It is Father’s Day in the US. I am blessed doubly today because I am a father and I have a father. I can celebrate in two ways. It is great to be able to bless my father. Dad, I will call you later today, but I want you to know that I wish you the very best of Father’s Day. I pray that you receive the things that you want from life today including peace and prosperity.
It is great to be the father of four lovely ladies of whom I am very proud. Each of them is following their hearts’ desires in their own ways. That makes my heart sing. My desire, as a father, is to partner with my daughters to get what they want in life. God has given me gifts, strengths and talents and I can think of few things that I would rather use those gifts, strengths and talents for than to help my girls to succeed in life. That does not mean that I have no desires of my own. It means that one of my great desires is to be an active part in their lives.
I have seen fathers who want to run their kid’s lives. My idea of being a good father when they were infants and toddlers was to be in control and run their lives. But that is not my current vision. A graphical representation of healthy parenthood to me is expressed in the figure below:
We have no control over the horizontal axis. As the saying goes, time marches on. Our choices lie in the vertical axis. The choices of whether or not to give up control.
I saw that my job as a father was to prepare my kids for adulthood. When they were little bitty and could not take care of themselves, Jeanie and I did it for them. As they grew, we let them do more things for themselves. That is a gradual process of training, encouraging, being there for them as they fail, encouraging, helping, prodding, creating boundaries, saying no, saying yes (when our feelings tell us no). It isn’t the training that is so difficult. It is giving up control.
Now I see that “loosing control” is really a process of learning that I never really had it anyway. When they were babies, Jeanie and I could decide when bath time was, but we never got to decide when they should get pneumonia, or runny nose or fall and bump their heads. We sure never got to choose the timing of dirty diapers or cuts that required stitches. If I had had any input, none of these things would have happened on my watch!
How quickly we moved from these kinds of issues to homework, friends and dating issues. And of course we cannot forget driving. No one has truly lived until you are riding shotgun with your kid behind the wheel for the first or second time… or for that matter the 50th time. They should create a father’s upgrade package for cars. It would include a passenger’s seat rollbar and either an extra brake pedal and steering wheel or at least a reinforced floorboard to keep our feet from punching through when we push the imaginary brake.
I started thinking about the control-over-time graph when the girls were very little. But I didn’t put a lot of thought into what happens after adulthood. Moving into this stage seemed to happen overnight. I find myself moving from the giver of permission whether you want it or not into the role of an adviser if you will allow me. Instead of telling them what to do, I find myself helping them think for themselves by asking questions and telling them the kinds of things that I think are important to consider. It isn’t about my being the “all knowing dad”. The truth is that I do know some things they don’t. After all, if I haven’t learned a few things about life along the way that they don’t know yet, something would be very wrong. Experience does matter. I want to share my experience and knowledge with them to help them, not to control their lives.
What is next? I look forward to being the grandpa and I have a desire for my partnership with my girls and their families to grow both ways. As I said before, I am not all knowing. I have a lot to learn and my girls can be my teachers. As partners in life, we can encourage and build into one another’s lives to make the best of what we have. We only get a few years on this earth. I want to suck the marrow out of life while I am here and leave nothing undone that could have been done.