

You're man enough to deal with all diapers, spills, breakages, and childish quarrels.

Here are the benefits:

1. You will actually get to know your children in a context where you are not judging them or teaching them, but rather letting them guide you into their worlds of play.

2. They will also get to know you and be comfortable with you. The result? Greater love and bonding between father and children.

3. The children will love and look forward to the Sabbath in part because it is Daddy day.

4. There is no escaping the link in children's minds between their understanding of God and their understanding of you; and it is only by acting as a parent or caretaker of children that you can possibly understand God's love for -- and patience with -- us.

If your wife naps, works on a private project, reads, visits with friends -- or comes in and plays with you and the children -- it is entirely her choice.

She will also look forward to the Sabbath, don't you think?

By your actions, fathers, you can help your family receive the Sabbath as a gift, a day when they experience the joy of family life and their value in the heart of a loving Father.

Copyright © 2010 by Orson Scott Card

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