My dear reader,
Who’s your daddy?
I ask this question because I’ve come to realize that the answer is… well… a revelation.
How you answer says a lot about him. And you too.
There’s no getting around it. Dads shape us. For better or worse. Even (and perhaps most profoundly) the absent ones.
Good dads are slowly but surely becoming an endangered species. By good, I mean the steady and ready ones. The safe and strong and tender. The dependable and devoted, patient and playful dads. These dads are faithful and true blue. And relatively-speaking… few.
When observed in his natural habitat – catching a game, sinking a putt, baiting a hook, fighting (grill) flames or roaming Home Depot – a modern dad is only occasionally spotted with his young. Unlike red foxes and great horned owls, human fathers have become less and less involved in the formative stages of their offspring’s lives. And by all observations, far less dutiful/dedicated/doting when it comes to provision/protection/affection. It can be devastating and debilitating. Sometimes irreversibly.
Kids need their dads. And those that don’t have one who is willing and able and available end up suffering the collateral damage…
Think of the people closest to you. How many of them grew up with a father who was domineering or distant or drunk? Angry or absent or abusive? How many had a dad who was inattentive or ill-equipped or self-absorbed? How many fathers think the whole scope of the job is:
Bring home a paycheck and cut the grass.
Or send child support once a month.
(Or a package of Pampers now and then.)
The fact of the matter is that some dads aren’t really fathers; they just “fathered” and then fled or flaked out. And now their children know the schoolbus driver better than they know their own dad. And that, I imagine, hurts like hell.
But since I’m a “glass half full” kind of girl, I’m not going to waste any more of this space discussing deadbeat dads. Instead, I’d like to extol the stellar ones:
The ones that work overtime to feed/house/clothe and cover karate/violin/swim lessons for their kids. And then, after a 12-hour-workday, they leave their work at work… and come home and play catch ’til it’s too dark to see the ball.
These are the dads we should hug and high five and fist pump and praise.
The ones that put on a tie and buy a bouquet and spend hours twirling their daughters and sipping lukewarm punch and doing the hokey pokey at the Daddy-Daughter Dance. (That’s what it’s all about.)
The ones who teach their children how to ride a bike and drive a car and put air in the tires of both.
The ones that hold the bar high. And bend low to tie shoes and brush hair and kiss cheeks and dry tears. These are the real Superheroes.
The ones that take their kids camping and ice skating and build sand castles and snow forts with them.
The ones that bring home the bacon… fry it up for breakfast… and do the greasy dishes when the feeding frenzy’s over.
The ones that teach their son what it means to be a gentle-man and teach their daughter what it means to be a strong woman.
These are the dads who deserve the kudos (and the capes) this Father’s Day.
And for those dads who are playing hooky from fatherhood, I have just two words for you:
If you feel like you’re falling down on the job, do yourself (and your kid) a favor and get back up and start again. It’s not too late.
You can do this dad thing. Really.
You don’t need a fat paycheck or a fancy degree to be a good dad. You don’t need to be licensed, bonded, registered or certified. You just need to be there. And hang in there. And hold on tight. Bring your A game. Every dang day.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not an easy gig. Far from it. Fatherhood will require everything you’ve got. And all your reserves. And then some.
To do the job right, you’ll need some basic Dad skills and supplies:
Strength. Fatherhood is not for the faint of heart. Or stomach, for that matter. (Props to those of you who are currently changing poopy diapers regularly. May your gag reflex soon abate.) It takes nerves of steel and the flexibility of a carnival contortionist. It takes creativity and critical thinking, passion and perseverance. Dads need strong bodies, strong minds, and strong spirits. Strong coffee doesn’t hurt either.
Silliness. I grew up with an incredibly silly dad (and I highly recommend it). In hindsight, I see that silly paired with playful is an essential ingredient in the magic formula of fatherhood. My dad was well-versed in goofy games, magic tricks, April Fool’s pranks and preposterous stories. And his dad – my Papi – was the Ringmaster of all things silly. Dumb jokes about pirates and potato farmers and people from Poland (no offense to our cousins from Krakow) and bad puns and tickle games galore. So it’s no surprise that I married the Fresh Prince of Silly myself. I think my man may have surpassed all scientific measure of silliness with his goofball antics and alternative song lyrics and outlandish stories (“Tom Darlington Snake Man” and “Deep Blue Slime” are fan favorites.) Most of his made-up-on-the-spot songs and stories involve danger. Or potty humor. Or a killer combination of both. (Slay ’em, Steve-O.)
Steadiness. Fatherhood requires a pretty even keel. And boots on the ground: solid footing, even pace, and balance. Life is full of ups and downs and twists and turns and gusts and gale-force winds. And kids need someone with a steady hand, clear vision, and a calm voice to guide them through or hunker down with. Dads do too. (That’s why… God. And here’s how… prayer.)
Strategy. Dads gotta have a game plan. Both short-term and long. For everyday and emergencies. For camping trips and character development. Budgeting and batting practice. Legos and life lessons.
Sweat. Lugging beach totes, boogie boards, bag chairs, a cooler and a kid on a 93-degree July day across a half mile of hot sand will do that to you. So will letting your baby girl go to prom. (Pretty sure Steve will need cold compresses. And sedation.)
Sage advice. If you’re a dad, it means you have at least one human being looking to you for answers. So, you better have some. Especially when your kid isn’t invited or doesn’t win. When they encounter mean girls or tough guys. When algebra, acne, or anxiety strike. To handle bad grades and bad breakups. Sickness, sadness, unfairness, and failure. Wisdom can’t be bought at Cabela’s… but it’s available in unlimited supply – direct from the Manufacturer – to every parent who asks. (Google “James 1” for details or just go ahead and upload the whole Holy Bible. Free in the App store. Boom.)
Sauces. Dads: if you grill it, they will come. If you smother it in ranch dressing or BBQ sauce, they will keep coming. And if you make your own secret sauce, you. are. a. boss.
Sidekick. Being a dad is a whole lot easier/better/sweeter/safer with a mom around. You know, someone to remind you about teacher conferences and carpool and sunscreen and vegetables.
Sorry. < Good word. Use it when you screw up. (Like when you forget the aforementioned sunscreen, and your son turns hot pink.) Kids are quick to forgive. Aloe vera helps too.
Sacrifice. Contrary to popular opinion, you can’t have it all. ‘Cause there’s only 24 hours in a day. And (despite the Beatles’ insistence otherwise) only seven days in a week. So… something’s gotta give. Whether you want to or not, you have to choose where to spend your time (and thus, your life). There will be compromise involved. And sacrifices of good things for better or, hopefully, best. This is where the rubber meets the road on the parenting highway. If your hobbies or your buddies or your work comes first, your kids will know they’re second-fiddle. Even if they live in the biggest house, wear the coolest clothes, and have the latest, greatest tech toys. For the most part, kids spell love T-I-M-E. You can internally debate the quality vs. quantity question. But you aren’t fooling your kid. And you’re missing some pretty great stuff. The ordinary and – every once in a while, if you’re around to see it and soak it in – the truly extraordinary.
Love always requires sacrifice.
And it’s always worth it.
Well, at least God thinks so.
I used to believe Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice. But sometimes I wonder.
Maybe his Daddy did. He let his beautiful Son go… only to be bullied and beaten and bloodied… and then bear the dead weight of sin. Jesus hung heavy, nailed to timbers meant to torture… and slowly, surely suffocated to death. And his Papa knew. And still, he let him – willed him – to do it.
Fierce, unflinching love for a wretch like me.
Yes, love always requires sacrifice.
But it’s worth it in the end.
Because…joy and goodness and grace and peace.
And untold adventure too.
This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. (Romans 8:15-16, The Message)
Who’s your Daddy?
Wishing a happy Father’s Day to all the dads… and our Father who art in heaven.
P.S. I would be remiss if I didn’t – in some small way – honor the three most important fathers in my life:
Kim Dickson – You are the warmest, kindest, and most devoted godfather a girl could ever hope to have. You have made me feel cherished and safe and surrounded with love every day of my life. It’s a gift I treasure more than you know.
Fred Schaltegger – How can I ever begin to thank you for all you’ve done for me? From teaching me to balance on a bike to teaching me to balance a checkbook (not sure which was more trying for you… so sorry) and a thousand lessons in between, you profoundly shaped who I’ve become. So glad I got your swim stroke, your work ethic, your storytelling ability, and your long stride. No matter how old I get, I’ll always be your little girl.
Steve Holtz – I don’t deserve you. (And neither do our kids.) You are simply the best. Watching you with our sons and daughter has brought me more joy than I ever thought possible in this lifetime. You live, lead, and love better than any man I’ve ever known. You are my hero and my whole heart, my whole life. ❤️