Father’s Day 2013: An Open Note to Dads

June 16, 2013…Happy Father’s Day, Everyone!  I originally posted this on February 2nd, under the title of “Harry Chapin, Trace Adkins, Tony Dungy, & Solomon:  An Open Note to Dads.”  I thought I’d re-post it today in the spirit of Father’s Day as we remember Dads and father figures important to our lives.  And so, thank you for indulging me.  This is for Chet, Russ, Neil, Jim, and all of the really good guys along the journey.  Peace.

We assume a great deal of titles in this life.  Consider that, in my own life, I’ve been called “son…student…center fielder…bagger…squad leader…specialist…executive director…administrator…chairman…vice president…friend…brother…and husband.”  I’m sure there are others I’m forgetting.  But the most important and, truly the only one worthy of capitalization in my opinion, is the best title ever:  “Dad.”

I think of occupational titles as validation, in some form, of something we have done in the past.  We typically gain new and fancier titles when we have proven our value to the organization in our prior role.

Perhaps becoming a Dad is more of a nomination to step up to a grand future command performance – rather than a validation of one’s past.  It’s God’s invitation to excel as a man.

J. Mark Fox wrote of each man’s family role as being in the context of “Four P’s” – the Prophet, Priest, Protector, and Provider.  A Prophet who hears God’s word and subsequently shares and teaches it to others (his children).  A Priest who goes before his people (family) on behalf of God and goes before God on behalf of his family as their leader.  A Protector to guard against false doctrine, bad companions, and bad choices.  And a Provider to feed physical and emotional needs, while preparing and providing for their future.

Future?  Yes.  Legacy.

During a recent discussion, my bride observed that “we choose our own legacy.”  So true.

I may not agree entirely with all that Fox writes, but I do agree that the “Four P’s” are fundamentally applicable and evident of our true responsibilities in our capacity as “Dad.”

All too often, though, Dads become easily confused.  In an effort to be a good Provider, perhaps it’s fairly simple to self-impose a mischaracterized identity established on an occupational axis, rather than regarding the priority of the other three “P’s” and our obligation to be at our best as “Dad.”  It’s not easy, yet who said anything worthy is easy?

Yet, I’ve known men of great occupational success who have missed the point.  In fact, it’s evident to me that even the most scholarly can sometimes fail miserably in life’s most important exam.

I’ve also known men who have passed with flying colors – in both arenas.  A successful logistics executive who missed not one softball game, show choir concert, or academic honors ceremony.  And there was a man named Fred – honestly, I don’t recall a single clue as to what he did for money, but I can tell you he left behind three kids who themselves became great human beings – great parents themselves who are focused and engaged.

Notice that Law didn’t call out any obligation to be a “Pleaser.”  Sometimes it’s just not about personal happiness, but more about redirecting “I want…” to a clearly and directly articulated “Yes, but you need and, therefore, you will…”  We should be so cautious as to recognize that sometimes betting on happiness today is a bet against tomorrow.  After all, being “spoiled” refers to something that has occurred in the past – not now.

Two great songs about fatherhood are “Cats in the Cradle” by Harry Chapin and “Just Fishin'” by Trace Adkins.  Consider their opposing stories:

My child arrived just the other day
He came to the world in the usual way
But there were planes to catch and bills to pay
He learned to walk while I was away
And he was talkin’ ‘fore I knew it, and as he grew
He’d say “I’m gonna be like you dad
You know I’m gonna be like you”

I’m lost in her there holdin’ that pink rod and reel
She’s doin’ almost everything but sittin’ still
Talkin’ ’bout her ballet shoes and training wheels
And her kittens
And she thinks we’re just fishin’

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin’ home dad?
I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then son
You know we’ll have a good time then

I say, “Daddy loves you, baby” one more time
She says, “I know. I think I got a bite.”
And all this laughin’, cryin, smilin’ dyin’ here inside’s
What I call, livin’

My son turned ten just the other day
He said, “Thanks for the ball, Dad, come on let’s play
Can you teach me to throw”, I said “Not today
I got a lot to do”, he said, “That’s ok”
And he walked away but his smile never dimmed
And said, “I’m gonna be like him, yeah
You know I’m gonna be like him”

And she thinks we’re just fishin’ on the riverside
Throwin’ back what we could fry
Drownin’ worms and killin’ time
Nothin’ too ambitious
She ain’t even thinkin’ ’bout
What’s really goin’ on right now
But I guarantee this memory’s a big’in
And she thinks we’re just fishin’

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin’ home son?
I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then son
You know we’ll have a good time then

She’s already pretty, like her mama is
Gonna drive the boys all crazy
Give her daddy fits
And I better do this every chance I get
‘Cause time is tickin’
(Yeah it is)

Well, he came home from college just the other day
So much like a man I just had to say
“Son, I’m proud of you, can you sit for a while?”
He shook his head and said with a smile
“What I’d really like, Dad, is to borrow the car keys
See you later, can I have them please?”

And she thinks we’re just fishin’ on the riverside
Throwin’ back what we could fry
Drownin’ worms and killin’ time
Nothin’ too ambitious
She ain’t even thinkin’ ’bout
What’s really goin’ on right now
But I guarantee this memory’s a big’in
And she thinks we’re just fishin’

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin’ home son?
I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then son
You know we’ll have a good time then

She ain’t even thinkin’ ’bout
What’s really goin’ on right now
But I guarantee this memory’s a big’in
And she thinks we’re just fishin’
Yeah, aww, she thinks we’re just fishin’
We ain’t only fishin’
(This ain’t about fishin’)

I’ve long since retired, my son’s moved away
I called him up just the other day
I said, “I’d like to see you if you don’t mind”
He said, “I’d love to, Dad, if I can find the time
You see my new job’s a hassle and kids have the flu
But it’s sure nice talking to you, Dad
It’s been sure nice talking to you”

And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me
He’d grown up just like me
My boy was just like me

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin’ home son?
I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then son
You know we’ll have a good time then

(this ain’t about fishin’…)

I’ve long believed that parents earn their place in the future of their children.  Dads, how will you be regarded and remembered?  What will be your dash?

So, Dads…step UP.  If you’re interested in improving the world around us, start at home:

Raise accountable, Christian kids who know you and know Him.

Pray for them and with them.  Get up and take them to Sunday School.

Teach right versus wrong and bend not to whatever the heck those people down the street are doing.

Teach them to exert their best effort and to make good choices.  And if the world judges their best effort to be “average” – well, that’s absolutely fine.  “Average” wrapped in strength of character and perched upon a solid foundation of Christian values and beliefs will endure whatever storm comes ’round.  Let the wind blow.

Make your home a place where hate-filled video games and other meaningless dribble simply aren’t welcome – it’s far less likely that anyone will rage against society after watching Smile of a Child.

Ensure that your occupational execution is squarely focused on your role as Provider to those who call you “Dad” – you are here to feed them, not your own ego – and don’t apologize for stepping away from the office to attend something at school or some other opportunity to be there and be Dad.

It’s not easy.  I find that it takes a heckuva lot of work and focus – and sometimes I simply fail.  But consciousness begets improvement and so, Brothers, let’s hold each other accountable.  It takes, I think, a bit of a Nike perspective – “Just Do It.”

“We have a number of difficulties facing our nation, but I believe fatherlessness is right at the top of the list…There is no substitute for a full-time Dad.  Dads who are fully engaged with their kids overwhelmingly tend to produce children who believe in themselves and live full lives.”
– Tony Dungy – coach, super bowl champion, future NFL Hall of Fame inductee, & DAD

In Proverbs 22:6, Solomon wrote, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

Hug ’em often…and Keep It Lit…

T.

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