Real Fathering and the Glue That Holds Families Together
Little nine-month-old Enoch has a rare genetic disorder that brings serious challenges to his life—physically and developmentally. Enoch’s granddad is a good friend of ours at the National Center for Fathering, and he covets all of our prayers. I can only imagine what that little boy is going through, and what it’s like for his mom and dad and extended family.
In the midst of these challenges, here’s what Enoch’s dad, Noah, wrote one day recently:
“I am writing a book entitled, Poop, Pee and Carrots.”
This is the first child for Noah and his wife, and he says that his transformation from being a husband to a father has been characterized by that combination of prominent smells: poop, pee and carrots. And he says, “No matter how much you scrub, the smell doesn’t leave.”
Have you been there? I suspect it really rings true for dads who face similar challenges or have a child with special needs.
Noah continued with this nugget, which really challenged me. He said that being able to accept that smell, “and the fact that your wife smells the same, is the glue that holds your family together when times get tough.”
Now, I must say I’ve never heard fatherhood described that way. Also, who knew these three ingredients could be combined to make glue? But jokes aside …
Isn’t that real life for dads? Accepting your role, whether you’re in the middle of a challenge or just doing what needs to be done?
Maybe, for a season, fathering for you means a constant succession of dirty diapers. You know that anything you hope to accomplish has to take place in between diaper changes.
Or maybe your stage is all about getting kids where they need to go: basketball practice; church groups; school functions; play dates with friends. “Taxi Dad” is a big part of your role.
I know for a lot of guys, being a dad involves a lot of frustration because they can’t get time with their kids because of job responsibilities, military deployment, or a custody or visitation arrangement that puts limits on their role.
What do you do if being a dad isn’t very satisfying right now?
I really like Noah’s perspective. If you can accept that this is what your fathering is right now, and still make the most of every other opportunity to be an involved dad, that can become powerful glue for you and your children.
Now, please don’t misunderstand me. “Accepting” your situation does not mean you’re giving up or settling for less than what your child needs from you. Committed fathering means exhausting every possible option you have to be involved in your children’s lives. They benefit from your positive, engaged presence.
But we must also recognize that sometimes our situation with our children is beyond our control; there really is no reasonable action we can take to change things, and our fathering is simply a matter of persevering through the challenges and doing our best.
Those times are definitely not fun, but they can have benefits in our families that we may only see months or even years from now.
I really do mean it, dad. Keep up the good work.
What’s the glue that holds your family together? How has a trial in your family pulled you closer to your children?
Action Points for Dads on the Journey
- An important metaphor to remember: fathering is a marathon. It’s a long journey, and if your role seems difficult now, that will almost surely change. Do all you can now to set up the situation to get better, not worse.
- Be the designated diaper-changer for the next week (or longer)—or take over some other daily childcare or household task that your children’s mom dreads having to do.
- Sometimes motivation is the biggest obstacle to our fathering; we don’t always feel like going out to play catch, having a chess match in the den or helping with homework. Sometimes it takes real effort to be a father. But if you dive in and get involved, you won’t regret it.
- Is your older child going through something difficult? Make sure you allow time to just be there and listen when he/she is ready to talk. Just have eager ears, an open mind, a listening heart.
- When your child loses, fails, or gets rejected, treat him or her extra special. Send a clear message that “I love you and I’m proud of you no matter what.”
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