Showing Love, Spending Time

In 'Wisdom of Our Fathers,' newsman Tim Russert shares some of the responses he received to his first book on fatherhood.

BY: Interview by Michael Kress

 

Continued from page 2

And third, it is a recognition that I grew up differently in Buffalo in the '50s and '60s than my son is growing up in Washington now. And while I'm much more expressive in telling him that I love him than my dad was with me, it is important that he also hear that you're always holding his love but you're never, never entitled. Because it's very easy for children in this era to slip into a sense of entitlement, a sense that the world revolves around them as opposed to [knowing that] there's something bigger than themselves.

My son's name is Luke. And I remind him of the Gospel of Luke, "To whom much is given, much is expected." And I think it is very important for a father in this time to keep reinforcing the same timeless lessons of life that my dad taught me: preparation, discipline, respect, accountability. It doesn't change.

I'm glad you brought up this issue of balancing career and time spent, which is so often spoken of as a mother's issue. Why is that? You've reached such heights at NBC: It must have been very difficult at times to kind of fend off the demands of work.

It can be and, traditionally, the father was the hunter, the provider; the mother's the nurturer. But I think we're now in a situation where many families have two parents working. Some have made a choice not to have that.

The one thing that I have in my life experienced with my son is that both parents have to be nurturers. You can learn different things from your mom than you can learn from your dad. Charles Barkley, the NBA All Star great, said that his dad was not present as he grew up. And he said, "No one taught me how to be a man" and he had to learn himself and he made some mistakes on that path. I just think it's worth the sacrifice.

There will always be another meeting to go to. There will always be another promotion. But there will never be another opportunity to raise your child. And it is such a blessing, such a gift, such a responsibility. And if you're there at the creation, I think you have to be there every step of the way through their growth and development.

In the introduction to the new book, you talk about going into a church and praying while your wife was having difficulty in the hospital delivering. What is the role of prayer in your life?

The role of prayer in his life
I’m someone who grew up taught by the Sisters of Mercy and the Jesuits. And both those nuns and those priests taught me, and taught us, my classmates, how to pray--that it simply wasn't the recitation of memorized prayer but meditation and contemplation.

The situation you're talking about is when my wife was in labor for a long time, I walked out of the hospital and walked around the corner and there was a church. And actually, it was a shrine to Saint Elizabeth who is the mother of Mary, the mother of God, which is more than ironic and important.

And so I, constantly, realize it's a long road, it's a long journey, and we can't get there alone. And so I'm very open and find it quite necessary to ask for help and assistance and inspiration. And that comes in a very powerful way in the form of prayer.

Did you--or do you--pray with your father, and is there a particular power in families praying together?

Part of our routine, if you will, in preparing for bed--not only brushing our teeth and putting our pajamas on--we said our prayers every night. And my mom would often lead us in the prayers, or my dad if he was there.

We always went to Mass on Sunday morning as a family. They used to have a Children's Mass, it was called, and there were six of us so we would take up a half of row. It's a very important memory to me and continues to be a very important part of my life.

Do you have a favorite prayer?

Some of his favorite prayers
The prayer of Saint Francis is very important to me. "Lord, make me an instrument of your peace." And certainly, I've always found great comfort in the Our Father. I can still recite the Gloria in Latin, which I learned when I was an altar boy, and I also took four years of Latin.
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