I held him at my neck and strode gently across the driveway. His small breath tickled my skin.
I didn’t want him to wake, but longed for him to know. ‘We might never have a lot of money,’ I confessed in a whisper, as we continued towards the house. ‘You might not have the coolest toys, or a house that friends talk about…’
We ascended the front steps, his infant body a dead weight in my arms. Deep sleep. Complete surrender.
‘…Your old dad might not be famous, or drive a black fast car.’
I eased open the door and ducked into the house. Down the hallway, left into his room. The afternoon sun shone through the windows and I drew the curtains with one arm, with he collapsed in the other.
‘But there is one thing I do know,’ I breathed, as I lowered him into his cot.
He rubbed his eyes with balled fists and rolled onto his front.
‘I will always be there’.
And he let out a sigh and carried on with his sleep.
The core question
When it comes to being a dad (and probably a mum too but I don’t know a lot about that), for some reason it’s a challenge to remember and value the biggest part of our job.
Maybe it’s fear that makes us forget; a fear of not having what it takes to be a great dad, which distracts us. Do you ever worry that you don’t have enough to offer as a father? Enough security perhaps, or experiences and opportunities.
It seems that being a dad requires something, something so significant, which we can’t quite comprehend or get our head around; and that feeling of being needed, of being depended upon can shake us to the core, especially when we feel utterly inadequate for the position.
A couple of days after Sasha was born (that’s him on the left in the photo, with his cousin), when it was time to take him and Irina home from hospital I went down from the ward to bring the car to the front and get his car seat ready.
I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t figure out how to strap the flaming thing in. And I remember the feeling so well. Tangled among a mass of seat belt and straps – I felt angry and I felt alone.
I was furious that I didn’t know how to do something so basic. This is the guy my unfortunate family have to look after them – one who can’t work out how to strap in a car seat? A deep fear swept over me like a shadow in that moment – What else am I going to be unable to do? Everything, surely, if I can’t manage this?
Thankfully after two years the car seat is no longer a significant source of torment. But there are other worries and fears always tapping at the door, and the same question at the heart of them all remains – Do I have what it takes?
The most important and most neglected thing
Allowing fear to dictate the way we live is the worst way to make good choices. I want my family to have more. That’s not a bad thing, but sometimes I let the worry that I won’t be able to facilitate it consume me. I voyage into the mist, to another world, to agonize and obsess to scheme and to work.
When I’m focused on what I feel I’m lacking, I forget what I actually do have, and overlook the biggest need – the one I can meet – a dad who is present.
Some of us have gotten so tired of not being enough that we’ve given up altogether, in hopelessness hiding in sport or work or the shed, beaten down by the belief that we’re second-rate, and no matter how hard we try we’ll never be able to meet the needs and wants and prove ourselves successful.
Actually, you do have what it takes
We do this because we don’t realise what we have to give. Did you know that just as you are, you already have what it takes to supply the needs of your loved ones? It’s taken a little while for me to work this out, but it’s great news that encourages me a lot.
How? You might be thinking, I don’t have the money or the influence to make my family happy.
Right at the heart of every want and need of every person on the planet is love. It is the greatest craving of our families, and whether you believe it or not, you have the ability to satisfy it.
A father has the ability to meet this need in his children like no one else. There is no thing or person that can can quench the hunger for acceptance and affirmation like a dad can. By simply being around, spending time and taking an interest, we can have an amazing impact on their lives.
If our children know from a young age that dad thinks they’re awesome, they will spend the rest of their lives knowing that they are. If a son enters his teens knowing that he is compassionate and strong, will he ever doubt his potential to change the world? If a daughter knows that she is courageous and beautiful, will she ever put up with anyone who makes her feel anything less?
What a privilege it is to be involved in building those kind of foundations.
It’s the main thing
Turning our attention toward our families is not secondary, but the greatest need, and our greatest calling is to meet it.
No amount of stuff or money or holidays can replace simply being there – sharing time and experiences. We cannot show real love from a distance. We can’t meet the deepest longing of the human heart from afar. To love is to come close and to stay near.
And this might mean working through one or two things, because when we decide to stop hiding in activity and push near to anyone, bits and pieces inside of us inevitably begin to wriggle their way to the surface and they can hurt and irritate and the whole thing can be unpleasant for a time. But don’t let that stop you. It is more worth it than you know, to be able to love freely.
There is an awesome assignment, and you’re the only person on the planet that can carry it out. Our presence with our kids is more valuable than anything else they could have!