It has been a week since Father's Day. I am somewhat upset with myself that I didn't get the opportunity to prepare this post beforehand, however I think now turns out to be better timing to reflect upon the male influencers in our lives.
Do we still think about them as reverently when it isn't a holiday or they did something on our behalf? How much do we think of their shortcomings before we consider their contributions?
There may be a lot of dads out there feeling like moms get all the credit. In some cases that may be rightfully so but let's not forget that men carry a different kind of strength that is necessary to the development of their children.
There are all kinds of families now from same same-sex, blended, single-dad, surrogate dad and so forth. I could never understand the depth and pressure that the dads who stick around feel from day to day that goes unspoken, but I imagine it is a lot like being (traditionally) President and trying to make the least damaging of decisions when it comes to the balance of family and career.
Just as I pointed out for the moms around Mother's Day, it's not always something that you can get right. A few mistakes doesn't make one a bad father. The lack of effort in correcting them does. Just as heavy influence in one's life is placed upon the mother, the father equally has a job to do in developing the stability of his offspring should he have the opportunity.
Upon reflection of the dad I have, the dad my daughter has, and the dads (including honorary ones) I have seen thus far in my lifetime, here's my list of 6 qualities that I believe are special about a father who has created a worthy legacy for his children that isn't exclusively about providing money:
1) He treats his children as gifts. Becoming a parent is a scary thing, even if it's something you wanted. If you read any blog or social comment about how lucky some people are that they don't have kids, they tend to focus on the financial aspects or their time constraints... yet they have no clue what they are possibly missing out on.
Some people get a dog or some other pet, go from relationship to relationship, or overwork themselves to give their life some added value but there is an incomparable joy to watching a little person grow from scratch. Several ideologies reverence children. Granted if one is dealing with financial worries, health issues, or other pressures of life, sometimes a kid may not always feel like a gift. But it is usually in those times that you discover your children motivate you or give you a reason to have fun or press pause on your stress.
The dad that treats his child as something he values despite anything that is happening in his life not only gives himself an honest glimpse of himself (what is he modeling in his offspring's eyes) but hopefully also gives himself a comfort that his child will treat him as a gift as the years go by.
He receives joy from giving his child the desires of their heart as well as giving them opportunities to soar and make magic of who they are. His view of his child as a gift returns to him the gift of taking nothing for granted and cherishing connection.
2) He is more interested in his children's growth than punishment. Learning how to effectively apply discipline is a tricky part of parenting. Too harsh and you will crush any hope of a productive relationship and possibly create debilitating behaviors. Too subdued and you run the risk of a child that has no direction or concept of boundaries.
Discipline doesn't always have to be about shouting, hitting, or taking something away. Sometimes it is about an opportunity to teach. The good thing about having children is that while you are developing them you also develop yourself. You notice your mannerisms by observing theirs, you reflect on questions you only thought about because they asked, and you start questioning sometimes if they should even really be in trouble.
Great dads know that they are there to guide, not to control. Their child's interests or personality may not be compatible with theirs; however, they know how to safely reel him or her in via ways that still show compassion or belief in them.
3) He invests in his child's dreams. When I think of a dad that a child can have confidence in no matter what, I think of God in the supernatural sense. When our children feel supported they come to us in excitement and make a request, expecting it to be fulfilled. Often as parents we wish to fulfill it as it would make them proud of not only us but themselves. We don't always get our way with God, but ultimately, for those who truly believe you find a silver lining and healthy perspective when things don't work out.
Many fathers understand this. They practice when to help fulfill their child's dreams and when to simply give them the courage to build it themselves. Sometimes it is just in being available to listen for troubleshooting or to talk them off a ledge. Sometimes it's in helping to make a connection or overcome logistics. Most importantly, they don't try and force their children to become them. They learn to disagree but still support.
4) His bond does not depend upon his child's mother. As with some moms, some men fail to separate their emotions about the relationship with their child's mother from their emotions about their child.
I have come across several grown men in my life who honestly try and justify acting as if their kids don't exist because they are angry they have to pay child support or because they consider their child's mother to be "difficult". They truly believe they will just "reach out" once the child is old enough to engage in a separate relationship, not realizing that by then most children grow into adults who have no interest in developing a bond with someone who abandoned them.
While it is sometimes difficult to coparent with someone you no longer or never saw eye to eye with, true fatherhood never sacrifices the extension of being between the father and the child. Of course, everyone is human and the perfect behavior cannot always happen, but a father that wants to be a father should work to honor the position for which he has been entrusted by laws of the universe in regard for watching over his offspring.
5) He is just as protective of his child's mental state as he is the physical one. There is such a misconception that men are not emotional or that they are better at handling them, but statistics prove that men commit suicide at an alarmingly much higher rate than women. This is partially due to more men turning to drugs or alcohol abuse as a coping method as well as financial or relationship stressors becoming overwhelming.
There is also a misconception that most dads are hard-asses or aggressive and unrelenting with their children. However fathers who are intentionally present in their child's life and care about their well-being make themselves available when their child is struggling with a problem, when their child has been wronged, or when their child has a victory. This is a dad who has become selfless and is highly aware of how his emotional control is powerful in the lives of those he leads.
He makes sure that his child knows they are supported, even if he isn't sure that he knows exactly how. He makes sure that he encourages his daughter or son through their mistakes and failures, despite whether or not he agrees. He makes sure that he does his part to ensure his child knows they are wanted and valued as human beings. He does all that is in his power to ensure his child's safety until the power is no longer his.
6) He leaves himself behind. Few things, short of a near death experience or watching someone else suffer, make you think of your mortality like having a child will.
For the parents who don't split at the first sign of struggle, ensuring that their offspring will have a safety net beyond finances becomes a priority. What becomes critical is what type of father will they be seen as through the eyes of their child.
Respect matters when children are young, but how about when they become adults and a relationship is optional? True fathers spend time preparing their children for life without them and for independence. They create the best "remember when"s and honorably show up to teach lessons of growth, responsibility, and fulfillment. Even the dads who struggle with it themselves wish against the burdens of life crises for their children.
The fathers that father on a consistent basis give their child the invaluable tool of seeing how it's done or seeing how it's handled in order to be confident they can tackle things too.
All families have their own dynamic and some will never be traditional...
Perfect won't exist but hopefully effort does. Financial security may not always exist but hopefully love does. One home with both parents may not exist but hopefully peace does.
Dads need uplift on a regular basis, just like moms. They too sometimes need forgiveness and they too sometimes need a break from all they carry. So many dads have emotional weights to overcome much more than physical ones, particularly when they know they can't meet certain standards.
Whether you are a woman or another man, encourage your fathers, your brothers, your uncles, and your mentors. Love and wellness are an all-year type of passion, just like being a phenomenal dad.