In Praise of the Ordinary Fathers Making an Extraordinary Difference
Every morning, before our kids wake up, my husband Tim and I leash up the dogs and take a walk around the neighborhood. It’s a great way to connect before we start each day.
At such an early hour, we ease into our conversation. It usually starts with a review of how we slept the night before, and later, what’s on the agenda for the day. This time is so ordinary. (We’re endlessly fascinated by the amount of poop our two little dogs are able to produce, and how ill-behaved they are around others.) But in the middle of all of this very ordinary business, we also experience the extra-ordinary.
This morning, with Father’s Day right around the corner, I prodded my usually matter-of-fact, non-introspective husband to dig deep into what he’s learned in his 20+ years of fatherhood. He doesn’t love it when I do this, but after some
nagging gentle prodding, the wisdom started to flow.
Below is Tim’s top 10 list of the ordinary things that have reaped extraordinary blessing in his life as a Dad. May they bless you and your families this Father’s Day.
1. Date Your Kids
Everyone knows dating your wife is important, but do you date your kids? For years, Cara and I would alternate weeks, and alternate kids on a weekly date night. Sometimes our date was as simple as running errands together, or other times it was extravagant as a movie night. But those weekly date nights gave us special insight into each child, and what was going on in their little worlds. As they’ve gotten older, and their schedules have become more demanding, this has become more challenging. During busy seasons, when a “date night” is not in the cards for us, we still try to be intentional about getting some one-on-one conversations in with each child.
2. Deal with Matters of the Heart in Discipline
It’s way easier, and faster, to punish kids for their behavior, and never deal with the heart behind their actions. Every time discipline was (and is) required is a new opportunity to discuss the gospel with our kids. They sinned because they are sinners, and Jesus forgives because he’s our Savior. We all need more of Jesus, and times of discipline are a bittersweet reminder that we never outgrow the gospel. It meets us right where we are, every time.
3. Be More Patient
I’m often amazed at how dumb kids can be. What did you think would happen when you threw that ball at the window, or stuck the pipe cleaner in the electrical outlet, or put the metal in the microwave? I can’t say I’m always good at finding the humor in these things at the moment. But as my kids get older (and I’m getting wiser), I’m learning to keep a lighter touch on those childhood inconveniences (and expenses).
4. Love Them Intentionally, Even When They’re Annoying
The pre-teen/early-teen drama that happens in our home on a daily basis, is exhausting. Everyday, I hear new “fun facts” about Harry Potter, or some random YouTuber, that I don’t care about. But I try, I mean really try, to listen to what they care about. I sometimes don’t know whether to slap them (figuratively), or hug them (literally). If you have 11-14 year olds in your home, you’ll probably understand. It goes so quickly, even when it goes so slowly.
5. Let Them See You Struggle
I’ve been self-employed most of my children’s lives, which has been both a challenge and a joy. It’s given me the opportunity to be more physically present, but it’s also meant some serious sacrifices have been made too. They haven’t had the kind of childhood where budgets weren’t a concern, or some corners didn’t need to be cut from time to time. But even in this, God has been gracious. They’ve learned to be grateful, and as a family, we’ve been able to rejoice together as God has graciously provided. What a great lesson to learn early on in life!
6. Move Heaven and Earth to be at Their Sports Games
Sports were a really important part of my childhood, and our kids have each found their own athletic interests too. I’ve had more heart-to-heart, ‘life talks’ around the issues of sports than any other single thing. When their sports schedules come out, I enter their games into my calendar just like I would a work appointment. So much of what you learn in life, comes from what you learn on the field or court. I want to be present, and cheering them on, for all those moments, win, lose or draw.
7. Become An Expert On Who They Are
I love personality and work assessments. They give me insight into who would be a good hire. These are great tools for our kids too. I’ve learned how (and when) to criticize, and when to keep my mouth shut. Our four kids are all so different, and learning how to best connect with them, has been a real game changer. (If you’re interested in learning more, for a small fee, the Kolbe Index, offers a great assessment of how your child works. Myers-Briggs also has some helpful tools and assessments that are free.)
8. Kiss Your Wife in Front of Your Kids
One of the best parts of being a dad is making your kids squirm. Nothing gets a bigger reaction from my kids, than showing love and affection for my wife, in front of them. All kidding aside, I want to model what a loving husband should look like for my daughters, and for my son. Today, they say “Ewww!” but someday they’ll get it, and appreciate it.
9. Keep the Main Things, the Main Things
Some parents make grades and test scores, the end all, be all. Of course, we want our kids to succeed, and try hard, but in light of eternity those measurements don’t matter. What we care about is if they know and love Jesus Christ. If they do, then the conversation changes to doing our best, for God’s glory. An easy “A” says less about you, than a hard-fought-for “C” when you’re overcoming obstacles. Keep the main things, the main things, and Lord willing, they’ll grow up doing the same.
10. Protect Your Kids, Even When It’s Costly
Sometimes doing what’s best for your kids puts you at odds with other people you care about. Fathers are called to protect. In the most extreme cases it might be a life or death situation, or it might be removing toxic people from life. I wouldn’t have chosen the suffering that accompanied some of the decisions I had to make about protecting my kids. But I would choose to protect them at the expense of those relationships a million times over. It’s been one of the most defining things in my life as a father.
In Praise of All the Ordinary (& Imperfect) Fathers
Isn’t it amazing that God showed his heart toward us through the description of him as our Father? His heart of love for us is like an earthly father’s love for his children. And while our earthly fathers try and fail, our Heavenly Father loves us perfectly and completely.
Being a dad is a huge job. The stakes are high, and the culture in which we live isn’t friendly to strong male leadership in the home. Yet, this has always been God’s plan. He’s always intended for imperfect men, to lead imperfectly, and in dependence on him.
I’m thankful for Tim, and my Dad, who’ve lovingly laid down their own lives, to love and serve us well. It’s their imperfections, and their ordinary-ness, that makes what God does with these acts of faith so extraordinary.
Christian fathers, you are the bedrock of our homes and society, and you are extraordinary. We don’t sing your praises loudly and often enough. Thank you and Happy Father’s Day!