The weight of fatherhood catches many by surprise. We understand how the blessed event happened, but we are blissfully ignorant about the afterbirth. We are oblivious to the coming years of demands on our time, energy, and finances. We have no idea if we can reach deeply enough to find the strength the role requires. I think the path to fatherhood lulls us into a drowsy bliss.
Fatherhood began with dating, a lively and pleasant activity. Anywhere was fine as long as I was with that lady. Her smile. The twinkle in her eyes. The high voltage in her kiss electrifying every cell in my body. In short order I was twitterpated and could not imagine living without her. I finally built up enough nerve to ask the big question. She agreed, opening the next chapter in the adventure.
Married life. Now there’s the thing, people. Constant togetherness. Dreaming. Cuddling on the couch watching sappy movies till the wee hours. Sleeping late Saturday mornings, till the crack of noon if we liked. Long walks. Shopping at flea markets to outfit all three rooms of our mansion.
The news of an impending addition to the family triggered a disturbance in the force. Another chapter loomed on the horizon.
Childbirth classes were my first clue that fatherhood might not always be a pleasant scamper. The sadistic class leader launched session 4 with the shock and awe of a birth movie. I was amazed that any woman would agree to be filmed in that scenario. I retained my cookies through two of the featured clips using some of the breathing techniques we were learning. Clip #3 triggered sensory overload. My last thought before darkness engulfed me was, “You must be joking!” Being helped from the room by my very pregnant wife was not my finest hour, but other men were in the same condition. It was too late to take a vow of celibacy.
Those moments in the dazzling delivery room float in and out of my memory, but one image is always in sharp focus—the nurse is handing me a tiny seven bound bundle, and I’m riveted to a precious face. A daughter! Ready or not, I’m a Dad!
Baby antics, toddler tantrums, preschool frolics, elementary capers, and pre-teen moments scream by. A dad knows these opportunities are significant and grasps the sobering reality that most of the imprinting we will do for our children will be over at the close of that period. There are no do-overs.
Our kids are watching.
They absorb our approach to life. They glean from us the joy of helping another just because we can. They join us in chores and projects, adopting our work ethic. Those little eyes drink in a valuable lesson as we circle the block to return the extra twenty to the bank teller.
Our kids are listening.
Our words reflect our feelings for their mothers and communicate the value we place on marriage. Those little people love to snuggle in dad’s lap as he reads the same story for the millionth time. His voice gives comfort as they drift to sweet slumber under the gentle stream of his words. Our children need to bask in the glow that accompanies dad declaring, “Great job. I’m proud of you.” Kids need to be instructed and warned through dad’s loving voice of authority.
Our kids are following in our footsteps.
Which way would Dad turn? How would Dad handle this? What would Dad say to this person? Dads shoulder a heavy burden that keeps us up at night, that drives us to our knees, and that makes us wonder if we are doing enough. When we pause to look behind us we see little legs stretching to match our stride. We hear little voices parroting our words. Our little ones are confident that Dad knows the way and certain that following him is the best choice.
And men, we dare not put a foot wrong.
Find a dad.
Put your arms around him.
Give him a big hug.
Tell him, “You’re doing great.”
The dad job is a heavy one.
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Ephesians 6:4 (NASB)