I know of few more important and pressing responsibilities than that of being a parent. After 31 years of parenting I have learnt that you never stop being a parent. The concerns may be different, the conversations more mature but once a parent, always a parent. I am certainly glad I have not had to parent on my own and hats off to all the single parents who so spectacularly raise their children. I have enjoyed a partnership with my children’s mother but I am a father who has to offer that unique fatherly input.
Fathers have often not received the press and attention that many of us deserve. That may be the outcome of delinquent and absent fathers but just because some are bad doesn’t make fathers unnecessary. Research tells us the absent father plays a significant part in criminality and that our girl’s sexuality is impacted by the father relationship. Importantly, when the model of a good father is missing, who will teach our boys how to be loving, peaceful, patient, gentle, good, kind, faithful and responsible men? These are the things God wants fathers to teach their children and model to them.
A father in a family is many things: a leader, coach, confidant, caretaker, helper, friend and so much more. All of these gifts to a family can’t be controlled by a clock. Our children’s needs for their fathers don’t come according to the vacancies in our diaries and their issues don’t always fit with our time constraints. It would be nice if we could excuse our fathering with claims of “quality time” with our children but relationship building with our children takes “quantity time.” “Quality time” is all too often the expression fathers use to justify what we are not doing.
Even something as significant and simple as building trust requires time. I think every father should take their pulse on this and ask whether our children trust us. Lack of trust closes conversations, leaves things unsaid, problems not shared, love not reciprocated, advice ignored and it can hand our precious children over to less savoury influences in their lives and embitter them to us.
Thankfully, when I was a very young dad I was given some non-negotiables for a trusting relationship. For example, a father helps build a family identity around what is most important, orienting his children for their future. This is not an exercise just for our selfishness but for the future of families yet to come. It is an exercise for a better society led by better families. It’s the work of a father to give his children a name to be proud of and one worthy of respect and defence.
Trust in that identity will fail if a father does not show ongoing love for his children’s mother. Building memories with our children rather than buying them is crucial. Things done together are incredibly significant and shared experience is a brilliant teaching aid in developing trust. Of course keeping our promises is a no-brainer. Let your yes be yes and your no be no - inconsistency breeds contempt for parents. Respecting your children’s private space is also important and signals trust. Giving our children freedom to fail, to not judge harshly and to show a full measure of grace offers our children a safe context in which to live lives abounding in hope. Of course if a father trusts in nothing then it will be no surprise if the children have difficulties with trust and understanding its importance.
I am a great believer that God knew what he was doing when he created families as the basic unit of society and made men to be fathers. I am also a great believer that every father could learn a lot from God about how to be a dad worthy of trust and in whom our children can take delight. I also think it is a great comfort that God offers forgiveness to all us father who know failure.This subject requires a book not an article but hopefully the article will be a helpful reminder to any father with the time to read it.