Some reflections on being a father

Today in the U.S. we celebrate Father’s Day. It’s a day that elicits mixed feelings for many people. As a father, it elicits mixed feelings for me, too.

It is an incredible blessing to be a dad. I’ve often said this: I always wanted to be one but didn’t really think it’d ever happen. Contrary to my own doubts, it did. When my wife agreed to marry me, I instantly became a dad to an eight year old son who was full of curiosity, energy, and questions. And he really wanted a dad. It was what I jokingly referred to then as a package deal. He also was very excited about the possibility of siblings, I recall, and by the end of our first year of marriage, he got his wish when our second child was born. The next two children followed shortly after. By then, I think his enthusiasm had waned significantly 😉

We all love each other deeply as a family but it has been, and continues to be, a rocky road. I have a lot of regrets, missed opportunities, areas where I know I fall far short. One example (meant as a bit of a joke, but it is true): I cannot stand computer games, they make me physically ill, yet they play an enormous part of the lives of our kids, especially our boys. Another example: I stink at sports, always have (except I did enjoy tennis and swimming when I was younger), so insert big fail sound here when it comes to encouraging and participating with them in outdoor activities. Most damning of all, perhaps, I’m a workaholic, which means that the model I’ve consistently presented to our children is that work is more important than they are.

Another reason for my mixed emotions is that on this day, I reflect on my own father, who died shortly after we were married. I loved him, he loved me, I knew these things, but he was a troubled man. We did not have a very close relationship. I miss him all the time, and I have a lot of unanswered questions for him, too. As the years go by, I think I understand him better, though, and with understanding comes a measure of peace and acceptance. I think my father did the best he could. That’s one way to describe my own approach to fatherhood, as well, yet it shouldn’t exonerate or excuse mistakes.

However, that is enough self-indulgent navel-gazing. Let me close by wishing all the fathers out there a very happy day. It doesn’t hurt to acknowledge and reflect on where you fall short, but it’s also important to focus on the good things, the happy things, the blessings fatherhood provides. Here’s a comforting thought: each day gives you and me the opportunity to change, to do better, to right wrongs, and to pour ourselves into our children so that they flourish, even as they enter into adulthood and leave us to make their own way in this world.

May our Heavenly Father bless you and keep you and lead you in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:24).

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