By: Kevin Seguin
I've been a dad for a while now. "A while", of course, is a relative term. My daughter was born five years ago, my oldest son turns three this fall and our youngest boy is just over a year. So to some who's parenting experience stretches into the decades and involves dating, puberty and perhaps even marriage and grand kids, I haven't been a dad very long. Many of you, though, are probably a tad younger than I am, and probably aren't parents yet. So with that in mind I wanted to share some of the things I've learned in my "while" of parenting.
1) It's Hard, But It Gets Easier
Being a dad is hard work to do well. Oh, it's easy enough to become a father in the genetic sense, to be a dad in noun only, but fatherhood, being a "verb dad" is hard. Here in the West, we live in a culture where being an above average dad is super easy, just be and stay married to your kids' mom, don't be an alcoholic, and don't abuse anyone, simple. Being a good dad, even a great dad is hard. It's hard to balance your needs and desires against those of your kids and wife and let theirs take precedence on a daily basis. That's the goal, it's hard, and I fail often, but by God's Grace I get up everyday and try again. Everyday, it's a little bit easier.
2) Dads, We Do a Lot During Pregnancy.
So goes the old joke right? "All dad does is supply the ingredients, mom has to endure nine months of pregnancy and childbirth". It's an old and tired joke, and truth be told I'm tired of it too. Dads, you do a lot during pregnancy. One of the most important things we do is tolerate (in the classical sense) our wives. Now I know, that the "crazy hormonal pregnant woman" is just as tired a joke as the one above, but pregnancy and the postpartum period can and do wreak havoc on a woman's hormonal system. True story, my wife and I found out we were pregnant with our first after she absolutely flipped out on me in a car trip one day. There were witnesses, which if you know my wife, is also a tip-off that something was up. Of course all women, and all pregnancies are different, but in our family, pregnancy comes with a short temper and 40+ weeks of walking on eggshells. Not that I'm any kind of victim, my own insensitivity, stress, bad attitude, and sin often get in the way of being a good husband and dad during this time, but the idea of "nine easy months for dad" is a falsehood.
3) Fatherhood Is Not About Me.
I'll be honest, I would absolutely LOVE IT if any or all of my kids wanted to play baseball. I'd love to teach my kids the difference between a four-seam and a two-seam fastball, that velocity isn't everything, how hitting is just timing, and how "throwing like a girl" is a myth. But they may not like baseball, or documentaries, or history, or even Settlers of Catan! My job as a dad is to love what my kids love because I love them. If my daughter wants to become a vegan, I'll eat and cook vegan when she's around. If one of my sons want to do interpretive dance, I'll learn to understand and love it. I'll do those things because I want to celebrate who my kids are. I want to love who they are and be their biggest encourager and fan.
4) Discipline Is Not Punishment.
Dads, many of us function as the primary disciplinarian in the home. That may or may not be true in your case, but we are, on some level at least, an authority and responsible for some discipline. Punishment is purely a consequence for a wrong act. It's payment. It teaches nothing, redeems nothing, and solves nothing. Besides punishment is over. No, I'm not some anti-correction parenting advocate. When my daughter steps out of line, she hears about it. When my son steals her toy, he gives it back. One of the most important things I've learned about being a Christian though, is that we are no longer punished for our sins, all of the punishment for our sin was poured out on Jesus on the cross. It follows, then, that all the punishment for our kids' sins (Your kid's a sinner, get over it) was meted out on Jesus as well. What we are left with is discipline. What we are left with is the fine art of refining our kids into Godly, productive members of our world and the Kingdom. That's hard, really hard, and it's not accomplished by raising our voices and punishing rather than engaging our kids' hearts. It's a struggle everyday, and most days I feel ineffective after I say the same thing for the thousandth time, but I don't just want to mold their behaviour, I want to influence their hearts. I'm learning that that is FAR more important in the long run.
5) It's All About Jesus.
I'd love my kids to love the things I love. I want my kids to enjoy the things I enjoy, but I pray my kids love God more and better than I do. The single most important thing to me in terms of fatherhood is that my kids love and serve God. Not that that is ultimately up to me, but as a pastor and a dad, my primary concern is that I represent Jesus well to my kids so that I don't put a stumbling block between them and the Gospel. That's what I want to do more than anything, and from a human standpoint, that's how I'll measure my success or failure.
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