As Father’s Day approaches, I slow down a bit—pause, look around and reflect on what it means to be a father and the importance of running the race of fatherhood with courage, conviction and commitment.
I have come to appreciate a popular adage, “Being a father is easy, but being a dad is hard.” The impact of a dad in the life of a child has long been recognized.
In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge encouraged the nation to celebrate Father’s Day “identifying the need to establish more intimate relations between fathers and their children and to impress upon fathers the full measure of their obligations.”
How would Coolidge react to the fact that 23.6% (17.4 million) children in the United States lived in father-absent homes in 2014!
Being a dad is hard. Growing up our view of our fathers evolve. Our dad is our first hero—he knows everything and can do anything. His armor begins to crack about the time we think we know it all—“Boy is dad out-of-touch!” The day the harsh realities of life set in we rediscover our dad—“I need to ask dad what he thinks.”
My dad passed away over 13 years ago. I find myself frequently thinking about my dad—what would he have thought, how much he would have enjoyed spending time with his grandkids, how patient and wise he was and what would he have done.
My dad learned how to be a dad over the course of his life. In researching and writing the first chapter of Tape Breakers titled An Unlikely Source of Clarity, I discovered a man who overcame hardships and heartbreak to fulfill the “full measure of his obligation”.
The path towards building intimate, meaningful and impactful relationships with our kids is learned and discovered over time. The moments of joy are indescribable. But the race is not one of sustained and extended joy. It is in the tests and trials that we discover the difference between being a father and a dad.
I am carrying on my own conversation with my dad today. I have one question, “Dad, what does it take to be a great dad?”
- Love the Lord! “I came to faith late in life. My heart had been broken so many times I couldn’t imagine being loved fully and unconditionally. How could I be forgiven and embraced? Praise to God that He never wavers in His love for us. The discovery of God’s saving grace changed me from being an obligated father to a loving dad.”
- Love your wife! “The greatest gift you give your kids is a picture of what love looks like. There is not better way to do this than to pour your love into your wife.”
- Hug your kids and reassure them they are loved ever day. “My first vision of being a father was as a provider—safety and security. A dad’s love and encouragement changes everything. I got better at this.”
- Honor your commitments. “You may not like it, you may want to change your mind, but finish what you commit to. Life doesn’t owe you anything. Kids look at what you do much more than hear what you say. Always give your best effort and expect the same of your kids.”
- Be kind and give generously—be grateful for what you have and let it be enough. “I grew up with little and knew what it was like to be in need. I witnessed the sorrow of war, weathered the heartbreak of loss and experienced the pain of rejection. Don’t be afraid to give away what you can’t keep.”
What lies behind us is done. What lies before us are races filled with great opportunity to positively impact the people we love.
Happy Father’s Day!