I’ve been thinking a lot about what it takes to be a good dad. I have four children. I’m fortunate that even though their mother and I are divorced, I still get to have them with me an equal share of the time. This is a blessing, however it comes with some extra burden to orchestrate our lives.
As I was wiping the sleep from my eyes while driving them to school the other morning, I was thinking about the long and tiresome road we have engaged in to enable me to have them so much. It requires getting up earlier on my days with them, in order to get them to school on time.
I was thinking through the challenges, but I was quickly reminded of all the amazing blessing that come with it. I want to share 3 of the things that make this sometimes overwhelming responsibility of fatherhood so worthwhile.
1)You will never be loved so much
I cannot recall a more amazing feeling than the moments when my children have wrapped their arms around me, given me a kiss, and told me they love me. The innocence and purity of those moments are unfathomable. Children love without any bias or condition. They do not care about all the things we adults care about. They just know that you are their father, you are the one they can trust and count on, they feel safe with you, and they love you.
No matter how hard your life is, no matter what you are facing in your every day, and no matter how successful or failed you feel you have been, your children love you perfectly. They do not care about any of that. They only care about you. Remember that and do not squander away those moments. Pause if you must in order to capture and remember those precious moments, because time will slowly steal them from you if you are not protective of them.
2)You will never be so exhausted
You work hard. You give your best to your work and other pursuits. You leave it all on the line, just the way a man should. But then you get home, and the “work” is just beginning.
Children don’t understand what it means to have spent all day at the office or on the construction site. They don’t comprehend the meaning of feeling exhausted from all the meetings, negotiations or confrontations you may have dealt with. They just know that daddy is home, and they missed you. They only understand that they want to spend time with the man they idolize and look forward to seeing all day.
You could trudge through the door and head straight for your personal relaxation tonic, or your hobby that “helps you take your mind off of things” but then you would be missing the ever diminishing opportunities to be greeted with an excited embrace and a long story of what your children did that day.
These children have been waiting all day to tell their daddy about what happened with their friend, or at school. They have been anxiously waiting to show you the scratch they got that they need you to kiss better. They just need you. I don’t want to get all “cats in the cradle” but the truth is that you are going to remember and miss this when it’s gone, but you will never remember how tired you were.
3)You will never find anything more worth it
Men have a tendency to think that everything they are doing is so important. I know I get focused when I am working on “my stuff” and it’s easy for me to forget that in the end, none of it really matters.
You can be the wealthiest, most famous person in the world, but when your twilight years are upon you it will not matter one bit. Putting too much of our time and effort into our professional and even personal pursuits can rob us of the opportunity to build and strengthen the most important parts of our lives.
I have seen the pain of weathered lives who had no one around in the end. I have also seen the contrasting joy of those who were surrounded by loved ones as they faded from the marathon of their life. At that moment, wouldn’t you rather know you have not only lived a good life full of accomplishment, but also that you did not sacrifice the chance to love and be loved along the way.
If 3 things are not enough
I hope that all men everywhere are doing their part to work hard in providing for those they love. I hope that your work is rewarding and fulfilling. But I also hope that you are no too focused on “being the man” that you let any other effort supersede that of your role as a father. You do not have the right to disregard that role and responsibility.
I hope these three reminders are enough to help you maintain or regain clarity on what matters most. If they are not enough, then take five minutes tonight to look into your child’s eyes and listen to their stories, because you will quickly be reminded of countless other reasons.
I know that we can not only be the accomplished men we hope to be, but that we can also be confident fathers who, although imperfect, have peace of mind in knowing we are doing our best to love and lead those who most count on us.
Question: How are you already being a great dad? How could you do a little bit better? Leave a comment below.