I have a friend whose father died when she was two years old. She has gone through life with a strong sense of loss for the father she had only briefly. One day, when she was reminiscing about some fun activity that her children had enjoyed with their dad she commented, “One of the things I’m grateful for about my husband is that he is a father my children can love, which is something I never had.”
Immediately I felt we were kindred spirits. I too am grateful to have given my child a father she can love….which is something I also never had. However my lack was not because my father died but because he was not someone I could love. He was generally angry, unjust, non-communicative and, (the deal-breaker), behaved inappropriately towards his daughters.
When I came to the decision about having a family of my own, one of the factors I needed to seriously consider was if this man I had chosen to be my husband would be a great dad for our kids.
And he is! These are five things I value about the father of my child:
- He is a dad she can love
Children want to love and want to be loved. A wise father will value and protect the bond he has with his children. My husband encourages our daughter in her areas of interest, coaches her in areas of weakness and nurtures her self-respect and individuality. It warms my heart to see the easy and open attitude she has towards him. Now, as a young adult, she comes to him for advice because she knows he has her best interests at heart. She describes her dad as ‘one of her favourite people’.
- He recognises his unique role as a parent
My husband doesn’t see his parenting role as being an ‘assistant mother’! He sees our roles as complementary and provides alternative perspectives on life and parenting. When our daughter was young, he was the one who encouraged risk-taking, experimentation and fun, while my focus was more on safety, responsibility and accountability. He would challenge whereas I would affirm. There is a place for both. Over the years he has provided his own unique input to our daughter’s education choices, social interaction, hobbies and employment.
- He makes sacrifices for his family
Sometimes it means giving up the job, not taking the holiday, or taking a break from me-time on the computer to explain how engines (or brains) work. It can mean singing along with Playschool, playing tea parties with the soft toys, or ‘enjoying’ junior music or dance concerts.
- He balances the need to guide with the need to allow freedom
It’s a fine line and it starts young. Sometimes a child’s immaturity requires strong parental guidance, and at other times their growth depends on opportunities to make their own decisions and their own mistakes. Sometimes (importantly) it means letting them make their own decisions and discovering it was the right decision!
- He has spiritual values which guide him
You can be a great dad without being ‘spiritual’ but, for me, Christian teaching has parenting benefits. In times of decision-making or conflict, faith in God puts the reference point outside ourselves. Rather than each of us demanding our own way, we look to Jesus as our guide and authority. This gives my husband a demeanour that is open to other perspectives than his own and a recognition that he is not ‘the boss’. This attitude is a positive for fathering. His children know that he, too, is subject to authority – it isn’t just them! And a common faith provides an objective ground for negotiation.
This father’s day, let’s celebrate all the great dads out there who bring honour to the name ‘father’.
Author’s name withheld on request.