Long ago, I gave up trying to be a perfect dad, but found some hand-holds that keep me grounded
I am no perfect dad. I tried to be. Thought I was. Time and experience reveal otherwise. In fact, I don't know any perfect dads--none that even come close to an imposed ideal. But, along they way I've learned some things, taken notes, observed others, made course corrections, and still monitor progress. I'm less than the dad I envisioned I'd be, but I'm continuing to learn and hopefully improve.
A few years ago, I jotted down the following list of attributes that I've been observing and practicing. Maybe they fall into the category of "approaching authenticity" rather than some ideal to strive for. No doubt they are born out of my own experience as a son as well as my seeking as a father.
1. A growing father can relent. The Bible speaks repeatedly of God relenting, usually in light of the cry of the broken-hearted or a passionate appeal to God’s love or glory. If God ungrudgingly relents, should not human fathers?
2. A growing father second-guesses himself in light of better information, his own feelings, and the sensitivities of his children. It is not a sign of weakness to think twice or change one’s mind in relationship to one’s children. Nor is it a sign of toughness or strength to be unmovable or inflexible.
3. A growing father repents--and often. Repentance for wrong assumptions, hastily-drawn conclusions, insensitive comments, over-powering glances, unrealistic expectations, imposed ideologies (to name a few of the sins of which I have repented) is necessary if a father wants to cultivate adult integrity with his children (and spouse). No father never sins against his children. Those who recognize it and who repent to their children finds the grace and a path to a growing relationship.
4. A growing father subordinates his own pursuits and interests in the interest of his children’s growth and exploration. Children are not window dressing or pawns in the little world that many men attempt to coax into revolving around themselves. Children are the opportunity to learn of the future and contribute to the better and bigger world most of us desire.
5. A growing father disciplines himself as much as he disciplines his children--and more so. How dare we set and enforce limits and boundaries for children and yet make excuses for our undisciplined behaviors, appetites, indulgences, attitudes, and acquisitions.
6. A growing father is not a strong man, but a self-giving man. Why is so much fatherly identity wrapped up in a cultivated machismo persona? The best fathers I have observed gain more respect by their readiness to serve their children and families than by their attempt to rule over them.
7. A growing father longs to give his children good gifts and grace beyond his own ability to give or express. Material gifts, while gracious and useful, point to something beyond. The desire to bless surpasses our ability to do so. And this desire becomes an extended prayer, even longsuffering for one’s children and their future.
8. A growing father dies expended for his children, having given them his very life. He has not saved himself or made a name for himself or secured security. He has fully laid down his life for his spouse and his children. In that moment when it seems that there is nothing left to give, the greatest gift is unleashed.
In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility.