Encouraging Fathers

Fathers’ Day is coming up in a little more than 2 weeks.  And thus, I think it appropriate to talk about fathers. I would like to share some thoughts about fatherhood from a daughter’s perspective.

I remember when I was a little girl, my favorite thing was to get a Bible story book, hide it behind my back and come to my dad with a grin and say, “Guess what time it is?” He would pretend not to know what I was talking about and then I would bring out the book and say, “story time!” He would then read to me with all the voices the stories of Mary and Joseph, Noah and the flood, or Moses in the basket boat. Sometimes he would try to skip parts and I, knowing the books by heart, would protest and remind him not to leave anything out. It was a safe and comfortable time for me, sitting in his lap.

Another favorite memory I have from childhood is singing with my dad while he played his guitar. He has a great voice and he taught me to harmonize. We sang for church many times—me standing on a chair beside him because I was too short to reach the microphone. I loved to sing with him as a little girl, and still do.

Being a school teacher in small one room schools, my dad was my teacher for six years. So we went to school and came home together. When I was in 3rd grade, we lived close enough to the school that we would often ride our bikes to school, but going home was a problem for me because we had to go uphill and my little legs got too tired. So Dad would remove his belt and hook it over my handle bars and holding it with one hand, would pull me up the hill, while still biking and steering his bike with the other hand. It was quite the feat!  He never complained about it. He was my hero!

My dad and I have always been close, but we have had the normal ups and downs that most often characterize father/daughter relationships. We are just alike. It is fun to see our identical idiosyncrasies now, and we often joke about it. But back then, it created a situation that led to the butting of heads many times. I had an independent streak and would throw out strange thoughts and ideas, usually of a religious nature, just to bait him. Every time, he would take the bait and an argument would ensue. I would argue my point, whether I truly believed it or not.  He would try to change my mind. As any good parent is, he was genuinely concerned about me and my spiritual welfare.

Our relationship remained like this for years until it came to a head one afternoon. We argued on the telephone and I hung up on him. He called back in ten minutes and said some important words that I will remember forever. He said, “Sweetheart, I love you and I want to pursue you and treat you in a way that you need, but I don’t know how. Will you teach me? I am willing to learn because you mean so much to me.” Wow! What more can a girl ask for. He was my hero again! Ever since, he has done just that. He has pursued me as his daughter. He tells me he is proud of me. He calls to just talk and not to change me, and by not trying to change me, I change. Amazing!

One day quite recently, we were talking and I told him of my discouragement as a mom. He listened and instead of engaging  in my negativity and telling me what to do, he told me that he had faith in my daughters and that they would grow up to be fine people. He also told me that he believed that I was a good mother and he was proud of me. That did more for me than I have the words to express. Even just writing it down now makes my eyes fill with tears.

So what does it take to be a good father or parent? I have thought about this question a lot from a mother’s standpoint. It doesn’t take being perfect, it takes being present. There is a lot of pressure on fathers and I want to say “Thank you” first of all to my father for being there and for trying so hard to be a good father; second, to my husband for being there every day for my girls and loving them; third, to all of you fathers who are in the trenches right now. Hang in there and realize how important you are. The little things you do and say mean the world—things like:”I am proud of you”, “I will always love you”, “Way to go!”, “Keep trying. You’ll get it”, “You have such a good heart”, “I have faith in you”, “I am sorry”, “Will you forgive me”, “I forgive you”, “I believe in you”, “I believe you” or “I am proud to be your dad.” You may not see the results of your efforts now, but, just as my father’s words and deeds from years ago still means so much to me.  A seed is never wasted unless never planted.  So, I encourage fathers during this Fathers’ Day season to plant seeds of loving and encouraging words and gestures.

Happy Father’s Day!