Sunday, June 20, 2010

Dads Are Irreplaceable

Dead or alive,
Good or bad,
Absent or present,
involved or indifferent . . .
Fathers have the most significant impact
on the lives of their children.

Everything a man does is modeling for his sons how to be a dad and husband. I watch the interaction between fathers and their children at the library, swim team, church, and other places. I celebrate that today's society encourages hands-on fathering. I delight in the little boys who want to be 'just like dad.'  We have a family in our church with two little boys. The dad often leads our music and is a drummer. His 4 year old son is totally engaged in imitating his dad. Two weeks ago the little boy got a 'head shave' haircut so he could look 'just like dad.' His dad is bald!  It was amazingly cute. I love that, and I love seeing how the dad works with their younger one who has some sort of muscle problem as yet undiagnosed but who is hell on wheels with his walker. Dad is encouraging, but not babying. Patient, but firm. Loving and kind. And he laughs a lot with his boys. And he clearly loves their mother.

Last summer during our swim team season I watched the interaction of one of the families who has two teen sons. The boys had been away for a camping trip and had left when their dad was out of town, so it had been a while since they'd seen him. When they returned it was to the swim meet where their dad was officiating. The young men came in and both of them launched at their dad with great big hugs and laughter and clear joy for all three. It was beautiful to see. It was what I imagine when I see my mind's picture of the father welcoming home the prodigal son -- sheer joy at reuniting. I thought, "that is the kind of young man I want my daughter to marry - one who has that kind of relationship with his dad."


Everything a man does is modeling for his daughters what kind of man to choose and how they should expect to be treated. Sadly, many men, as their daughters become the hormonal basketcases teen girls are, back off and treat them differently. But that's when the girls need their dads most. Girls that age feel their bodies are betraying them. None of them feel like they're pretty. Every zit is 10x bigger in their mind and they're either too skinny or too fat or their hair is too this or that.  Girls need their biggest fan to tell them they are beautiful. I can be the one that says, "you're right, that outfit isn't very flattering." Their dad needs to tell them that they are absolutely beautiful to him. He also needs to tell them when the outfit they want to wear is not modest enough. Dads being loving when the girls are being awful prepares the girls for when they're married, pregnant, and hormonal or married, menopausal and hormonal. They need to know that they are worth the investment --that a man who loves them will hang in there in the tough times.

I see many dads who are totally hands-on with their little girls under a certain age. But I see less of that in the teen years. It's almost as if the dads hand the teen daughters over to the mothers to deal with. I have become more aware of it in our household and the only way to counter it is to acknowledge my complicity. You see, I LIKE being the ONLY ONE who can solve a child's problem. It validates me as a mom. And I'm much more ready to concede that my husband is best for our son to emulate than to think that he can solve our daughter's dilemmas! As if I'm the only one with good ideas!

But God has shown me my selfishness in this. My daughter NEEDS her dad to spend time with her and help her think through solutions to problems. An example is next Sunday. She'll be leaving for Governors' School, which is a 4.5 hour drive southwest of here. We can't both go because our son will be returning from a camp-out and will need a pick-up. I desperately want to go and had planned to. I've tried to justify it on the grounds  that I'm the only one who knows all the details of the check-in procedure, etc. I've even tried to ignore that I have trouble staying awake on long drives when I'm by myself (the way back). But God . . . 

My own dad was away a lot when I was a young child. When I was a teen our family was in crisis, and I blamed him for our move. I left a high school that I loved in a state that I loved for a high school and place that I hated. Rationally, I knew that he had to go where the job was. Emotionally, I was hostile and difficult. My older sister had put my parents through h*ll in her teen years, so I think by the time I started being rebellious he was just weary. At any rate, he didn't engage. And as soon as I could get out of that town I began living a life of destructive choices, looking for affirmation of my worth. I didn't pull out of that behavior until about eight years down the road. I managed to finish my education and get started in life, but with a whole lot of baggage that I might not have had.

When I became a mom, I forgave my dad. I now understood that the hardest thing to do as a parent is to always make the right choice. And although he wasn't Ozzie or Ward, he worked hard to do the best he could to provide for his family. He gave us what he was able to give emotionally, and none of us ended up destitute. In fact, three kids = three intact marriages, three college degrees, two post college (one JD one MD). We all own our own homes, pay our taxes, and those of us with kids are raising our kids to love the Lord FIRST.

As I read/listen to the psychobabble that says kids can get by without a dad, my answer is that getting by isn't good enough. Kids need to thrive. And for that, they need a dad.

So Happy Father's Day to my dad and to my husband. My prayer for both of you is that your children and their children will remember you as men of integrity who loved the Lord, loved their wives, and did not exasperate their children!

1 comment:

Nessa said...

Dad's a very important. Everyone should take daddying more seriously.