Thinking back on Father’s Day, I recall one of my dad’s favorite sayings: “the most important things in life aren’t things at all.” That truth has become especially evident in our new world of social distancing. Extroverts like my wife find themselves craving human interaction more than ever. Author Gary Chapman identifies physical touch as one of the five love languages, and many have experienced a shortage of it. Odd, indeed, is a period of time that may be marked by a rise in pregnancies and divorces alike.
One potential silver lining in all of this — specifically that many have been able to work from home — is stronger family units. Time has been more abundant. Bikes are in high demand, people are fishing and enjoying the great outdoors. Runners are everywhere. There have been fewer athletic events, parties, and dance recitals to compete with dinners, walks and board games. So many people are spending more time with their families.
The biggest challenge I have experienced personally — as a parent of five children between the ages of 3 and 12 — is devoting quality time to all of them. I too often look at my phone more than my kids at home, but my attention is improving. Recently it hit me that within a decade, I’ll likely be the shortest person in my immediate family. My oldest will be off to college in six years and I now feel a slight sense of panic; have I not injected as much fatherly wisdom and encouragement as I should have? For the last decade my wife and I have had at least one child in diapers. At hectic times, I feel like George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life thinking: “You call this a happy family? Why do we have to have all these kids!?”
As stressful as having five children can be, I know they are my greatest treasures. This time is causing me to reflect more on how I need to improve as a father. My shortcomings come into greater focus and I see more clearly what I need to work on. Children are a blessing, and we need to invest in them in more. Many of the problems in our world are rooted in failed marriages and poor parenting. One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”
My fondest memories of childhood are fishing with my dad. I implore you, do not allow these opportunities to slip by. If you are a parent or grandparent (using proper precautions) invest in your children now. No amount of wealth is more valuable than the love of your children. Dads, dance with your daughters. Wrestle with your boys. Read with them. Sing with them. Teach them what they won’t learn in school. Model the type of person you want them to become. As authors Kara Powell and Chap Clark point out in Sticky Faith: “you get what you are.”
The latest chapter in my story of fatherhood is our new furry companion. I did not want a dog; five kids is enough for me. However, the collective force of that many children, a wife, and mother-in-law finally broke me down. “Quarantina” — an Australian labradoodle — has found a forever home with us. Well, no one can accuse me of not loving my kids!
Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there. And to all the parents: may you find love, grace, encouragement and reconciliation with your children in what has been a difficult year for so many of us.