Parenting is a dangerous game. Babies are so tiny and delicate! You don’t want to accidentally pinch her while buckling the car seat, or allow him to sleep on his tummy, or let the dog lick her face while she is on the floor. And you just ache for them when they have an ear infection or stomach distress.
When they get a little older, kids tend to hurt themselves, so you spend a lot of your time engaged in risk management. This is especially true with boys—they are so physical! Your son seems bent on pushing the envelope, continually on the brink of certain death. And in the process they can hurt you, too. More than once I’ve been scratched or otherwise injured as we wrestled or chased each other around the house.
I remember getting a black eye from my young daughter while playing the "Get Dad Off the Sofa" game. Ouch... kicked in the eye by a wiggling six year-old! It gave new meaning to that old song lyric, "Love Hurts." My shiner was a testimony to the inherent hazards of being a father.
While you may think and hope otherwise, the risks don’t go away as your child gets older. In fact, they only increase. While your son can better judge (and hopefully reduce) the injury potential while trying to make that jump on his skateboard, or your daughter learns to use that curling iron with a little more care so she doesn’t burn her forehead, there are other hurts to look out for. There are still plenty of opportunities to be on a first-name basis with your doctor or the emergency room attendants.
As for the cost of those visits in both time and money, now that can be painful.
In my experience, there is the risk of a different sort of damage when a child hits the teen years. Your words as a father can crush your daughter’s sense of self-worth, or cause your son to feel like a real failure. And in the process, you get hurt, too. I’ve been guilty of messing up in that way, and I still feel the pangs of regret for my foolishness.
There’s also the peril of being an overprotective parent, one who holds your child back from maturing. That will inevitably catch up with them—and you. On the other hand, there is the problem of letting your children make too many of their own choices too soon, and you find yourself being taken advantage of. That hurts.
As your children become adults, the potential for pain becomes more related to the heart. And that is perhaps the most dangerous parenting season of all. I have friends who've endured the pain of hearing a child defiantly yell, "I hate you!" I’ve watched others struggle with a distant child who isn’t interested in having any relationship at all. That has to hurt. Others have sons who left the faith or daughters who made very bad lifestyle decisions.
These moms and dads have broken hearts. They only want the best for their children, but it isn’t always easy, nor possible, to see that happen. Perhaps these are the most treacherous aspects of parenting...having a child who wanders and never returns. That’s why parenthood is full of danger.
All of this came to mind as I was recently watching a music video, "You'll Find Your Way", by Andrew Peterson. Andrew is a craftsman of songs, and certainly a recurring favorite artist in my playlists. The song is evocative and powerful, and it highlights the risks of being a father.
The video depicts a dad who desperately wants his son to know of his love and heart. As the boy wanders down life’s paths, there are dangers. All the time, he has a father who wants him to know of his ongoing love and care—and his prayers for him. His daddy-heart is aching for the boy to return to the ancient paths, the lessons he was taught and perhaps left behind. He is earnestly longing for the boy to become a man who follows God. His heart is exposed, and he can’t control the outcome. He can only hope and pray that his son will walk with the Truth he was given as a young boy.
This song reflects something the apostle John expressed as he was nearing the end of his life. He wrote to a group of believers with affection and a heartfelt desire that they would walk along the right path...the True Path.
I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth (3 John 1:4, ESV).
With this simple sentence, John encouraged new believers, whom he lovingly referred to as “my children,” to remain faithful to God. He wasn’t in a position to control the outcome. As a "spiritual parent," John could only remind them of what they had learned from him. That is something every Christian dad can relate to. We want our kids to follow us, especially in the most important thing in life: our faith. But really, it isn’t ours to control.
As you journey along, Dad, let me suggest that you pour yourself into the dangerous job of parenting with everything you’ve got, especially in the area of spiritual training. Do your best in that all-important part of life, and then pull back and pray. Keep talking to your children about the faith, and keep talking to God about that son or daughter. And one day, should they stumble or fall, they’ll likely find their way back home to the Truth you gave them when they were young.
Written by John Fuller