You’ve heard it said, “Anyone can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a Dad.” But is this a black and white issue? Are you either/or? Is it merely biological – or is there more to the story? I think there is more – much more.
As I walk through life and listen to the stories of others, I hear a lot of anger towards fathers. Men, women, kids, teens – a lot of people are very angry at their dads. Why is this? What causes all this anger? I believe it has a lot to do with expectations. We expect our fathers to be kind, honest, trustworthy, and present. But the fact of the matter is, fathers are broken humans – just like the rest of us. They fail, make mistakes, and rarely measure up to their potential. Our expectations lead us to premeditated resentments – that are too often realized.
Not long ago we treated a 19 year old girl who had been beaten by her father. Apparently it wasn’t the first time. Counselors tell people who are in violent domestic relationships to leave the abuser, but how does a daughter turn her back on her father? It’s hard enough for a spouse, or others in a committed relationship, but how does a kid walk away from her Dad?
I’ve been angry at my Dad for the mistakes he’s made, the failures that he caused, and the lack of presence he provided. And yet, here I am, a Dad myself, and I can see how hard it is. I’m broken, I get discouraged, I want to be left alone, and sometimes I want to run away. This Dad thing is a huge responsibility – I’m not always up for it. I fail often. And yet, I want my kids to have a successful childhood.
However, as I’ve processed the mistakes my Dad made (much of it on the pages of this blog), I am motivated to not pass these same mistakes onto my kids and family. Not only wouldn’t that be fair, but it would make me more of a hypocrite than I already am.
The other day as I listened to someone share with me some of the relationship issues they’ve shared with their father, one question haunted me. I didn’t ask it, but I haven’t forgotten it. In fact, often these questions are more poignant for me, then for others. So, I ask myself, “What am I going to do to stop the cycle? How am I going to treat my kids differently? How will I help my kids not resent me?”
How would you answer these questions? What are you doing to ease the journey for your kids?
Last week I saw a bumper sticker on a car that really struck me:
It’s easier to build strong children than to fix broken people.”
I realize that the things that angered me about my Dad had nothing to do with intellectual incompetence, a lack of practical skills, or failure in his career field. No… the things that made me mad about my Dad had to do with his insensitivity, addictions, and emotional unavailability. My Dad did a lot of things right, and he provided a great environment for us to grow up in, but emotionally he had some things to learn. So, what would it take for me to overcome these weaknesses in my life, in order to be a better Dad to my kids?
Here’s my list:
- Stay healthy, emotionally, physically, intellectually, and spiritually. By taking care of myself, releasing stressors, and moving forward in life, I will be stronger and life won’t get me down so much.
- Love my wife, more than I love myself, and make her feel honored and respected. By treating the kids’ mother with love and respect, they learn about good relationships, our marriage stays intact (geographically and emotionally), and a healthy marriage enables us to be better parents.
- Be available. Whether in season, out of season – no matter the situation – make sure my kids know I’m available. Emotionally and physically, when my kids know I’m available, it will give them the courage to grow, and not be stuck in a moment.
Is this hard? Of course it is! My hedonistic, selfish soul doesn’t want to put others first. When I’m hungry, angry, lonely, or tired (HALT), I want to do my own thing. I want to eat junk, watch junk on TV, or just sleep. I want to escape from people, escape from life, and escape from responsibility. I want to procrastinate, I want to alter my reality, and I want to avoid more stress – and we all know how stressful our families can be. 😉
As a Dad, I want to finish well – to do that, I have to choose my steps wisely
But, that’s not the right choice. As a Dad, I want to finish well – to do that, I have to choose my steps wisely. I love my beautiful Wife and Kids with all my heart – it’s not enough to just say this, I have to make good choices too. We all get hungry, angry, lonely, and tired – but it’s what we do to correct these situations that determines the outcomes.
What are you doing to help your kids finish their childhood well?