Father of 1
It’s happened, literally, thousands of times. Yet, the first time is the one I remember most vividly. Bending down, with my daughter, all 4lbs of her, securely tucked in my arms and lowering her into the car seat. In that moment, more than any other, it was abundantly clear that I was responsible for my child’s safety. She was completely helpless. Unable to make a single decision for herself. The feeling that her ability to survive was totally dependent on her mother and me was daunting, even a bit frightening. It’s also humbling. To know that God had entrusted me with the care of one of His children created a sense of pride and a deep desire to do the best I could.
As time went on I realized how simple my job had been that first day. Those early moments are all about survival. Yes, you have to be attentive, but nature graciously gives us time to acclimate. Keeping my daughter fed, bathed, clothed and rested required a sacrifice of time and sleep but not much else. After all, infants don’t ask questions, schedule play dates, or deal with peer pressure. In reality they can be quite forgiving as we are learning the parenting ropes.
With each passing day, month and year, she naturally became more cognizant of her surroundings. With those subtle but important changes, I quickly learned that I too needed to change. As she has gotten older, my responsibility to create and cultivate that environment of safety has become more extensive. The focus on my child’s physical safety quickly broadened to include her mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. I had to learn to be careful about what was on the television or radio. What messages, both verbal and non-verbal was my child being exposed to? Were they building and affirming the young lady I desired her to become and the person she would want to be? Was I absolutely positive the people I allowed to be around her supported of my efforts and methods to ensure her safety? When they didn’t, would I be bold enough to confront potential obstacles head on, or risk jeopardizing my child’s present or even her future safety? I want my daughter to grow up whole and not too fast. I remember the beauty, innocence, and lighthearted nature of my childhood and I want that for her as much as I can provide.
Of course there are lessons to be learned. Our kids have all made and will make mistakes, but as fathers we have a unique opportunity to create environments that affirm our children and help inform them of their worth. And although we can’t keep them from every misstep, we can surround them with the type of love, care and guidance that will equip them to make the best decisions. And when they do fall, to possess the strength of character to get back up. The fact is our parenting - fathering - is a paramount influence not only in our kids’ lives, but also a contribution to society and the generations that will succeed us.