Is this the best Father’s Day present ever? Would I deserve that? I’ve been an inadequate father for years. How about you?
The casual observer might argue with me. They would notice the fine manners, gentle demeanor and admirable qualities of my daughters and say, “But you’re doing such a great job!”
Others might see me at all of my girls’ soccer, basketball, volleyball and lacrosse games, cheering exuberantly from the sidelines. Likewise they’d catch me at the band recitals and academic award ceremonies; a proud, beaming father with my camera in hand. They would notice as well how I bring the family to church on Sundays, with everyone dressed so smartly. It would be understandable if they would walk by thinking, “What a wonderful dad.”
But if I’m being honest with myself, I know I’ve been operating below the standard. I know I’ve been distant. Disengaged. Although I’ve been in attendance, I haven’t been present as much as I should.
What’s the difference? Well, someone once said that 80% of success is just showing up, and there is truth in that. But who wants to barely score a “B-” as a father? That’s merely being in attendance.
Being present is what constitutes the remaining 20% of fatherhood. It what makes for strong, vibrant relationships with our children. And believe me, our kids know the difference.
By being present, this doesn’t mean being overbearing, controlling and manipulative. That’s being authoritarian and this only brings more distance between ourselves and our children.
Being present means moving from merely being there to being engaged. Because parenting isn’t a spectator sport.
Instead, we become interested, involved, interactive. We enjoy conversations and playing games and growing in our relationship with one another.
This means we’ve got to get out of the cushy chair. We’ve got to stop…well, just watching.
My friend and mentor, Jim Johnson, shared a secret he learned in being a grandparent. When he visits his grandchildren, he gets on the floor with them. He found it changed everything in his relationship with them. No longer was he standing or sitting over these toddlers. He was engaged, and living life as they experience it.
Some fathers really get this concept. My neighbor Ken is a Dad I truly respect. So often I would see him across the street, sitting on the curb on a Saturday afternoon and having a dialog with one or both of his teenage sons. Sometimes the discussions would last for more than an hour and you could see how much they were enjoying each others company.
It’s like the Dads at playgrounds, who aren’t sitting on a cement bench but rather are joining their kids down the slide. Or those who go fishing with their son or daughter, and it’s more about the conversation than what they catch.
Try camping without bringing out chairs, or learning how to do algebra…once again. And instead of just sending them off to Sunday school, how about opening the Bible together?
I think sometimes single Dads have an advantage in this area. They’ve already felt deep loss in their family life and are desperate to be as engaged in their kids’ lives as possible. All fathers should have this sense of desperation, that each day with our children is precious, an opportunity not to be taken lightly.
As fathers we have many responsibilities. Provision is important. Protection is vital. But presence is not only critical, but one of the greatest gifts of being a Dad.
We shouldn’t pursue presence as if it’s yet another one of our chores like taking out the trash or mowing the lawn. We should pursue it because we crave a deep and lasting relationship with our sons and daughters.
When we make this commitment to our children to be present in their lives, they learn what it’s like to have God’s presence in their lives.
Think about it. How much harder will it be for our children to have a deep and profound relationship with God the Father, when they don’t experience one with their own Earthly father?
The Bible is full of examples of poor fatherhood. There’s Adam, who had one of his sons kill the other. Then Noah, whose kids mocked him in his old age. Lot’s daughters? They got him drunk and seduced him. Don’t forget the high priest Aaron. His two sons ended up being burned to death because of their evilness. David? His son Absalom usurped his power and then tried to kill him. Unfortunately, the list goes on and on.
At the root of this short-falling is the arrogance of a father to believe his life is more important than that of his children. We so easily say we would die for our kids, but then we refuse to even get off of the couch.
We need to be much more than upstanding citizens, hard workers and active members of our church. We need to be present in our children’s lives.
Committing to being more present in my children’s lives is my Father’s Day gift to myself this year. Not just for a day, but every day moving forward.
My kids’ gift is to forgive me for being so absent. And to allow me grace as I stumble with unfamiliarity back into the details and activities of their lives.
Could this be the best Father’s Day present ever? I can’t think of anything better. How about you? Would you like presence for your present?
Looking for more Michael? You might also enjoy The Terrible Truth About Christians