I heard joy in my husband’s voice today when his dad picked up the other end of the line. One little word both filled my heart and pricked a scar mostly healed.
“Dad!!” he exclaimed, with a genuine and heartfelt smile.
Encapsulated in one syllable lies the longing of so many hearts and the responsibility resting heavily on so many others.
It’s perhaps the easiest and most welcome task for most men to begin the process of a new life. It is perhaps the most challenging to hold that life as precious for the remainder of his own.
Many fail. No statistic I can share is necessary. Just look around at all of the souls obviously clamoring for someone to see them. There is no need for me to try to tell the story that is already blaring loud and glaringly clear, screaming that we have a world full of folks with some serious daddy issues.
Daddies who are absent either physically or have checked out and are preoccupied mentally. Daddies standing at soccer games who have no idea the heart’s cry of the child running in front of them, and daddies who aren’t standing at the soccer games at all. Daddies whose own needs outweigh everything around them.
I write from a perspective of mere observation, and, of course, only my own two shoes of experience. I can tell you what I’ve seen in the best of daddies. I can tell you what I missed. And oddly, they are the same.
It’s just love, you guys. It’s just plain love.
My husband was a busy, busy man through the growing years of my children. His jobs kept him very occupied; he took his responsibility very seriously to take care of his family. He was the only source of income for us, and that weighed heavily. Responsibility is important. Providing is really important. Both of those characteristics are things I admire very much about him. I think he’d be the first to tell you that he was sometimes too busy. Not sure he could have changed that, but I know there were things he missed out on sacrificially so his family had what they needed and so that I could stay home with our kids.
But, though that was so vital to us, it isn’t what made him a good daddy. It’s part of the equation, but it isn’t the key.
My husband rough-housed and had tickle fights. He built forts inside and outside. He always went in the water and swam with his kids. He disciplined justly and paid attention to the little things. He KNEW his kids — both their attributes and their struggles. His eyes got wet when their hearts broke. Their dreams created a cheerleader and idea-maker in him. He was humble enough to ask forgiveness when he hurt a heart.
All and each of these were things I longed for from my dad, but they aren’t what make a good daddy — rather the force behind each beautiful action.
When I read that list, when I recall all the moments, when I observe them even now, I don’t see perfection in my husband. He wasn’t designed for that. When I remember, though, when I watch him in action, I see so much love. It makes him better. It makes him present. It makes him lead. It makes him strong enough to carry what needs to be carried. It is the reason and the motivator behind it all.
Love in action makes him a daddy.
To those of you feeling like you’ve dropped the ball, to any of you who feel like your flaws are outweighing your fathering, don’t give up. From a daughter who felt like a little girl waiting for her daddy to see her for all of her years, there was never going to be a *too late.* If at any point, my dad would’ve said, “I see you. You matter more to me than how I feel. I would do anything for you,” and then lived it out, it would have changed my life.
It would’ve made me answer the phone with such joy!
Your legacy is what your kids will say about you. It is the stories that they will tell, good or bad to their kids and their grandkids.
All it takes is to let love lead. It’s never too late.