My kids have never bought me an ugly tie on Father’s Day. Maybe this year. I’m holding out hope.
I’ve been a dad for a little while now. I have two daughters, ages 15 and 12. At our home, we are currently all about Driver’s Ed. And Pinterest, high school and jr. high, and all the joy, goofiness, and drama that adolescence brings. I am a taxi on demand (Who needs Uber?). I am the local ATM. I am the conflict mediator and life coach. Also, I am the only male in our family, unless you count our pets.
I’ve never thought about Father’s Day as a time where I am supposed to be rewarded for having kids. For me, it’s a reminder that I need to be a dad.
I have the privilege of being the father of two smart and gifted girls. I love them as any father should and they make my life richer simply by their presence. It is a gift to see them thrive and grow. I love being their dad because they also challenge me to look outside of serving myself.They need me to give them my time, energy, and support. I want to see them grow in faith. I want to see them use their talents. They do well in school. They have beautiful voices and gifts in music. They are at ease with people. As a dad, I want them to fully embody the wholeness of the beauty that God has given them.
However, to be honest, there are times when I see a dad and son together and wistfully consider what might have been. Yet, my life is full and rich. I am not missing anything. I’ve learned this, but it can be challenging when others assume otherwise. When my kids were younger and I introduced myself to someone new, more than once, after sharing my daughters’ names and ages, they would try to make conversation and would good-naturedly comment, “Now, all you need is a little boy.” That stung a little bit. I’d smile through it and move the conversation along, preferring that they talk about their own family rather than what they perceived to be missing in mine.
Why did it bother me? I think that a good part of it is rooted within the limits that some people try to impose on my daughters in relation to gender roles and expectations. For those of you who are parents, you know how you feel when your child has been hurt by another child or treated unfairly by somebody. The instinct to defend and make things right is visceral. Now, transfer that emotion to the first time your daughter comes home and asks, “Why can’t girls do the same things that boys can?” A parent, a dad, can get angry with this culture. A dad, who is supposed to have all the answers, says to his daughter, “It’s not supposed to be that way,” and “You can do whatever God calls you to do.” You hug them and then you have to walk away so they don’t see your fists ball up and your eyes well with tears. You’re hoping that some day they won’t run up against a socio-cultural wall they can’t break through and then look back at you and say, “You were wrong, Dad.” Or worse, “You lied to me.”
My day-to-day work is serving as a pastor of a church. Because of this, I know that some people feel like my family is an extension of my work. I’ve always resisted that. My daughters have enough limits put on them. They don’t need my work added to the list. My wife is married to a pastor, but she does not add “pastor’s wife” to her curriculum vitae. She has her own identity, and I am proud of her.My daughters are kids whose dad is a pastor. I am proud of them, too. Let them be themselves.
I will be honest, though. My daughters will always be “Daddy’s girls,” but I also want to see them flourish as women created by God who fulfill whatever it is He has laid out for them. I want to see them hold on to faith and always know that they are firmly held by God. I am excited to see the careers and callings that God is preparing for them. Maybe they’ll be mothers someday. I think I’d be a good grandfather. No hurry, though. Whenever the first boy comes to our house, I will be torn between greeting him with a handshake or handing him a pen so he can sign a waiver for a background check.
It’s a gift that I am able to call myself a dad. I am thankful to be a dad, too. Happy Father’s Day.