So I made a list yesterday of all the dads I know … not my own dad or my friends’ dads, but I guess the dads who are “colleagues” of mine – the ones who are within five or ten years of my own age. The first thing that surprised me – besides the fact that I know quite a few more dads than I thought I did – was how many really great dads I know. Dads who are taking their roles seriously, who are loving their wives and adoring their kids; Men who are opening up to their sons and showing them that it’s okay to be human; Men who are teaching their daughters to believe in themselves. These dads are preparing their children for the life ahead of them, and not just by mindlessly regurgitating what their fathers taught (or didn’t teach) them. These men are leading their families by serving them, not just themselves. To put it this way: I’m surrounded by a surprising number of truly good men who are really doing a great job being “Daddy,” and I hope I can learn a lot from them.
It’s feeling a little bit like the past generations of fathers who bottle up their feelings or think that boys shouldn’t play with dolls and that girls shouldn’t take shop class or that walking out on your family is somehow not a big deal – is going the way of the dinosaur. Not that they are extinct yet, but the idea gives me some hope.
It’s a stark contrast. Out of more than fifty dads I could think of, nearly every one of them is not only very engaged and involved with their children on a daily basis, but they are actually still married to their childrens’ mothers. Some for more than twenty years. It’s not the kind of thing you tend to see reported on CNN. In a country where there’s a daily discussion of how the family unit is breaking down and the divorce rate is 50 percent and young people don’t want to get married anymore, maybe all of this is actually a good thing. Maybe these days people who get married and have children are going to mean it. Perhaps because so many of our own parents are divorced, or our dads left town when we were kids, or they didn’t leave town but were emotionally unavailable tough-guys, or who-knows-what kind of messed up family lives each of us had growing up – maybe the pendulum is finally slowing down to a manageable middle ground where we are getting married not because it’s just that thing that we do because society says so, but because we have made that huge decision to devote our lives to our families.
So with that, dads, my plea to you is this: stay with your family. All it takes is a tiny seed of doubt that grows out of control, and in a few years you’ve left your family for the allure of greener grasses. Please stay engaged with your kids, stay in love with your wife, keep a soft, grace-filled heart and remember that the way to truly lead your family is by humbly serving their needs.