Dad/Father Figure

I carry a small envelope in my bible, that most people don’t know about. It is a thank you note from a girl that is now a nurse but was a former student of mine. She thanked me for teaching her so much stuff to prepare her for college. She told me about her college plan. Then she hit me with a bombshell. She thanked me for being her dad. What?

Can you be a dad, but not someone’s father? Apparently so according to this young lady that was thousands of miles from home. Some of you may have no biological children, or you may have a dozen. I want to clarify my stance on the dad concept.

Our children are those that God puts in our care. However, the idea of a non-biological dad cannot be assumed but can be adopted by a child. What makes you their dad? It is your role and what you mean to them. The dad title is earned. It is a humbling thing to hear their declaration. While it is an honor, it is equally a burden to live up to someone’s view of you.

There are those kids that have no dad. There are kids who have crappy ones. Some have dad’s that for some reason cannot be with them. You never know the circumstances until you are in them. You may also never be told what you mean to a particular young person or child.

This is why I believe this blog is for every man. I hope it may also be a resource for ladies/mothers in some way. We as men need to utilize examples. We need to learn. We need to listen. Too many times our pride/ego can get in the way of us growing and improving.

Back to the subject at hand, our roles as dad’s are paramount in the life of our kids. According to an article published by the Minnesota Psychological Association, the absence of fathers in the household can result in numerous disadvantages for young people. Examples of these include perceived abandonment, attachment issues, child abuse, childhood obesity, criminal justice involvement, gang involvement, mental health issues, poor school performance, poverty, homelessness, and substance abuse. For a more detailed look at this information, here is the link to the article.

Many of these issues we will discuss in further posts. However, I have one issue with the findings of this report. I don’t believe it is the absence of a biological father, but of a dad that contributes to these potential issues. Some biological fathers can be a source of disadvantage and harm. Perhaps the article should qualify the statement of fathers in the home as a healthy 2 parent home, or a loving 2 parent home.

Due to the rate of increased single parent homes, specifically those in which the fathers are uninvolved, this is why good men role models need to step up. What does this mean? I believe that by making ourselves available, listening, and being sensitive to the needs of those around us, many of us may be adopted into the dad role. Again this role should never be assumed. This is not an entitlement that any man should claim, but one in which he may be invited to do so.

This is why I believe that all men have a duty and responsibility to forge themselves in a role model that is worthy of such an honor if called upon. Just because you may not be a biological father does not mean that you can’t be a dad. It may be that this specific purpose is what you are called to do.

How do you start? You start the same way all dads do. You give your time. “Being there” is where it begins, not being perfect. Since there is no such thing as the perfect dad, don’t tell yourself that you are not one. You are not the perfect elephant either. So, why put a standard on the role. As I stated in my last post. I don’t know the perfect dad, but I know the best one. You may be the best dad that a kid or young adult may encounter. You don’t know what they need. You may not have all the resources, skill, and the right answer. Just start with time. Time is the greatest show of love. What we love, we spend time doing or investing ourselves in.

The second point, but no less important is a sacrifice. There are many dads that must be away for certain periods of time in order to provide for their children. This is a hard thing to do. It is hard to be in one place when your heart is in another. I am no authority on this subject. Although, I know many men who deal with this struggle. The American author Napoleon Hill once said, “Great achievement is usually born of sacrifice, and is never the result of selfishness”.

The third and final point is to know that kids will not always understand and articulate what time and sacrifice mean. However, they can feel it and know it in their hearts. Many times being a parent is a very thankless job. This does not just apply to dads. You as a nurturing parent are committing your life, not 18 years to a child. This is a huge undertaking. No matter how old they are, they are always your kids. The relationship develops and changes but still requires time and sacrifice. This requires you to continue learning. When you think you know it all, you are screwed. The “know-it-alls” usually turn out to be the biggest disappointment. Every day is new as is each challenge. Be the best dad you can be.