I am okay, I think, with not being my sons’ hero. I am even more okay with this because that spot has been occupied by their dad—since, oh, I finished nursing.
My husband is a wonderfully different kind of Good Dad to my brand of Mom-ness. When we moved to Africa, one of his first priorities was a rug for the tile floor—for wrestling, of course. He’s the kind of guy who grabs the Nerf football every once in awhile when he gets home from work, who initiates a family dance party, and yet who leverages that rapport to turn a child by the shoulder, look them in the eye, and state calmly, You need to speak respectfully to your mom.
I thought of him as I was reading this morning: “our calling [as parents] is to be the smile of God to our children, gladly spending and being spent (2 Corinthians 12:15) for our children’s deepest and most enduring joy.”
My near-12-year-old is in that odd twilight of both receiving the Lego magazine in his inbox and yet reading Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion against Low Expectations. I am realizing that in less than three years, his shoulders could be broader than mine. He returned recently from a weekend with John (said husband), after which my son started doing little things, like helping with dinner, or coming in after bedtime and apologizing for having a bad attitude. This is the quality of manhood my husband quietly radiates.
And he’s at least the second generation. My husband’s dad projects this same discreet, steady, bulwark-sort of love that still sets my husband’s compass in life and in fatherhood. Instead of viewing my husband’s teenage years as a time to batten down the hatches and ride out the storm, my father-in-law saw that gathering strength and identity as a time to spread my someday-husband’s sails. All those backpacking trips and Boy Scout outings and long talks, for a struggling kid, may have not only shaped the future father of my boys, but even saved his life.
Then I remember my own dad’s anchoring, bear-hug kind of love, intense and sentimental, proud even as a Midwestern farmer of his four girls. He always patted us on the backpack on the way out to the bus after our all-family country breakfasts, encouraging us to “Go MAD”—(Dad-code for Make A Difference). His garage, where he repairs cars for missionaries and single moms, is still a revolving door of generosity and service like the rest of my folks’ lives—just pouring in to one person at a time.
I realize yet again, in writing this, that I am one of those extremely privileged women blessed with a few good men; a number of exceptional men, really. (Perhaps those of you existing in a vacuum of men like this feel the loss of good men even more profoundly.) Even my grandpas, I know, were simply men who chose day after day to love their children well. Men like this are unsung heroes, guys whose lives are celebrated every day in the paparazzi-esque shouts and bouncing hugs of their kids when they walk in the door, who choose loving discipline and long conversations and prayer with and for their kids and, yeah, the occasional corny joke.
Praying quietly this morning for my husband, and just thanking God, somehow those words from Hebrews 12 floated through my mind: See to it…that no one is… unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. This verse used to befuddle me. Now, I see Esau’s deal was primarily that he exchanged the long view of life for the now. He let his appetites eclipse what would matter for generations. Fatherhood, I know, is long and daily and hard. The whiny kid-complaints and bad attitudes and bad school days and chores to be followed through upon may be little competition with the accolades and the added zeros in the checking account of other pursuits. But you know what? Those kinds of men are the men, in my book, who really change the world.
Here’s to the men who daily go the distance to make a difference in generations: because great dads make a world of difference.
TELL US: What good man has made all the difference in your life?
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