On Becoming “Daddy”

February 7, 2012 — 13 Comments


I must admit, I don’t often write about my family in this space. For that reason, this post may seem something of a non sequitur to my normal theological, philosophical, and ecclesiological ramblings. On the other hand, it may be a refreshing departure! 

Several months ago, my lovely wife, April, introduced me to Sarah Bessey’s blog, “Emerging Mummy.” April has been reading her blog for some time and would occasionally forward me her posts. One particular post, “In Which I’m an Uneasy Pacifist” hooked me. Then she and I connected on Twitter and have had some wonderful interactions in that space.

This week, she invited parents to share their best practices for parenting as part of a Parenting Practices Carnival. Loads of people have chimed in, but few dads, it seems. So, I thought I’d add my voice to the melee. 

I’m father to two girls, Sydney and Rylee. Ever since I recognized that I wanted to become a father, I’ve wanted girls. This is curious since I am the eldest of three boys who were, for a time, raised by a single father. Yet I’ve never had that strong desire to have a son that many men seem to have (I would’ve made a horrible member of the European gentry). 

I became a father for the first time when I was 25, then again when I was 27. Only recently, however, have I become a Daddy. See, there are fathers all over the place. It takes very little to father a child. But I’ve learned that leaning into the role of ‘Daddy’ is quite different.

Daddies celebrate difference.

My two girls are as different from one another as can be. One is sensitive and sweet, the other rough and tumble. One goes with the flow, the other needs order and structure. One will eat anything, the other turns her nose up at everything. Instead of trying to move each of them toward the other or toward some societal ‘mean,’ I celebrate their differences. They will spend the rest of their lives struggling with how their identities. The least I can give them is a Daddy who loves them as they are.

Daddies face giants.

Fear is real, even if the source is not. It is useless (and often harmful) to try to negate your children’s fears by appealing to reason or ‘common sense.’ If you have a child who deals with anxiety (as I do), often all they want is someone who will stand with them as they face their giants. This draws the ire of some of my backseat-pschologist-parent-friends, but it’s working for us.

Daddies absorb anger.

As my girls grow older, I am seeing them develop a sense of what is right and wrong, just and unjust. It is not uncommon for them to get angry when they feel like I misunderstand them or like I am treating them unfairly. They stomp and shout and accuse me of not loving them. Sure, that hurts my feelings. But I take it in because, and this is key, if they can express their anger toward me, then I’m still a safe place for them.

Daddies share sadness.

Someone once told me, “your pain is your pain.” What profound words. It is tempting to trivialize the sadness of our children over things that, in the long run, make little difference. Just the other night, on the way to church, Rylee melted down as she realized that she’d left the house without a plastic ring she’d wanted to wear (never mind the dozen other jewelry pieces she’d adorned herself with). Regardless of magnitude or scale, it is important for me to remember that as with fear, sadness requires processing and sharing. It is through learning how to navigate life’s drizzle that we prepare for life’s storms.

Daddies release.

I’ve only begun to scratch the surface with this one. My girls are still quite young. Already, though, they are developing their own opinions, their own ways of ‘being’ in the world. They are ways that, at times, are different than how I’d have them be. Not wrong, just different. Slowly, I’m learning to release them into greater areas of responsibility and into greater freedom to grow. More than sharing sadness or absorbing anger or facing giants, this one hurts. In my desire to do life alongside them, I want to firmly plant their hip on mine. But it is only by releasing them to be who they are created to be that I can maintain any hope of running along with them. In the gradual process of greater release, I make possible option of perpetual return.

These things certainly aren’t everything it means to be a ‘Daddy.’ In my experience, though, it’s a start. Fathers are a dime a dozen. Daddies are wrought through sacrifice. At one point, Jesus describes his Father by using the word Abba, ‘Daddy.’ And I think that is exactly what he meant

Anderson Campbell


  • Jennifer Hoffman

    Oh dear, friend. I LOVE this! A daddy who is willing to acknowledge that emotions – all of them – are real, is the best gift a kiddo could ask for! (And, let’s face it, they have an awesome mama, too!) My family is so blessed to know yours and have you as an example in our lives! Thank you for sharing your daddy wisdom!

  • Anderson Campbell

    Thanks, Jennifer. I’m glad you found it to ring true with how you’ve seen us parent. Humbled to serve as an example.

  • Mihee

    Thank you for articulating your life and ‘hood-ness so courageously! Love the unabashedness of it.

  • Anderson Campbell

    Thanks Mihee! Loved your thoughts on the spirituality of mess in your contribution to the carnival. Quite true.

  • Jenn

    I loved this post. It brought tears to my eyes. I think daddy/daughter relationships are so important. I have a close relationship with my dad, and love watching my husband with my daughters. I definitely thing girls need their daddy’s in big ways and you pegged those so well!”They will spend the rest of their lives struggling with how their identities. The least I can give them is a Daddy who loves them as they are.”I love this line…it is so, so true and a beautiful reflection of God.

  • Anderson Campbell

    Thanks, Jenn. I hope that when my daughters are grown, they are as close to me as you are with your dad. Thanks for reading. 

  • Nancy

    So great to hear from a dad on this parenting carnival! I’m a mom, but I wrote on behalf of my husband who is the daytime parent at our house. Great words!

  • Anderson Campbell

    Nancy, I read your post and loved it. It was one of the posts that inspired me to jump in with a ‘dad’s-eye’ view  Thanks for taking the time to read and comment here!

  • robin dugall

    excellent! I’m going to pass it on!

  • Laura

    Thank you for sharing this!

  • sarahbessey

    Love this, Andy. What a true reflection of our Father. Thank you so much for jumping in!

  • Anderson Campbell

    Robin, Laura -thanks for taking the time to read and to pass it on. Glad you found it helpful.

  • Anderson Campbell

    Sarah-Thanks for hosting the conversation (and the enormous task of reading and commenting on 100+ submissions).