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.
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.