Last year I wrote about the ‘Importance of Father’s Day’ as a son; now I’m experiencing the other side of it. Father’s Day for me has always been a day when I celebrate and give thanks as a son; today is the first time I celebrate it as a father.
I’ve already written about my experiences of pre-fatherhood when my baby son was in the womb (‘The Baby That Knew God’ http://wp.me/p4F1Hf-4d) and to announce the wonderful news of Ethan’s arrival (‘Living Life A Thousand Miles an Hour’ http://wp.me/p4F1Hf-4p), but this is the first time I’ll write about being a father, having had some time to reflect.
There seems to be no shortage of blogs for and by mums – my wife reads about a dozen of them a day – but there aren’t many for dads. Why is that? True, most dads might not be around their babies all day every day like the mums, but does that mean they don’t need help or advice, or that they’re not interesting in writing about their children? Not from where I stand.
In many ways I envy the bond Lucy has with our son – the constant presence and breastfeeding – which inevitably means they know each other better than Ethan and I do – but that will change as he grows older. For now I’m making the most of my sleep and the time I spend away from them during the day I devote to working hard in order to support them. And of course, when I am home I do whatever I can to help and bless both of them, whether through quality time or helping out around the house.
But of the time I’ve had with Ethan I’ve loved every second. From all the things that have struck me during that time, I’d like to focus on three: the value of the dad being around, the fresh perspective parenthood brings, and the sheer joy of getting to know my son.
The value of dad being around. You won’t have to search far in my writings for evidence of fondness about my dad. I’ve been blessed by having had a dad who was always there and who was able to defy the limited stereotypes of today’s masculinity to provide an example of both strength and sensitivity. I’m tremendously grateful for this, the more so because I know it’s not been everyone’s experience. And I’m determined to provide the same well-rounded presence and example for my son.
I’m no expert, but I strongly believe that an awful lot of the world’s social problems – from failing marriages to crime to substance abuse – could be solved with better fatherhood – dads who stick it out and don’t run at the first sign of trouble. The sons and daughters of this world need dads to show them what men are supposed to be like – neither bullies nor wimps, faithful and selfless. How are we supposed to raise a balanced generation of courageous, confident and caring people if we leave it all to the mums? How can we expect boys to grow up knowing how to care for women if their dads don’t show them?
Children need their dads to be around. That gets more and more true as they grow up and are able to learn, imitate and interact, but it’s still important when they’re just weeks old like Ethan. Even then they benefit from loving cuddles, affirming words spoken over them and just the trouble spent in a million different ways to invest in them. Whether it’s praying for him, reading to him, or just bouncing him on my knee, I know that Ethan benefits from my attention. I don’t know what goes on his head yet, but there’s a lot of blank canvas in there where my words can do much good.
The fresh perspective parenthood brings. This is not a soppy blog-post. Believe me, being a dad is tough. Especially first time round when it’s all new and scary. Lucy has borne the brunt of the sleepless nights and tiredness it’s true, but I’ve also found my energy and resources stretched further and thinner than I would have thought possible. My expectations of what I can get done shrink, and my hopes and aspirations for the use of my time have to be modified by constant reality-checks. But this can be a good thing in itself: it challenges me to think what’s really important. Will it really matter if I don’t get that thing done?
Parenthood brings perspective in another, and wonderful, way. It has shown me something more of the father-heart of God. I knew it as a son, I’d read about it and believed it, but actually being a father myself adds so much depth to my understanding. If God loves me even more than I love Ethan, then I am loved indeed. It’s said a lot, but it really is true: having a baby means finding out just how much you’re able to love someone.
The sheer joy of getting to know my son. My last point is simple: I’m just loving getting to know my son. Watching as his personality slowly starts to come across, delighting in his little movements and mannerisms in nascent form, learning what all the different snuffles, squeaks and squawks mean. He’s growing so fast already, and gone are the days when he was minuscule, an improbably skinny scrap of life, so I’ve got to make the most of this time. Don’t get me wrong, I’m looking forward to helping him take his first steps, start having conversations with him and all the rest, but I’ll never have this phase again, when he’s utterly dependent on me and only able to communicate with crying, tears and a quivering chin.
I’m reminded of what it says of Mary and Jesus in Luke chapter 2:
“Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.” (Luke 2:51-52)
I’m looking forward to watching Ethan grow in wisdom and stature, but for each stage along the way I resolve to cherish the here and now. Like Mary, I will treasure all these things in my heart.
(Last year’s post: http://wp.me/p4F1Hf-u)