The king's subjectS
Reflections by the People of TKA
The Importance of Being Dad
“To be natural is such a very difficult pose to keep up.” - Oscar Wilde
The play from which this Oscar Wilde quote hails, “The Importance of Being Earnest,” is required reading for TKA high school students as well as for students across our country. I’d like to take some literary liberties and apply this idea to the role we play as fathers and to show the importance of the role well-played in the lives of our sons and daughters. Let’s face it: For anyone who has been a father for more than a day realizes, it is a relational role that is joyous at best and heartbreaking at worst. And it’s the highest calling to which a man can aspire...to be God’s representative in the lives of the children in our care.
After 27 years of fatherhood, I find myself still wondering if I’m giving it my best at being Dad. Am I fulfilling this role in our sons’ lives in such a way that honors God and enhances the lives of the sons with which He’s blessed us? Am I getting through to them? Am I leading them in the right direction? And why is it so difficult at times to communicate to them about...well, anything??
What does it mean to strike the natural pose, to live out the life of being Dad? We can answer that question by first asking, “Why is it so frustrating at times when we’re seeking to do our best?” We’re great professionally. People listen to us. Goals are accomplished. The mission moves forward. Whence the challenge with the “natural pose” of being Dad?
Well, we can see things that our children cannot fathom. We know about the long-term consequences of poor choices in critical areas of life. We know the heartache inherent in adolescence, and we often want to help our children avoid unnecessary hurt. We want them to learn vicariously from our mistakes. SOMEONE needs to learn from our often bungled approach to our teenage life! And as professionals, we can lose our identity as a father as we get wrapped up in the daily pursuits of life. The result is that we can be overcome with personal frustration, exasperation, and often a feeling of hopelessness as we seek to grapple with the very real challenges of parenting teens in this 21st century.
So let’s define the role of being just Dad. After all, that’s what our children desire most of us as fathers - only to be our human selves, expanding waist, graying hair and all. They’re not interested in our exploits as young men. They don’t really care about our financial status (unless they need money for a night out with friends!). Nor are they terribly interested in our achievements in the office or on the job site.
Then what ARE our children looking for when it comes to Dad? Here are my findings over nearly three decades of experimentation:
AVAILABILITY ON THEIR TERMS - Our children need us to varying degrees throughout our lives, and that begins with making ourselves available to them as a source of counsel, as a fan at their sporting or performing arts events, or just as a family member seated at the dinner table on a nightly basis. Really, it’s our presence that is most necessary and desired, even subconsciously in a teenager’s life. I remember as our sons were growing, one of them, in particular, would rarely interact with us around the house. But, he would always enter the room where my wife and I were seated, briefly linger, and then return to his regularly scheduled activity in the family room. My being present was enough for him; he just needed to know I was around and engaged in family life. Don’t discount the role of availability and presence in your childrens’ lives.
BALANCE - In a world of myriad and powerful influences in our children’s lives, that of Dad still reigns prominently. Our sons and daughters thrive in a home that values a balanced approach to living; they long for the harmony that comes from a dad who lives his life in balance. His life is not all about work or leisure or home repair or church business. It’s about living joyfully in the home, balancing our responsibilities while remaining present in family life. Our time, talents, and treasures are appropriately meted out for the overall well-being of our family, specifically of the children in our care.
FAITHFULNESS - Our children will thrive under the example of a father faithful to his family and to his word, even to his own hurt (Psalm 15:4). Faithfulness on our part provides the security and trust our children need to thrive in their individual life situations while living under our roof and, more importantly, when they venture out on their own as students, professionals, spouses and parents.
We are called to cultivate a climate of growth in our home...growth in family relationships; growth in our children’s awareness of the world around them; growth in their unique skills; and growth in their relationship with God their creator and savior.
As we lead the life of an available, balanced, and faithful steward, we will begin detecting signs of cultivation and growth in our home. We will find contentment. We will recognize our higher purpose in life. And we will find that the natural role of being Dad is a less difficult pose to hold and more joyous than we had ever thought possible!
Junior High Principal
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