Fatherhood! It is the most challenging and rewarding role that a man can have. I suspect that none of us ever feel adequate to the task. After all, it is on the job training, and we carry our own relationship with our fathers around with us with all of its help and its own set of inadequacies.
The story is told of a young preacher who had a sermon entitled “The Ten Commandments of Parenthood.” Of course, it was written before he became a father. As his children became older, the sermon was re-titled, “The Ten Principles of Parenthood.” The reality of rearing children made him a little less sure of himself. By the time his children became teenagers, the sermon was entitled “The Ten Suggestions That May or May Not Work.” The feeling of inadequacy may just be part of the territory.
Despite such feelings, I’m now the proud father of adult children. It is hard for me to believe. It is trite to say that time flies. When your kids are squabbling with one another in the backseat of the car, it’s hard to believe that this will ever pass by quickly. But it does. So what wisdom have I learned?
The world needs fathers – not just perfect fathers, if such a species exists. And one of the most important job qualifications is being there. Children need a lap to climb into for a story to be read. They need Dad to wrestle with them on the floor. They need to be tucked into bed. Someone needs to go to school conferences and programs, ball games and concerts. They need someone to take them to Bible class and worship. They need someone who is active in the life of the church, so that they will be too.
That is the rub, isn’t it? We must somehow balance job and activities with family time. I’ve had lots of evening meetings through the years, so I know how it can be. None of us are perfectly available. But we must communicate to our children that they are important by our presence. Our participation in their lives matters!
Being with our children is a vital part of communicating our values. Discipline and instruction occur with interaction from parents. One researcher found that feelings of closeness and high levels of time spent together are vital to sharing our values. They are three times more likely to reproduce our values in our children than parental emphasis on those values alone. We have to walk the walk with our children, and that takes being there.
That shouldn’t surprise us. It is the picture of parenthood in Deuteronomy 6.
And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. Deuteronomy 6:6-7, ESV
Christian, spiritual children do not happen by accident. Our participation is vital. One of the most important things you can do as a Dad is being there.