MANY YEARS AGO, in a land far, too far away, my three-year-old son sat excitedly on my lap before bedtime while together we read a picture book based on Treasure Island. As Long John Silver, cutlass in hand, chased young Jim across the page and through the jungle, the boy within my arms suddenly knit his brow and looked up at me.
“Daddy,” he burst out, “do pirates wear pajamas?”
Startled, I drew back. “Uh, well, that’s…uh, a really great question!” I managed.
When I was much younger and unmarried, my father once told me, “If you never have children, you’ll miss out on one of life’s greatest adventures.”
He was right.
But I hasten to add, it’s no cakewalk. Adventures, by nature, often lead to unexpected places, where your otherwise comfortable assumptions can get picked off quicker than pieces-of-eight on a treasure chest.
Once, when he was about six, my son and I went for a hike in the woods and found ourselves up against a sloping hill packed with boulders. We took a long and measured look, nodded finally, and up we went. Scraping knees and clinging onto whatever cracks and knobs we could, at last we stood triumphantly together at the peak.
“Whew!” I exclaimed in relief. “That was sure an adventure!” Pausing to whack boulder dust off my pants, I added “--but it was pretty scary.”
“Daddy,” the boy countered, brushing aside my disclaimer like so much boulder dust, “it’s not an adventure unless it’s a little scary.”
He, too, was right.
Welcome to the adventure of fathering. It is indeed more than a little scary.
When you first became a dad, you got that bestseller, How to be a Perfect Dad in 5 Easy Lessons--right? Me neither. That one went out of print long before my father and I were born.
From the get-go, a dad is nine months behind the starting line. The overwhelming bodily demands of a mother’s pregnancy bond her deeply to the child. The father-bond, however, is not so natural. Its root, in fact, must be super-natural. As such, it requires a heart operation to recognize and engage.
That’s what this book is about.
Sure, it’s not all fun. Fathering exposes your weak spots, calls for sacrifice, a readiness to be wounded, and perseverance. Over the years, however, I’ve come to see these challenges as a father’s labor pains—which have bonded me increasingly to my son.
Even as both pain and joy deepen your faith, the lessons of fathering are the character of God.
- A Father Is Born,
- Can Daddy Come out and Play? Pre-School Hugs: Sex Ed 101 for Dad,
- Trucks Are for Crashing: Helping Mommy Understand,
- Reclaiming the Father Instinct,
- Daddy’s a Bad Mechanic (But a Good Son),
- “What Does She Want, Daddy?”: Sex Ed 201 for Dad,
- Coyote Moon: The Poetry of Fathering,
- “I’m Scared, Daddy—Are you?,”
- The Dad Who Cried Wolf: Praying Dangerously,
- Standby Alert: When You Can’t Be There, Effective Single Dads
When Saul saw David going out to fight Goliath, he asked Abner, the commander of his army, “Abner, whose son is he?”
“I have no idea, Your Majesty,” Abner answered.
“Then go and find out,” Saul ordered. (1 Sam 17:55)
- Never trust a dad without spit-up on his pajamas.
- Whatever you don’t forgive your father for, you’ll do to your son.
- Like Jesus, the ministry of the child is to restore innocence to this world.
- Nothing helps you know God’s love like being a father yourself.
- Watch for what God is doing in your child, and bless it.
- A boy will heed his father’s No only as deeply as he has enjoyed his father’s Yes.
- With his daughter, a dad’s job is to teach her how men think.
Soon after my first book Healing the Masculine Soul promised in 1988 to pioneer a Christian men’s movement, people began asking me, “When are you going to write a book on fathering?”
“Call me when I’ve got some experience!” I laughed.
Now, 25 years later, I’ve got it. At least, enough to know I can’t give my son everything he needs and to trust the Father of us both to provide it for him--as He’s done for me.
“Dad, I want to give my son the best.”
Gordon Dalbey, 1944 -
“No, you want him to have the best.”
Earle Dalbey, 1916 - 2010
These stories I‘ve collected over the years shine brighter as I try to grasp what so many other dads told me 21 years ago when I became a father: “Enjoy this time—it’ll be over before you know it!”
They, too, were right. It’s gone by in a flash.
But I took their advice and really did enjoy it.
May these stories help you do the same.
“Father God, I really like telling stories about my son!”
“So do I!”