Monday, August 12, 2013

On Being a "Good" Father

Giving the kids important lessons about life
Its hard to be a father. Or, rather, its hard to be a good father. I've told lots of funny stories about our family, and a few painful stories. We have faced some notable obstacles with health issues, but (as I have often emphasized) many "ordinary people" endure such things. So it shouldn't come as a surprise that our family life is mostly ordinary... and flawed.

For me, the day-to-day responsibilities of fatherhood all too often end up engendering a bunch of mistakes. I don't give the kids enough attention, or I speak rudely, or I'm too demanding, or (more often) I'm too lenient, or I get impatient, or I get snarky, or I deal with them in the mode of what-do-I-need-to-do-to-get-this-annoying-distracting-person-out-of-my-face, or I join in with their goofy games and forget to enforce basic family rules like DON'T JUMP ON THE COUCH, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. I'm sure my wife could draw up a longer list. Any Mom reading this knows (and puts up with) the standard DadFails every day.

Its just the standard, ordinary stuff. There's much more on the positive side (I hope). Really, I'm a "good Dad." But I need to be better. I need to grow.

I want so much to love my children more, and I truly believe that there are abundant graces from God that make it possible fulfill the vocation of being a Christian and human father. God loves my children with an infinite love, and He wants to show them one of the foundational signs of His love through me. This is an awesome task which is beyond my natural powers as a human being and as a man.

Remembering my own fatherhood helps me to see my total need for healing and grace.

The illusion of self-sufficiency and self-satisfaction can be difficult to break, and it is very easy to ignore God's presence (and even His existence) as long as we live inside the bubble of this illusion. But one way God awakens us and draws our hearts is through our children.

If we allow ourselves to love our children, we open ourselves up to the awareness of our own vulnerability. Children remind us again and again that we are not the ones who control reality. If we truly care about our children--if we let them burst the bubble of our self-centeredness--we are going to experience how much we need God.

Being a father reminds me that I need to pray.

I want my kids to discover and to grow in the awareness of the fact that God is their Father. I want them to know that their Daddy on earth is called to "help" them to experience in a more intimate way this true Fatherhood, this tremendous Love that gives them to themselves each moment, in His image, and calls them to be His children forever.

I can't fulfill my vocation without remembering continually that God is my Father too. He has made us all His children by giving us our lives, and by giving us His life in Jesus.