I’ve been a Dad for thirteen years and seven months. It’s quite strange to be where I am now and glance backward through time to when it all started. Nothing can truly prepare you for one of life’s greatest responsibilities. No guide books or pamphlets can capture the feelings of excitement, joy, marvel, panic, and failure that are encountered along the journey. It’s a road littered with mistakes, a plethora of questions, and moments of pure victory. As with most things in life, it takes hard work and continual effort in order to be a successful father.
But what defines a successful father anyway? If our children grow up to become doctors or lawyers, does that mean we did something right? If a child ends up in prison for jacking cars, is that an indication that we failed? What we pour into our kids while they are young is vital, but ultimately, when they reach adulthood, the decisions they make are their own. I often wonder if my Dad felt like a successful parent with raising me. He passed away in 2008, and I never asked him that question. I hadn’t even considered the thought until now.
From my perspective, he was a wonderful parent, teacher, and daddy. His father was none of those things to him, so I consider it an extreme privilege to have had such a great man as the authority in my life. He was gentle, kind, but firm when the situation required discipline. Having him spank me for doing something wrong wasn’t exactly fun, but I look back now and smile. Why? Because I know he punished me out of love. He was teaching me the differences between right and wrong. And he did it all because he was concerned about my future.
With the craziness of life, I’ve never stepped back and thought about my goals as a father. We experience life in each moment, and deal with situations as they arise, but what is the ultimate outcome I desire for my children and how they view me as a parent? Here are some things I came up with.
- I want them to know that they are loved. No matter what they do, what they say, or how they react to something, I want them to always know I love them. My love for them is without condition. No expectations. No strings.
- I want them to always trust me. Trust is the foundation of any relationship, and it applies to our roles as parents. Yes, we discipline and correct our children, but we also need to develop a deep relationship.
- I want them to talk to me. I have three girls, and as we all know, life can be very hard. It’s a struggle. I want them to know I will always be there for them. Provide a shoulder for crying on. Be the protector when someone desires their heart. A rock they will always be able to stand upon for strength.
- I want them to smile when they remember me. When they are grown and have their own children, I hope they can look back, as I am now, and smile when they think of their childhood and how they were raised.
- I want to always see them through the eyes of a father. No matter what age they are, nothing can change the fact that they are forever my little girls. Sure, they will eventually have kids of their own, but I will see them as daughters I held, cried with, celebrated with, praised, disciplined, and fought for.
These are just a handful of items I thought about before writing this article. I hope and pray I have done these well over the past thirteen years. Ultimately, I want to be the same kind of father that God is to His children. If you study the Bible, you will see the role He modeled for all of us as parents. Loving. Firm. Corrective. Protector. Provider. The list could go on for quite a while. We’re human, so we aren’t always going to get it right. We will screw things up with our children, and be forced to reconcile the relationship. That is just a normal part of life. It happens.
The eyes of this father will always see pigtails, awkward first steps, first birthday chocolate pudding all over the place, cutely mispronounced words like mirk and moont, a brief terror of bare feet, little hands clenched around my finger, walking through the door and greeted with arms reaching up, stitches and boo boos, leaky diapers, fear of dogs, crayon on the walls, bedtime hugs and kisses, and the moment I looked them in the eyes for the first time.