A Father's #Truth for Father's Day
From the moment my first child was born, I had a pretty significant feeling of inadequacy. It didnʼt cause me to shrink or crumble from the task of being a father, but it was clear that if there was a bar of perfection, I would never reach it.
It has never, throughout the course of being a father, diminished my desired outcome or my efforts in trying to achieve that particular goal. But from the beginning, it was clearly understood, that my efforts have always been lacking.
Luckily I was blessed with five incredibly patient, beautiful, strong, resilient, stubborn, and intelligent children. It has become clear to me that unless I do something pretty significantly horrible, they will live through me being their father and become pretty awesome adults.
That being said as time progressed and I saw them growing I began to feel my window of opportunity shrinking. I realized as my oldest reached the age of nine and then 10 and then 11 that my ability to become better has a clock attached to it... a countdown timer as you might say.
This honestly created a panic within me that caused me to begin re-evaluating what additional contributions I could make that would be worthwhile to my children and simultaneously have a significant enough impact and affect to be worth the effort.
So, with this in mind I began evaluating my options. I considered greater contributions to their education. I considered greater contributions to their physical health and well- being. I considered greater efforts, to provide larger quantities, of financially focused opportunities and even lifestyle. In all of those particular efforts, I realized that I was primarily focused on those things that seemed relatively important to me... or, in other words, what seemed to be my day today focus. To be clear, not that these things create healthy children, but that I felt like I could contribute more easily and more readily to these particular areas.
While prayerfully considering my options, it became clear to me that my children were already communicating what they needed and wanted. Everyday, I would hear simple things like “Dad, will you throw the ball with me?“ “Dad, will you play with me today?“ “ Dad, can we wrestle today?“
It struck me like a ton of bricks! It literally brought me to tears! When I realized that all they wanted and frankly what they needed in order to feel more safe, more happy, more secure, was me... was my time, my attention, my play, my smile, my love, myself...
I was shocked! I was relieved to know now what they needed most, and I was relieved to see how simple it could be, and yet both then and now I continue to be daunted by the task! Playing with my children, spending large amounts of time with my children, not just being a parental figure but being their friend, is not only a task that is sizable in nature, but it is simultaneously trying in itʼs enormity due to the requirement of being vulnerable.
Yes, vulnerable! For me to spend that much time with my children and allow them to see that I was enjoying that time and I find joy in that time (not just a passive observational joy but an active involved joy), I needed to be not just their father, but their friend. True friendship is not one-sided... True friendship requires a mutual degree of vulnerability and trust. Itʼs something, that they are willing to offer at a moments notice, and yet somehow over time I have kept guarded, kept protected, kept walled off. For many legitimate reasons, I have been so focused on being the provider and in braving the “wilds“ of the world, that I have become callous, guarded, and very talented at loving from a distance. Not that that love was diminished or lesser, it was just further away.
I realized that I needed to focus on becoming their friend, a true friend. It was laughable really, it was almost as if I was beginning to date my children.
And I will tell you, those first few days were brutal! It was like an awkward date when youʼre 16 years old and youʼre realizing that you have no idea what to say! Iʼm not talking the first 10 minutes, 20 minutes, half an hour...Iʼm talking when youʼve now spent hours and days of time within the same week with your children... almost every free moment, and you realize youʼre at a point where you can no longer talk about surface- based material, itʼs time to open up and actually allow yourself to bond with your child. Not just a one sided child to parent bond but a mutual bonding.
It was also a point where whether I liked it or not, I could no longer have a mask or face that stood between myself and my child allowing my child to perceive me as a parent in the light I like, but rather, they were going to see me exactly as I am.
I will not go into all the details, but I will say this, deciding to go down this path of true friendship and a true bond of love, has been the best decision I have ever made! It is hard, it is trying, it is incredible...
They are all my friends! I have never seen such smileʼs, such happiness, I have never been so happy! We are in this thing together! And, I have my wife and five of my closest friends with me every moment, and every step of the way.
We laugh, we play, we cry, and mourn, but we are never alone! I do still get free time, I am myself and with my wife, but emotionally I am never alone! My children know more about me, my wants, my desires, my dreams and care more for it. We are becoming friends!
So, on this Fatherʼs Day, here is my challenge... Stop being a parental figure. Start being a true friend! One, that knows no bounds, no limits, no deterrence, that will be with them through thick and thin... for, they surely will be likewise.
My trek is not done, nor will it ever be! But my path is laid and it is sure and I will not depart from it! My children will know me, and I them! And I will always be that friend for them, and I will be all the better for it! That is my gift!
I guess, that is what it means to be a father. I am sure, that is what our heavenly father feels as well! May we know him, and them!