It used to be difficult for me to find the right Father’s Day card for my dad. I’d browse the greeting card rack at the drugstore and read the verses printed inside each card. Some were meant to be funny. Others conveyed warm sentiments. But none seemed to match the way I felt about my dad.
I felt hurt and angry toward Dad. I was a young man struggling in my marriage and my job, trying to find my way in the world, and feeling like a failure. It seemed easier to blame him and my mom for my troubles than for me to take action to make my life better.
Since I became a dad, I’ve realized it’s a difficult role to play well. Men get saddled with a lot of expectations, some of them in conflict with each other. In 20 years of being a dad to my kids, I’ve moved past my hurt and anger toward my parents and spend time thinking about the legacy I’ll leave with my children.
Will my kids feel hurt and angry toward me someday the way I felt toward my dad? Perhaps. I’ve made some mistakes along the way. I read books. I attended seminars. But putting it all into practice is like juggling. No matter how good you get at it, you can’t do it without dropping the ball now and then.
But I have learned a few things along the way. I’ve compiled a short list of things that I hope my kids will say about me when they look back on the time we had together:
1. You kept your word.
Integrity is the foundation of strong character, lasting relationships, and thriving communities. Without honesty and a sense of morality, individuals, families and nations unravel. For humanity to flourish truth must prevail.
Results from over 500 studies suggest that a dad’s influence usually exceeds that of mom in a child’s ability to develop secure and trusting relationships as adults. Doing what you say you’re going to do is the most effective way to teach your child to trust.
When a child learns that a parent’s words can be relied upon, we add strength to a foundation upon which that child can build a bright future.
God makes this promise to dad’s who keep their word: “The righteous man walks in his integrity; His children are blessed after him,” (Proverbs 20:7).
2. You showed courage
In 2015, Jessica Troilo, assistant professor of child development and family studies at West Virginia University, published a study revealing that working-class dads portrayed in TV sitcoms appear as “kind of bumbling” and “incapable.” The study, “Stay Tuned: Portrayals of Fathers to Come,” appeared in Psychology of Popular Media Culture in June 2015.
The popular portrayal of fathers observed in Troilo’s study is in contrast to the “patriotic” and “heroic” images of dads seen in sitcoms that followed World War II, like “Father Knows Best,” and “The Andy Griffith Show.” Today’s TV dads depend on their competent wives to come to their rescue when their poorly planned schemes and bad decisions get them into trouble.
Today’s TV dads may be good for a laugh, but they’re not good for children. TV kids have little respect for their dimwit dads.
Kids need to see dads who are courageous. The Bible urges men to, “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong,” (1 Corinthians 16:13).
A courageous dad compliments his wife in public, when the other guys are belittling theirs. He sets boundaries for his kids and protects them, in spite of their objections and complaints. He gives his best at work, and puts his work aside long enough to give equal time and attention to his family. He has the courage to admit when he’s wrong, and to do what’s needed to make things right.
3. You loved when it hurt
We live in culture where convenience is king. We prefer the easy path, and often take it. But it’s by enduring the difficult things that individuals, families and nations grow strong.
In his song “Brownsville Girl,” Bob Dylan sings,”Strange how people who suffer together have stronger connections than people who are most content.”
Don’t just love your kids until it hurts. Love when it hurts.
The Bible’s famous love chapter claims that love suffers long and bears all things (1 Corinthians 13:4, 7). Children need Dad to love when he’s stressed, tired and losing hope as much as when life is good. They need Dad to love their mother in spite of the things she does that irritate him. They even need Dad to love his Dad, in spite of his imperfections.
What goes around comes around.
Mother Theresa said it well: “I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.”
What are you doing to be a respectable dad? Share with a comment below.