I don’t have a dad, at least not in the traditional sense. See my biological father has never been a part of my life. He left the picture before I was even born. The truth is take head of the power someone may have given you; it is a precious gift and needs the utmost protection. that this spoke volumes to me as a child and young adult in ways that I am still learning to unpack. One of the most important things a parent can do for their child is to simply love them unconditionally, however one of the many messages I received was the exact opposite of this. In many ways the message I received was one of an unconditional lack of love. Instead of hearing “I will love you no matter what” it came off as “I don’t love you, no matter what”. Now the situation was an incredibly tricky one and in a lot of ways I have come to forgive my father, I know that in the same situation I probably would have acted in the same way. I am not a better person than he is by any means; his sin is not somehow greater than mine. I am not writing to pass judgment upon him nor do I wish others to do so. Instead I am writing because I believe this event has given me some knowledge that not everyone gets a chance to have. Sure it is knowledge that comes with a price; years of mourning and sorrow are a steep fee for insight.
The truth that I have learned out of this is that a missing father means so much more than many people realize.
Considering that it is Father’s Day I’m sure everyone has seen at least one of the lovely commercials about man and his child playing catch, or working on a car, or simply just being together. All of these are wonderful images that I cannot wait to have with my child someday. These commercials strike us to the core because they are exactly what we picture when we think of “dad”; we always think of dad being the one to teach his son about how to throw a perfect spiraling pass, he should be there to show his kid how to go camping, and it’s that father’s job to pass on his handyman skills to his progeny. There is nothing wrong with this picture of who “dad” is to many kids, these can be wonderful life lessons and moments of great joy for a kid. In all honesty I hate that I missed some of these, I wish I would have had them.
However, there is something about these stereotypical pictures of the value of a dad; it is woefully incomplete.
Whether anyone realizes it or not their father affected them in a multitude of ways that were neither intentional nor direct. Kids see so much more than we give them credit for; the young brain is growing so fast and making connections at such a rapid rate during those first few years that the increase is beyond exponential. All this time their brains are a constant vacuum of information from the surrounding. It constantly is seeing new things and locking them away as patterns and memories, connecting them to thoughts, actions, and feelings. It is because of this continual gleaning that often the most important lessons from “dad’ are ones no one realizes until much later.
Dads you have to be careful in everything you do, even when you don’t think anyone is paying attention. Your child will pick up on things and apply them to their life in ways you will never truly know. Below is just a minute fraction of the questions that your actions will answer for your kids. These are ones that I am terrified to answer for myself, but they are ones that in some ways I was never given answers.
How do you treat your significant other during a disagreement in front of the kids?
What is your attitude in defeat or victory?
How do you handle criticism?
What do you do when things are stressful?
Do you respect those around you, even when they may not have earned your respect?
What do your vices look like, and how much do they control your life?
How do you handle your own pride?
The list could go on and on, because there are so many things that kids learn from their dads that are never even told to them directly. Sometimes even telling directly is worth nothing if your behavior does not follow suit. If you tell your son to respect his mother and then follow that up by disrespecting her either verbally or physically then you have just taught your son a terrible lesson. If you tell your daughter that lying is wrong and yet continue to lie at every turn you have taught her a lesson you never meant to. The old saying of “do as I say and not as I do” doesn’t always stick. Fathers, be careful in word and action because you never know what you might be saying to someone you never knew was paying attention.
There is another piece to this topic, one that is especially meaningful to me. You don’t have to be someone’s father for them to learn from you. In my years I have gleaned much from so many men in my life, placing them in that father-figure role often without asking. I would watch and learn even when they didn’t think I was. These men shaped me in ways that I cannot begin to understand until I have lived my life to its end. I am so incredibly thankful for these men and what they have done for me. While life circumstances have displaced them from my life I must admit that there are times that I still miss them. All this to say that anyone can be a “dad” even if you don’t realize it. So I urge you take head of the power someone may have given you, it is a precious gift and need take head of the power someone may have given you, it is a precious gift and needs the utmost protection.