---- — Although human think-ing is enhanced by generalizing and noticing patterns, the same process that helps us draw conclusions can sometimes blind us to facts that do not fit our conclusions. This is the case when it comes to fatherhood — more than ever. No two dads are alike, nor do any two dads have the exact same personality or circumstances. Think about how the various dads in the joke below have differing lives:
In the old days, four men were waiting in the hospital lounge; their wives were in the process of delivering babies. A nurse dashed over to the first man and said, “Congratulations! You’re the father of twins.”
“That’s a coincidence” replied the first man. “I work for the Minnesota Twins!”
A nurse greeted the second fellow, “Congratulations! You’re the father of triplets!”
“That’s amazing,” gasped the second man. “I work for the 3M company!”
Soon the nurse proceeded to inform the third man, “Congratulations! You’re the father of quadruplets!”
“That’s fantastic,” he answered. “I work for the Four Seasons hotel!”
The last man moaned, groaned and pounded his chest.
“What is the matter with you, man?” the new fathers asked.
The man replied painfully, “I work for the production team of ‘101 Dalmatians’!”
Size of family, blended or traditional family, working mom, working dad, stay-at-home mom, stay-at-home dad, divorced, never married, living in different states, working for long periods of time abroad, with step-children or unrelated half siblings of step-children, teens, toddlers — all these and many other factors contribute toward a diverse group of men who own the title “Dad.”
I have known many folks who found their families broken — people who had hoped to remain married to their original spouse until death parted them. Drugs, unfaithfulness, crime, violence or mental illness are among the many issues that break up marriages. Those of us who have been able to evade such things are graciously blessed — people just like us may have not been so blessed. There are no guarantees when it comes to marriage and child-rearing.
I have known many folks who sowed their wild oats and made messes of their lives, later to change their ways and become responsible and self-controlled. Yet they have to deal with the messy consequences of their past. And sometimes both man and wife have messy pasts; when they marry, they bring confusion and stresses into the marriage as they share custody and have to deal with sometimes hostile ex-spouses. It’s no piece of cake, but many succeed.
Dads, one common thread for good fathering is our willingness to do what is in the best interest of our children or children we oversee. In my book, a dad should want to provide for, protect and teach children right from wrong; we need to mentor them in the issues and responsibilities of life. This includes instructing and including them in things both practical and spiritual; it includes shaping boys into masculine men and girls into feminine women. It means guiding them based upon the personality given them by their Creator. It does not mean trying to live life vicariously through them. If dad was good at a certain sport, it doesn’t mean junior must excel in that area, too, for example.
Dads need to talk to their kids every day, listen to them. Listening to their perspective does not mean you always agree with them. If you need to do so, come prepared with questions to help loosen your tongue. When necessary, exert your authority; but also become a guardian and enjoyable company.
I believe children are owned by God (not the state nor parents), and that God has entrusted parents to rear those children. Dad, you are a trustee over your children for God. You need to assess your situation and do the best with the realities you face, as messy as they might seem. No matter your lot, you are not alone.
Happy Father’s Day to all our dads.
Ed Vasicek is pastor of Highland Park Church and a weekly contributor to the Kokomo Tribune. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.