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.