Tuesday, June 12, 2012

My Father's Day Hero

The third Sunday in every June is set apart to commemorate fathers. It began humbly in 1910 by a woman wishing to honor the role her Civil War veteran father played in single-handedly raising his six children after she listened to a May sermon extolling the virtues of mothers. Sonoroa Dodd wanted the celebration to be on June 5, her father's birthday, but her pastor didn't believe there was enough time to adequately prepare a sermon and participation from the community on such short notice. It was decided to move the celebration to the third Sunday of June, where it more or less stayed until 1972 when it was finally instituted into law by President Richard Nixon. You may wonder at the need for 62 years of deliberation between the inception of Father's Day (rightly spelled Fathers' Day as a plural possessive, but inadvertently misspelled as Father's Day in the original 1913 bill presented to Congress and never changed) and its final status of legal holiday. The primary push-back for officially acknowledging men in their parental roles was a fear of commercialization. Much of the country believed the holiday was just another way to give men's clothier and snuff shops an excuse to drive up sales. While it has become a "second Christmas" for many specialized men's retailers, I think most of us recognize the far greater weight of taking a moment to see the value in men who dedicate their hearts to loving the next generation. These are remarkable people, indeed.

Fathers come in many shapes and sizes - men who have filled the role of mentor in our life. Grandfathers, uncles, pastors, teachers, employers and friends (along with dads) often provide a network of support that could all rightly be seen as the role of father fulfilled. But I strongly believe we are made to connect with one special man who ideally encompasses unconditional love, discipleship and influence. I want to take a moment, on the eve of this special day, to commemorate my Father's Day hero.


It may at first appear a little strange that I see my own husband in this role. He isn't substantially older than me. Doesn't play a paternal role in my own life. Never condescends to me. But what he has given me is a picture of fatherhood through his relationship with our children that simply overwhelms me with gratitude! Christopher is the most amazing daddy. Because my own view of parenting was uniquely shaped by a single mom I didn't really understand the intricacies of having a man present in the upbringing of children. My mom worked hard, provided, nursed, supported, guided, disciplined, sacrificed, loved and for better or worse did it herself. I had no intentions of being a single mother (neither did she!). But being married to my children's father and actually parenting as a complimentary team are two very different things. From the beginning men bring a unique and passionate experience to the proverbial table. For instance, studies show that men tend to hold their infants and babies against their chests facing outward while women hold these children facing inward. I trust you can see the larger picture of fathering exemplified in this simple act. Father's engage their children with the world, teaching them how to view themselves as part of a larger entity that doesn't revolve around them. When the parenting team is able to work collaboratively it naturally follows that mothers create a nest of safety, fathers create a vision for exploration.

I came to appreciate these differences as baby after baby arrived, and obviously needed us both. But what surprised me even more than my children's evident need for a father was how strong my own reaction was to watching a daddy in action. Christopher has shown me, through his amazing love towards his children, about the amazing love I have in my Heavenly Father. Seeing his leadership, and deep concern for the welfare of every son and daughter, has grown in me my own trust for God's sovereign plan even when I don't understand it. And the sacrifices he makes to be present, involved and emotionally attached to every little person bearing his name reminds me that Jesus Christ invites me into a personal relationship with him on a daily basis. I have experienced a great deal of healing through seeing the joy in my own children as they grow up under the protection of a man who not only pays the bills but invests in the lives of his beloved.

The time is approaching for us to bring home another little person. I'm excited about the ways I will again watch my strong, capable husband tenderly care for the needs of a newborn. But really, I'm excited every day as I watch him listen to our 13 year old daughter digest adult truths for the first time. I am humbled by his interactions with our 11 year old daughter who needs copious amounts of physical affection. It is wonderful to see him share dreams with our 9 year old son. He makes me chuckle every time he chases our 7 year old daughter, reminding her that he will embarrass her on purpose. I sometimes blink back tears when I see him light up at the sight of our 6 year old daughter racing into his arms after a long day at work. He genuinely loves coming home. It is encouraging to watch him set aside his evening's plan in order to read another Dr. Seuss book to our 4 year old son. And I am reminded of the importance to always keep first things first when he plays "copy cat" with our 3 year old daughter, standing on his chair at the dinner table making our entire family roar with laughter.

He bent over my belly just a moment ago to whisper sweet words of love to his teeniest "buhbee."

I love this daddy.

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