Two weeks ago was Father’s day. I don’t know about all fathers, but for me, sometimes Father’s day can be difficult. I don’t live with my kids anymore, and they are grown, living their own lives and stuff. When I do see them I often go through my checklist… what could I have done different? How do they really see me? Do their lives reflect what I so desired to pour into them, or have we lost that as they have seen the chinks in my armor – my failures, my weaknesses, my inability to be all that we hope a father should be? I don’t tell anyone, but Father’s day sometimes scares me.
It was interesting to see how my day started. My best friend took me on a walk, during which we stopped at a park. Shortly after we got there, a father brought his son to play at the park. The son was so cute, about 2 at best, and was so lost in the freedom, safety and enjoyment that the father’s love and attention gave him. It was fun watching him mimic the things he saw the father do, or attack the playground equipment without fear, knowing that the cares of life he could easily roll onto his dad. I could have sat there and observed them for hours. The relationship between the father and son was so wonderful to see.
My day would unfold in such a special way, step by step showing me that while fatherhood is tough and not perfect, it is something of the highest calling of every man… whether you have your own kids or not. And not just a calling, but a yearning to have that kind of relationship that you can pour into with love, fun, safety, challenge, vision and so much more.
I wasn’t expecting my first gift. I think it is because I hadn’t had an expectation of what Father’s day really meant. As we met to go walking, my friend presented me with this red box (my favorite color) full of goodies and a card ushering me into what would be a series of wonderful gifts. The gifts I received however were not toys or gadgets… they were “signs of relationship” – the promise of a movie night… a “Man Card”, affirming me and the rest of the fathers at church as positive men of influence… being able to beam after my daughter’s show, and over all of the people proclaiming my son’s work in his church, and not last or least, my other son coming home from military training. To me it was all relationship, connection, affirmation, and all of it was in some way connected to the fact that I have had the privilege of being a father.
After we finished our walk, I went back home, cleaned up and met my son at his church. It was my first time being there, but I was immediately struck by how many people knew him. From the parking lot to the pulpit, he introduced me to young and old, and without surprise, everyone had great things to say about him. But not just the standard niceties… they spoke of the impact he was having, specifically with the high school group. He is more than just a role model. He is becoming a father figure to these kids. I couldn’t be more proud… No, wait… I could…
We went to lunch after church, and he began to just pour out his heart. I heard about some of his struggles and how he overcame them, his perspective on life, and how he has come full circle to accept the destiny he knew about since he was 11. He has grown immensely. At one point in the conversation he was giving me insight into his thoughts of the time when Jesus was walking on the water. As he finished, a woman who had left the restaurant came back in to affirm what he was saying, further illustrating to both of us his impact to those around him. It was an amazing time.
We left the restaurant and I made my way to my daughter’s show. She has built quite a reputation as a choreographer, and created a piece in this show that literally had people in tears. This is not the first time that has happened. Better than that though, I saw how she built young women and men into strong purposeful dancers. Parents and students alike told me of how they have followed her for years, and I know it is because she gives every ounce of who she is to make them everything they can be. I get choked up just thinking of it.
Finally the show ended, and we were all famished, so we did the “Father’s day dinner thing” 🙂 . I hadn’t seen my youngest yet, as he had been away for 3 weeks in military training. I still remember the day he told me that he was going to enlist. Fear immediately gripped me, as it would any parent. Then as I went to talk to him about it, I thought about who he had become: I knew he had thought this through, and made the right decision for himself. That night I listened to him speak about the work he is doing and about some of his other passions. He is becoming an exceptional man.
Seeing my kids affecting the lives of others – from the youth at church, to the dancers in the studio, to the nation being protected – these were my Father’s Day presents. And they didn’t stop there. I received Father’s Day wishes from many that I have had the privilege to father – not by blood, but by relationship. I love calling them my kids as well.
On the one hand, it would be great if there was a manual on how to be a father, but there isn’t. Maybe that’s better, cuz the best things about being a father cannot be learned in a book – staying in it, giving love, and just being dad. In the card my friend gave me, there is so much of what she said that I love and appreciate. Right now, however these words are sticking out to me:
And you do it all simply by being the good man that you are… the best kind of dad a child can have
Sometimes you hear it from your kids, other times you see it, but eventually you will know that it was, and is, forever worth it being a dad.