Then there’s Father’s Day. And somehow, it’s so very different. The fathers are never asked to stand to be honored. Never applauded. Never, from the pulpit, bestowed with words of affirmation and praise. The sermon is always the same. “Men, stand up and lead your wife.” “Men, turn off ESPN and be a more attentive father to your children.” “Men, roll up your sleeves and get involved in some Kingdom work.” And so every Father’s Day, my husband leaves church feeling crushed, and I’m left responsible to ensure that he knows his worth. That he knows that I notice all of the wonderful ways he serves our family, his employer, his church.
I get it. There are plenty of fathers that need these “swift-kick-in-the-behind” sermons. And even more unfortunately, a few fatherhood failures have helped to create a full-on mockery of dads in our society. And as a group, we often perpetuate this through chuckling at these fumbling dad characters on sitcoms and advertisements. No wonder my husband, and so many like him, feels defeated. No wonder he feels like, no matter how hard he tries, it’s never good enough.
Recently, my six year old daughter asked if she could stay up late and watch a movie on a Friday night. I asked her, “What did Daddy say?” and begrudgingly, she informed me that he had already told her no. If I’m being honest, I thought her request was reasonable, but I stood by my husband’s decision and told her, “no”, as well. In true, six-year-old diva fashion, she let out a sigh and through pouted lips said, “Ugh! I wish you were the head of the household, instead of Daddy!” Wow! She can never remember where her shoes are, but she remembers this? I’ll take the win. My first-grader understands the leadership both she and I are under in our home. She may not always agree with her daddy, neither will I, but in that moment, I felt like I was illustrating to my daughter God’s perfect design of the family.
As a mother I feel pressure to have the kids dressed in cute clothes. To have the house perfectly cleaned and organized (Ha!). To have a healthy dinner on the table each night by 6:00 (hahaha!). To have homework done, baths taken, teeth brushed, books read, prayers said, and the list goes on and on. I find myself constantly striving to do well at all of these administrative duties. That feels like good parenting to me. But I wondered, from my husband’s perspective, what pressures he feels in his role of father to our girls. His answer surprised me.
For him, consistently disciplining our children and molding them into respectful, obedient, and well-mannered little girls weighs heaviest. Here I am about to have an anxiety attack over spelling tests and gingivitis while my husband is most concerned about cultivating their character. Hmmm…one of us is probably a little more right here. Ok…a lot more right! Providing for the girls, like new winter coats and future college educations was a close second place for parental pressures weighing on him as a dad. Sweet reader, I too, have fallen into the trap of thinking my husband has no clue when it comes to parenting. I mean, for the love! We’ve been parents for six years and it has just now occurred to me to ask him what’s important to him when it comes to raising our girls. Shame on me. With that kind of pressure, it’s no wonder he couldn’t care less if they brush their teeth or if he picked out the right color hair bow for Carter Jane’s outfit that day. I think as mothers, we often like to think we can do it better. But there are plenty of men out there who have this fatherhood thing on lock. And I want you to know that I notice. I see you.
I see you, taking your little girls to dance practice. Sure, their tights are on backwards and their ponytails are a hot mess, but you did it, and you make this Dance Dad thing look easy. I see you, sitting at the kitchen table, with all the books and papers and pencils, as you stay up late to help your son with his math homework. I see you, half-awake as you take the 3am shift with your newborn and allow your gorgeous wife some needed sleep. I see you, flipping the grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch. I see you blow drying your daughter’s hair after her bath. I see you, in the backyard, throwing the 100th pitch to your son. I see you, teaching him how to drive a tractor, how to mow the lawn, how to change the oil in his car. I see you, arms crossed, but still beaming with pride, as you suffer through another of your daughter’s marching band competitions. I see you, painting the newly built swing set, and folding the basket of clothes, and unloading the dishwasher, and holding your wife’s hand at church. I see you, building the best blanket fort ever, pulling the sled behind the four-wheeler, and reading just one more book to your toddler. I see you answering work emails at 9:00 at night, when you would rather be watching Sports Center. I see you surprising your wife with a Starbucks coffee in the middle of her workday. And I see you at the altar, unashamed to let God and the whole world know that you need Him to help you lead, and provide, and serve in all the ways that you do. I see you.
So I've noticed. I've noticed that my husband and many others are doing fatherhood like a boss. But don’t get me wrong, I still LIKE to be in control, and I prefer to have things just my way. The thought of my husband taking the girls to dance each Monday with disheveled ponytails and mismatched leotards still makes me cringe. But at least he does it so I don’t have to. Can I get an Amen?!
Maybe you’re a dad who feels like you are failing. From God’s word, in Psalm 127:3-5 “Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate.” It's never too late to make it right. The scriptures have already called you BLESSED. Make it right with the Lord, then make it right with your kids.
Dads, while I’m sure there are days when you want to throw your hands up, the Lord has entrusted you with this precious gift of fatherhood, and your children are looking to you for guidance, love, and reassurance. Look to the Lord for the very best example of how to do that. Is there a husband, son, brother or friend in your life who is rocking fatherhood? What about your own dad? Have you thanked him for all the unknown sacrifices he made for you, his heritage from the Lord? Take some time this week to let these great dads know that you notice and that you are so very proud of the work they are doing.
Another photo cred to the most awesomest, Katie Wright @ www.katiewrightphotography.com