Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Sunday is your day. Well, at least it should be your day. Father's Day. The day that has been set aside to honor you for being the man you are. I know, I know. Moms get all the glory. More phone calls are made on Mother's Day than any other day of the year. And turns out, more collect calls are made on Father's Day than any of the other 364 days. Don't get me wrong. Carrying an alien inside your torso that insists on cracking your ribs and gives you constant indigestion for nine months is no small feat, and we mothers deserve every bit of the perks we get for that feat alone.
But you are often the forgotten part of the equation.
You don't get the bells and whistles with your holiday. Oh, yes... You get some piece of grilled meat, a tie, and an afternoon of total TV control in your recliner.
You know what? That's not okay with me.
See, I don't know if you realize this, but we are born with a daddy-shaped hole inside us, whether we are male or female. Those of us who were fortunate enough to have men who filled the hole with love certainly have a different outlook on this coming Sunday than those of us who never had the hole filled.
It's not entirely your fault. It seems in our country-- shoot, it seems that in MOST countries-- boys aren't raised to be men. Most are raised to not show emotion. Most are raised to believe erroneously that their primary role is to provide a roof and food. Most are raised to believe they are numero uno in their households, never seeing their wives as their equals. Most were raised to believe that weaknesses should be hidden, and certainly not addressed.
So, it's easy to see how your day has become one that most people just see as a date on the calendar and find it sufficient to send the obligatory card, make the collect phone call, and move on.
If you find yourself feeling like you get the short end of the stick, can I humbly suggest you look around and ask yourself why that is? We need you to be who you were created to be, daddies! Our lives exist because of you. And our future is shaped by your influence in our lives, or lack of. Don't feel hopeless. Because you're not. Anything can be changed. Anything can be forgiven. And anything can be turned around.
For those of you still raising children, I'd like to offer you these words.
Be affectionate with your kids. This applies to boys AND girls. They need your physical affirmation that they're okay. Girls need to know you see their beauty. Boys need to feel your embrace. Affection left only for mothers to give is one-sided and unbalanced. Give hugs, kisses, and hand holding. Studies have proven that children who are affectionately embraced by their fathers do better in school, are generally happier, and sleep better than their peers who are not touched. And dads whose children are grown? They still need your touch. I still sit in my dad's lap, hold his hand, smooch him, and sit as closely as possible to him whenever I can. And I'm WAY past childhood.
Show your boys how to treat women. Speak kindly to women and OF women. Avert your eyes to something else when Victoria's Secret commercials come on during your game. Hold doors open for females of all ages. Avoid all lewd comments about women, whether your sons hear you or not. Those comments are stupid and they eat away at your character. Work hard to provide nice gifts for your wife and daughters. Talk about your wife and daughter's character, their beauty, and your love for them to your sons. And if you're not married to their mother anymore, you're not exempt from the responsibility of building her up with your words in the ears of your children. It's your duty to shine light on her positives, so they grow to respect her. Period.
Quit the perfection game. You aren't perfect, and everyone knows it, so, you might as well stop pretending to be. When you make mistakes, apologize. Cry in front of your kids. Make mistakes and stop trying to cover them up. They'll see you're human. Your transparency shows them how to cope with life. Your withdrawal from reality shows them to ignore their problems.
Don't leave all the discipline to their mother. Defend her at all costs. Never talk negatively about her to your kids, EVER. If they speak rudely to her, shut them down immediately. Back her up when she disciplines them. If she takes away their Xbox for two weeks, make sure all 14 days are Xbox free. Get on the same page with her.
Love your wife in front of your children. Hold her hand. Kiss her. Leave her love notes where the kids will see them. Give her flowers for no reason. Compliment her cooking. Talk about how smoking hot you think she is. Prefer her. Cherish her. Protect her.
Affirm your children. They are craving your affirmation more than any other person's on this planet. Look them in the eye and tell them you approve of THEM. Not of what they do, not of the grades they make... of THEM. Leave them written signs of your approval on their bathroom mirror, in their backpacks, or on the speedometer of their car. They desire to know they are worthy of your love just because they exist.
Foster open communication. Talk to your girls about what teenage boys are really like. Don't wait until it's too late to arm your sons with what they need to know about sex. Ask about their friends. Make sure your kids know that wherever they are, all they have to do is call home and you'll come get them. Refuse to let your girls leave the house dressed like Hooker Barbie. (Yes, I just said that). And arm your boys with the knowledge of how to react when Hooker Barbie takes the seat next to them at a party.
Date them. This applies to girls AND boys. Girls need to be romanced. If you don't romance them, I can PROMISE you that some pimple faced boy with one agenda on his mind will. Open her car door. Pull out her chair. Tell her to order whatever she wants. Take her on a walk. Once a week, do something with her that guarantees two hours of uninterrupted time together. If you have sons, be purposeful in your man-dates. Do things THEY like to do. If you like to fish, but they hate it, you shouldn't be centering your time with them around the lake! Investigate their hobbies and interests, and then surprise your son with planning an afternoon centered around just that.
Take the role of spiritual leader in your family. This means that when someone has a fever, YOU pray for them. When someone is brokenhearted, YOU speak words of life into their emotions. When it's time to eat, YOU offer a prayer of thanks for the meal. When it's bedtime, YOU speak a bedtime blessing over your family. You don't have to preach. Just let your relationship with God overflow into your interactions with your children. They'll catch it. And of course, make church a priority and a non-negotiable.
Every once in a while, surprise everyone. Wake them up at midnight for a run to Ihop for pancakes. Call a nighttime family meeting and give everyone flashlights and tell them to go hide. When it's pouring down rain, lock everyone outside for a game of mud-tag. Take everyone out of school for a hooky day at the beach.
Daddies, you are special. Your load is heavy. There is ALOT of responsibility on you. So much of your children's lives depends on your success as a father. But this isn't rocket science. It's not an impossible feat. You have been equipped to be the man your children need you to be. You can't be it all, can't do it all... But you can be who you were meant to be. That's all.
My prayer for you this Father's Day is that you see past your shortcomings and all of the balls you've dropped, and see the treasure and gift you are. You won't do it all perfectly, nor should you. Life's a great big learning experience. We don't learn unless we fail. This Sunday, please soak up your children, your wife... Please make yourself see the beauty you bring to this world. Please stop the "I should'ves" and "I wishes" and start doing something about it. You can't change the past. But the pen's in your hand to write a new ending for your family.
You are powerful. You are vital. And I promise you... You are loved.