~~ My beloved shares his heart.
When a little boy is growing up, of course he often thinks about what it would be like to be a dad.
How will I do?
Will I be able to prepare them for their future?
I loved my dad. Like all dads, he had great qualities, but he was also human, so he had shortcomings. Still, I think most of us tuck away in our minds the wonderful virtues we see in our fathers and hope to be like that ourselves when we’re dads.
On top of that, I’d look at characters in movies—strong, stable men who were my idea of a fantastic father.
Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird.
George Bailey in It’s A Wonderful Life, after he returns to his family at the end.
And even Iphegenia Doubtfire in Mrs. Doubtfire, because of the extent he went through to be with his children.
I wondered about these things, but truth be told, I didn’t think about it much. I was too busy doing very little. At least, that’s how I see it looking back.
I had my first child, Connor, just two weeks before I turned 41. That’s half a lifetime without kids. I’m amazed at that, if I think of it. Guys usually get married and have kids in their twenties. Was there something wrong with me? I guess I had a fear of commitment, to be vulnerable. To attach to a wife and then to children. I couldn’t wrap my head around what that kind of life looked like, although, deep down, I longed for it.
Then it happened when I least expected it. I found my bride, the woman of my dreams. And we had a child. Then another one. Then another one. Then…oh, gosh, this would go on forever, so I’ll spare you.
When I held Connor in my arms for the first time, I was alone at the hospital just outside Adéye’s room. Like a lot of dads, I was so, so excited, while simultaneously a little scared.
God, do I have what it takes? I’ll settle for being just half an Atticus. But his answer to me and to so many dads out there is yes! “My grace is sufficient for you.”
Now, after having ten children fill our home, I can honestly say that I had it all wrong. For so many years, I was lonely. I was looking out for just myself. I didn’t realize at the time how rich life is being a dad and raising a family.
Now that I have a beautiful family, of course some days are a challenge. There will always be challenges and hard things to go through no matter what season we’re in. That’s just life! After so many years of parenting these incredible children that God has blessed me with, I know that it’s also okay to have some hard days as a dad. I would love to go back in time and live just a week with Jesus when He walked the earth. He said that if we’ve seen Him, we’ve seen the Father.
I could look at Jesus and see how much of a perfect dad he was. In a sense, His children were those around him. He struggled being “Dad,” too. He’d get a bit exasperated with his followers, saying, “Come on, guys. Haven’t I been with you long enough to know?” When others wanted to stone the woman caught in adultery, Jesus basically said, “I’ll deal with her. You stay out of it, because you’re guilty of bad things too!” And yet his love and grace dominated his life.
Being a dad can be hard!
But I have learned how incredibly rich I am as a father. Nothing compares to being equitable to each child, while tailor-making your approach to deal with their unique personalities. Sometimes this is an art. But it’s all part of investing in precious souls created by a loving God. Whether I interact with one of my typical children or with my children who have special needs, I have been surprised by the ability God has given me to love unconditionally and with my whole heart. Something I never knew possible all those years ago when I only dreamed of having a family.
I have purposed in my heart and mind that when in doubt with HOW to father, I would resort to a spiritual given—with WHAT to father. That answer is always with love.
I have had regrets. If I could turn back time and take back things I’ve said to my older children in a moment of not thinking things through, Lord knows I would! But that’s where the Lord’s grace comes in.
At times I’ve told some of our typical kids that I was so sorry how I handled a situation dating back perhaps to their young childhood! They would look at me with surprise. They wouldn’t remember what I was referring to. Or if they did, they’d say, “Gosh, Dad, I really haven’t given that thought since then.”
The Father has taught me that regardless of how I’ve broken a situation, there is only one way to fix it.
I used to feel so hurt when I knew that my son or daughter was hurting. I still do. I would nearly beg them to open up to me. Honestly? I realized that it was probably more for me that they do that, so that I would feel useful as their father. Valuable to them. But I learned that it’s not about me! I have learned to trust them and to trust God with any situation that they go through. I have finally learned to back off, give them space, pray, and…
All of us dads fail at times! We do. But just as my father had shortcomings, I had to realize that I’m not the Jesus Dad. I’m just me, doing my best. And the Father does the rest.
I am no Atticus Finch.
My name is Anthony, and I’m just a plain dad embracing our Lord’s grace as I operate in His love.
There is no place I would rather be than right here, parenting these amazing children that God knew I needed.