Monday, June 18, 2012
Fatherhood, part 2
I have something akin to "survivor's guilt" around holidays like Father's Day. (You know, that awkward feeling you'd have if you were the one out of 100 who survived a plane crash?) Because I had a good dad. I get to feel grateful on Father's Day and write him a card full of loving words.
But not all dads are good ones. Let's not even go to statistics. They're pretty dismal. Let's just say that not all dads are good ones. Of course, I'm grossly oversimplifying this, but you know which kind you had. You know how Father's Day makes you feel.
Sad. Or resentful. Or joyful. Or abandoned. Or super grateful. Or sick to your stomach.
Regardless, I can say with total confidence that zero dads are perfect. In fact, zero parents are perfect. Moms get thrown under that bus too.
As great as he is and as much as I love him, my husband makes mistakes as a dad, just like I make mistakes as a mom. And here's what I find weird. Sometimes, I am tempted to protect my children from his mistakes, and I can at times see him feeling tempted to protect them from mine. It's good, I suppose, once in a while, for us to sort of buffer each other when one of us is in a grumpy mood. That's being a team, right?
But on occasion, when that temptation to protect our kids from the mistakes of others (anyone, really) flares, I think we are forgetting something really, really important: that they have a Father in heaven to do that job.
Before I go into this, I need to say that I'm talking about every day errors that we all make. I'm NOT saying that we should not go to great lengths to protect our kids from certain kinds of mistakes that I would not call mistakes. I'd call them evils. We always, always need to do our best to protect our kids from evils.
So back to God. I forget that He is writing my kids' stories. I am not. I don't get to choose the chapters or the challenges they will face that ultimately shape them into the man and woman they are to become. That means I need to let go of mirco-managing the damage my husband or I may be doing to their little hearts. And I think it's foolish to believe I'm not doing any. I can't put my finger on exactly what, but I know I'm not perfect, so I'm doing some damage. Period. So is my husband. My parents did their best, they were Christians, they loved me, and they did their share of damage. That's what happens.
Last week, I had to give my daughter this little speech. It wasn't the first time, and it won't be the last. I told her:
If you had perfect parents, you'd have no need for a perfect God.
Any mistake we may make as her parents hopefully points her to God, so that she learns just how good of a Father He really is. He will never let her down. He will always give her exactly what she needs.
I wish I could promise my children that their dad and I will never let them down. That we will be there whenever they call, and meet their every need. I just can't. And neither can you with your kids. We don't even know what tomorrow holds. So the best course of action is, firstly, to say so. Tell your children that you and your husband WILL let them down. And tell them why (answer: So that they learn to trust God!). And secondly, pray. Despite our many parenting flaws, thankfully we have the opportunity to come to God in prayer on behalf of our kids, asking Him to heal when we know we've hurt them, and asking Him to grow us in wisdom as moms and dads.
Good fathering (and mothering) means making disciples. When our kids leave our home, I certainly hope they are not disciples of Kevin and Leslie, following and hanging onto our every word. I hope they're disciples of Jesus, taking His word above all else.
God was their Father before we ever met our kids, and He'll be their Father long after we're gone. It's comforting to know they're in His hands, no matter what.