President Obama was never friends with his father. Last week at the White House, he addressed the importance of fathers in children's lives and described his own mixed relationship with his dad, also recounted in his autobiography. By placing dads on the national agenda, he is also calling attention to men's roles and friendships between men. In Buddy System, I write about the importance that fathers play in their son's lives. We learn how to treat women, employees, employers, the elderly, children, and our own friends from watching our fathers interact with others. If our fathers are absent, we are left to figure this out on our own. One man who grew up without his father in the home told me he excelled in sports as a child so he could get attention from other fathers. Coaches and teachers play important roles, too, in providing the attention that young boys need. But that attention does not stop with adulthood. A few of my men friends who lost their fathers at a young age, made friends with older men through golf when they were in their 20s and 30s. I had a father until recently and never especially sought out older men. But my friends, absent their own fathers, wanted to befriend older men. They got the mentoring they were lacking.
Hopefully a part of this mentoring includes how to be a buddy to someone else. Friendship included communication, trust, dependability, and loyalty. To be a good friend to others, display these attributes and you will have friends for life. Everyday should be Fathers' Day (or Mothers' Day) in that we should remember those parents on whose shoulders we stand. If those shoulders were tenuous, look for strong shoulders elsewhere.