This One’s Also For the Dads

With Father’s Day coming up this weekend, I consulted with a number of dads about the biggest joys and challenges of fatherhood. Ranging in age from early thirties to mid- fifties, these men come from a variety of professional backgrounds. Some have a baby at home and some parent young professionals. You will see that despite their differences these men have much in common; they love their heavenly Father deeply and they adore their sons and daughters.

On Tuesday we looked at the challenges fathers face, and how being a dad has helped these men know their heavenly Father better. Today these dads share what they wish they had known sooner, and what brings them the most joy in parenting.

What is one piece of advice you would give your younger dad self?

Fatherhood is more important than work or ministry. Your primary mission field and calling as a man is to your wife and your kids. Aside from your relationship with Jesus, your family and their wellbeing should occupy the lion’s share of your heart, prayers, time, and affection. I would also warn my younger self that fatherhood will reveal just how selfish your heart actually is. There will be days when you will be realize that sharing your life, your world, and your outlets with your wife will be challenging enough. Yet those very same things will get parceled out further once you have children. Your tendency will be to fight to protect your pattern of life and your hobbies. A good bit of fathering is surrendering many of those things so that your marriage and your children can thrive. Part of flourishing as a dad is dying to yourself.

Slow down and enjoy it. Your kids will grow quickly and if you are running around trying to do the job, do the hobbies, etc., you will be short with the ones you love… and you’ll regret those outbursts.

​To hold loosely my parenting ideals and formulas. Things are going to be a lot messier than expected -and that is OK because it is in the mess that I see my need for a Savior.

Be gracious with yourself, your wife, and your kids. You do not know what you are doing, and that is ok. Your job is not to be a professional parent and to know what to do in all circumstances. Accept the day God has given you, observe your baby and their dependence, and replicate their utter dependence as an example for you in depending on your heavenly father.
Make time daily alone with God in prayer and in his Word. This is your food and this is your water. God will take care of the fruit.
Listen to your wife! Enjoy her words!
Be gracious with your own parents. They are new to having adult kids with kids. Look past offences!!!!

Put down what you want to do and engage your kids with what interests them.

As a young father I needed to hear “lighten up.” I micromanaged my oldest child and it did not serve either of us well. It also took me too long to learn that what doesn’t kill my kids does make them stronger. Failure isn’t final. And sometimes they need to wallow in their own failure before they are in a position to receive the advice of another person. Let them fail. Then build them up.

Advice to younger me: talk less; smile more. In all seriousness there is so much I have learned from doing the wrong thing I could write for hours but here are a few:
1. Pray for your children and give them to the Lord.
2. Through your words and actions, let them know they are loved as unconditionally as a human can love.
3. Find reasons to say “yes” (My wife taught me this).
4. If you have daughters know that you are the model of the boys she will chase so remember to cherish her every moment of the day.
5. Engage! Talk and spend time with them.
6. Show grace
7. Repent and apologize quickly after you screw up.
8. LISTEN! Empathy is much more valuable than problem-solving.
9. Never discipline in anger. Kids screw up. It’s ok.

You are really not important to the process. The verse, “Our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us” is so true. I saw that the disappointment and resentment that I had toward my own dad made me think I was going to be so much better. I worked too hard to get my girls to think I was the best. It got in the way of God’s love for them.

What has been your greatest joy in being a father?

​My greatest joy is the simple things of doing life together as a family.  It is sitting around the dinner table and laughing together. It is watching them play soccer. It is watching them have mature conversations with adults. It is doing ministry alongside of them. It is watching them love and serve others.

Every stage of my kid’s lives has been enjoyable. I appreciate my life more because of the joy that my family brings to me. I understand my Heavenly Father’s love for me now that I’m an earthly father.

Just the simple times of laughing and playing together.

I marvel at how uniquely and wonderfully made each of my four children are. They are so different from one another and so talented in multi-faceted ways. They each show me unique aspects of God their Creator through their creativity, personality, and relational styles. I find joy in their accomplishments but also in how their setbacks and failures cause them to fall back into the arms of Jesus. I am fascinated by their resiliency and also by their desire to forgive and ask for forgiveness. Seeing Christ at work in them and through them ministers to me in very deep ways.

Watching my boys grow and explore the world around them. Being a part of their joy, whenever and from where it comes, is a complete gift.

I have the greatest joy when we are all together. There is no place on this earth I’d rather be than the five of us all together enjoying our family, whether that’s all cuddled up watching a movie or having some adventure somewhere. I get great joy as the girls have gotten older when I see them maturing and embracing life. I see the fruits of our labors over the years of them turning into functional adults. I must admit the random phone call to say hey or the hug in public are pretty fantastic as well. Even the crisis call seeking help and advice is a great joy because I know they feel safe enough and loved enough to come to me (and their mom) when something bad happens rather than pull back and avoid us.

I love being a part of my daughters’ lives. I just love being around them, relating to them and helping them navigate the world. Specifically, I have really enjoyed helping my girls understand who they are and who God is. To watch them become connected to the Lord and to have a better understanding of who he has made them to be has been very rewarding.

Being my children’s father alongside the wife that I have is a privilege beyond words.

All of us at Rooted wish you a joyful Father’s Day!

Anna is a single mom of three young adult sons. She is the Senior Director of Content at Rooted, co-host of the Rooted Parent podcast, a member of Church of the Cross in Birmingham, AL, and the author of God's Grace for Every Family: Biblical Encouragement for Single Parent Families and the Churches That Seek to Love Them Well (Zondervan, 2024). She also wrote Fresh Faith: Topical Devotions and Scripture-Based Prayers for College Students. In her free time, Anna enjoys gardening, great books, running, hiking, hammocks, and ice cream. She wants to live by a mountain stream in Idaho someday.

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