As many of us grew up, our expectations may have changed as we learned about the costs and realities of becoming our initial “dream job”.
Regardless of the career path we ended up choosing, most men started our preparatory training early in life – concentrating on those courses and skills we’d need to excel in our future job. This may have included joining clubs to learn more about our interests, apprenticing to learn trade skills, and working on our physical and mental discipline. Even following our traditional school years, we continue to work our way up the ladder, pursue advanced schooling, engage in self-study, seek additional responsibilities from our immediate supervisor, etc. to continue to grow in our professional field.
I’ve always found it interesting that boys and young men usually “have a plan” to get where they want to be. Sure, for some it’s more detailed and for others it’s somewhat sketchy. Either way, there’s usually some ambition driving a focus.
In contrast to this developmental plan to pursue a dream job, we face something that was always certain: boys grow up and almost all of them earn one or two titles upon entering adulthood: husband; and often father, too. What training, education, or preparation did we pursue to be ready for these job duties?
In the past, I’ve asked our scouts (ages 11-17) how they plan to get ready to become husbands or dads. The very first time I asked, I think they were all very puzzled by the question. It may have been the context of the scout meeting that put them off, but for some, I wonder whether it was the first time a stranger posed the question so bluntly. Growing up in larger families, many of our scouts have had to help out with younger children and may have never given it any thought about “how to get ready” for these careers of husband and father.
But I sure did capture their attention once the puzzlement wore off that evening.
I made the comparison to getting ready to go on a mission to Mars to getting ready to be a husband or father and they figured it out – if we know we’re going to Mars, we have to plan for food, air, fuel, tools, repairs, everything we’ll need, but somehow we think getting into a lifelong relationship and raising children is something that requires little if any pre-planning for success. It’s something we do as we go along — flying by the seat of our pants, hoping and praying that it goes smoothly.
To some degree, we do learn “the family business” by watching our parents and helping out with younger children to some extent (whether cousins, nephews/nieces, etc.). However, I thought back to my own childhood and realized several things.
I didn’t do any baby sitting as a teen, and as the youngest son in our house, I didn’t get much exposure to the daily routines of tending to a baby or toddler.
I can remember the morning my son Stephen was born. Even as I learned how to change a diaper for the first time in the hospital, Stephen spit up some of his breakfast. The nurse looked at me and said – “You’re up, dad! Tend to him before he chokes to death” I felt rather helpless at that moment and annoyed that the nurse didn’t rush to bail me out of the situation. She recognized the look on my face, and, after rolling her eyes at me, calmly showed me what to do, but admonished me to pay close attention since I’d be on my own from now on. I’ll tell you she had my full attention – since I realized that there wasn’t an owner’s manual or a DVD with “how to troubleshoot” segments to watch. And babies are wholly dependent on their parents in a very real and very immediate way — if I ignored Stephen he literally could die from choking on spit up or any number of situations.
It’s true that we can stumble into success, but I’ve challenged them to think about how much easier, better, stronger, and more successful they could be as husbands and dads if they took steps to think about it and get ready for it. No one questions a sincere effort to master advanced math and science if becoming an engineer, but how much more valuable would it be to get ready to be a husband and dad?
We need sharp engineers to make better and stronger “things” like earthquake proof structures, airplanes that pollute less while getting us there faster, etc. We value expert trades people who can fix our homes, cars and build anything we need. But what if we took some of that desire for excellence, that drive for creativity, the quest for innovation and funneled some more of it into building stronger families who loved God, functioned smoothly during stressful times and placed even greater value on the upbringing of the next generation? Not just feeding, clothing and providing toys to children, but really teaching them and leading them in all matters of living with faith being the most vital?
Deuteronomy 6:1-9 (NASB) states:
Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the judgments which the Lord your God has commanded me to teach you, that you might do them in the land where you are going over to possess it, so that you and your son and your grandson [a multi-generational issue] might fear the Lord your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged. O Israel, you should listen and be careful to do it, that it may be well with you and that you may multiply greatly, just as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey. [we get a fulfilled promise if we obey] “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! [in a world filled with idols that would distract us, we must hold God alone as most important and the only true, living God.] You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
The message is indisputable — we are commanded to put God first in our lives and to put a focus on delivering a multi-generational result, we need to diligently teach our sons about God’s expectations. When? Sunday School? (once a week?) No — at all times. Through living a good life and setting an example and hoping they catch on by observation? No — we’re to proactively teach our sons so that they’re prepared to teach their sons. Quietly and subtly? No — it says two write these words on the doorposts of our home and it’s gates for everyone to see. Parenting represents a choice, a commitment and a willingness to sacrifice our own interests (Mt. 16:24-25) in order to assure the right, best results.
How important is this commandment from God?
The effects of dads being absent from homes has been very well documented in very visible and disturbing statistics. Realize that the portion of the story untold by these statistics is the impact on the mom, too. Sure, kids without dads are more likely to end up in trouble, but their moms are struggling alone and the lack of a partner hurts them, too. Over time, single moms have learned to build support groups and they do an amazing job despite terrible circumstances, but ask them if they’d rather have it work the way God intended — I don’t imagine they’d argue that there’s a better way, and if they could have had the right man in their lives (one prepared by his own dad for the titles husband and father) then it would be ideal.
Take a look at the current situation:
From the National Fatherhood Initiative (www.fatherhood.org):
- According to 2011 U.S. Census Bureau data, over 24 million children live apart from their biological fathers. That is 1 out of every 3 (33%) children in America
- Children who live absent their biological fathers are, on average, at least two to three times more likely to be poor, to use drugs, to experience educational, health, emotional and behavioral problems, to be victims of child abuse, and to engage in criminal behavior than their peers who live with their married, biological (or adoptive) parents
- Father involvement in schools is associated with the higher likelihood of a student getting mostly A’s. This was true for fathers in biological parent families, for stepfathers, and for fathers heading single-parent families.
According to Fatherhood.gov:
- When fathers are involved in the lives of their children, especially their education, their children learn more, perform better in school, and exhibit healthier behavior.
- Boys with actively involved fathers tend to get better grades and perform better on achievement tests.
- Research shows that even very young children who have experienced high father involvement show an increase in curiosity and in problem solving capacity. Fathers’ involvement seems to encourage children’s exploration of the world around them and confidence in their ability to solve problems.
- Children with actively involved fathers display less behavior problems in school.
Other stats about dads:
- 63% of teen suicides come from fatherless homes. That’s 5 times the national average. SOURCE: U.S. Dept of Health
- 85% of all children who show behavior disorders come from fatherless homes – 20 times the average. (Center for Disease Control)
- 90% of fathers surveyed said that being a father is the most fulfilling role a man can have. SOURCE: W. Jean, et al. “Children’s Time with Fathers in Intact Families.” American Sociological Association.
So we could make the case that simply “being there” makes a big difference. Many of the web sites that published the statistics we mentioned above suggest that dads who connect in some (any) meaningful way will make a difference. However, simply occupying space in a home isn’t fulfilling responsibilities delineated by God — its being a tenant.
Thankfully, our scouts have strong families and they’re not likely to settle for merely “being there” as a husband or dad. Further they have the opportunity to step it up a notch or three by getting prepared with the same sort of intensity of pursuing their dream job. Imagine how that sort of focus, drive, ambition to excel as “husband” and “father” would benefit their future wife and children!
Unfortunately, it’s a bit beyond the scope of this blog article to provide directions and instructions that could take a lifetime to fully implement and excel at using. Suffice it to say that I’m merely trying to:
- encourage current dads to keep on trying their best and if you’re not sure what to try to up your game, check out the resources listed below.
- remind scouts that you’re getting older each day. There’s no rush to get married and to have children, but for most of you, your time will arrive some day – will you be ready, will you be struggling like I did, or will you have prepared yourselves to be the very best husband and father you could possibly be?
Five books I’ve recently read that I’d recommend if you want to take it another step forward include:
- Follow Me by Jan David Hettinga — start by getting yourself on the right path with God
- Stepping Up (a call to courageous manhood) by Dennis Rainey — next, dig into understanding our roles and responsibilities as men through each stage of life from boy to patriarch
- What He Must Be (…If He Wants to Marry My Daughter) by Voddie Baucham Jr. — written as advice to parents of children approaching marriage age, it examines what the Bible tells us about the desired character of men and women in light of marriage.
- King Me (what every son wants and needs from his father) by Steve Farrar — to discover practical ways to mentor your son – for boys, you may want to read this with your dad, but you’ll want to think about this before you have sons of your own
- Failing Forward (turning mistakes into stepping stones for success) by John C. Maxwell — a leadership book, but one that encourages risk taking by learning to let go of fear of failure – we must take reasonable risks or become paralyzed by a life where we fail to engage at all to avoid mistakes.
Additionally, it probably goes without a need to say that you should search the Bible as your primary source of guidance, but I’ll say it anyway.
Ecclesiastes 4:12b says “A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.” – this reminds me that:
- when I focus on honoring God, He will take care of me.
- Likewise, when I strive to honor my wife, she returns the support and
- when I’m involved with my children, they bring me joy as I watch them grow and mature.
These three relationships, God and me, Wife and me, Children and me, can make an excessively strong family when they’re linked and intertwined together – when we set the right priorities and put effort into making them genuine relationships, not much can break that bond unless my focus becomes “me, me, me” — then the cord is easily broken since it’s only one strand thick.
I hope your families enjoyed BOTH mother’s day and father’s day this year. Your parents deserve your honor and respect at any age. Preparing to be the best Dad or Mom pays dividends and is commanded by God in Deuteronomy (and is offered with a great promise, too).