Plant a radish.   Get a radish.
Never any doubt.   That’s why I love vegetables;
You know what you’re about!

Plant a turnip.   Get a turnip.
Maybe you’ll get two.  That’s why I love vegetables;
You know that they’ll come through!

While with children, It’s bewilderin’.
You don’t know until the seed is nearly grown
Just what you’ve sown.



Those lyrics are from the musical, The Fantasticks.  Dads – your Father’s Day present is that I didn’t sing them.  But certainly, they capture a bit of what it is like to be a father.  Like gardening, fatherhood, is hard work.  Ask any gardener; ask any parent.  Yet, as the song names so well, with gardening, there is a little more predictability.



Plant a beanstalk. Get a beanstalk.
Just the same as Jack.  Then if you don’t like it,
You can always take it back!

But if your issue  Doesn’t kiss you,
Then I wish you luck. For once you’ve planted children,
You’re absolutely stuck!

The point is: one of the sufferings of being a dad is how little control he has.  It’s perhaps one of the hardest things, too, for moms, and for anyone in all of history who has ever cared for another.

Today’s Gospel names a bit of the mystery at the heart of growth.  “It is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and through it all the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how.  Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.”  There is certainly much beyond what the farmer – and any dad can – control.  Yet, we must do our best.  Social scientists tell us a dad’s role is crucial in the upbringing of children.

  • Children need a dad who isn’t an absentee landlord, but who is involved and spends the time nurturing in his children the values he trusts as essential for their fulfillment in their lives.
  • Children need a dad who doesn’t shame them but affirms and encourages. 
  • I was at a wedding yesterday, and the father prided himself by saying:  “I always told Paul, the ONLY thing I wanted for him as he grew up was for him to be and do the things that he found deepest in his heart.  I didn’t need him to follow my career path, or attend the school I did.  Just to be true to HIS heart.”  Our children need a dad who doesn’t make them into who he is, his agenda, but celebrates who they are, differences and all.

These are hard tasks, and none of us does these perfectly.  So a fourth task is perhaps the most important thing a dad could do towards possibly repairing those wounds: to say “I’m sorry.”  What a world that opened for my brother and his children when he was able to do that – Peter and Gracie learned they didn’t have to be perfect to be dad’s kids.  They just had to be in relationship with him…

Dads – like the farmer, you are facilitators of growth.  Yet, as important as your role is, you have no guarantees of the outcome. While the farmer plants a carrot, goes to bed each night, and gets a carrot, you have no idea how your kid will turn out.  You have no assurance that they are going to be good, contributing citizens or men or women of faith.  Heck, you have no idea if they are going to still be living in your basement when they are 50.  Because the human being is free, they can always go a different direction than what you have nourished.  That’s what makes it so bewildering.

Yet, you have to guarantee their freedom.  For the freedom to screw up their lives is also the freedom that allows them to be great.

This letting-go is tough.  If they mess up, unlike a row of corn, you can’t plow these under and start over.  Though we are called to do our best on this – the most precious responsibility a person could ever be given – each dad must also trust that there is also is a power at work beyond our greatest efforts … beyond our weaknesses.

Perhaps “The Fantasticks” got it right

Plant a carrot,  Get a carrot, Not a Brussels sprout.
That’s why I love vegetables. You know what you’re about!

While with progeny, It’s hodge-podgenee.
For as soon as you think you know what kind you’ve got,
It’s what they’re not!

To the kids of any age – and that’s all of us – let’s make great choices and make our dads living on earth or beyond – proud.

I’m not very good at gardening.  I don’t know how I would have been as a dad.  Certainly this day, I take my hat off and give a bow to my brothers who take this so seriously and work so hard to nurture loving and vibrant children.  Thank you.

When it comes to vegetables, they’re dependable!
They’re befriendable! They’re the best pal a parent’s ever known!

While with children,  It’s bewilderin’.
You don’t know until the seed is nearly grown
Just what you’ve sown.