Posts tagged fatherhood

6 lessons from a first-time dad



Eight months ago my wife, Emily, and I received our first son, Isaac, through the blessing of adoption.  We have spent many years praying about the right time for our family to adopt and felt God moving us toward adoption last year.  Though we read tons of books on parenting during five years of marriage, I was shocked by how under-prepared we were for the realities of the task.

Becoming a father adds a strange and new dynamic to marriage, even if you have a healthy relationship. There are multiple lessons to be learned—about being a dad and about being a good husband/leader.

Dad lessons

1. Just survive. Even though we were not expecting a fairy-tale baby, we drastically underestimated how hard the adjustment would be.  Everything that he needed we had to provide, which meant less time for our own interests. A lot less! Those first few months were just downright hard.

The temptation for any new dad is to escape the madness.  If you are expecting your first child soon, all I can say is … just survive.  Grit your teeth and just get through it.  Every parent goes through it.  I guarantee you, better days are coming.  It will get better.

2. Understand your anger.  In general, I’ve rarely struggled with a temper.  In 20 years of playing organized basketball I have only been charged with one technical foul.  But during the first few months as a parent I was shocked and even embarrassed at how angry I could get.

All the crying can really take its toll.  There was one Saturday that I decided to give Emily a day out to herself, which meant Isaac and me, all day, together (I can hear every woman laughing now).  He literally cried from the moment she started the car until five minutes before she returned.  She was gone for eight hours.  It was as if someone was scraping five-inch nails across a chalkboard all day long.

After opening up to a few people, I found that I was not alone. I found that most new parents wonder if there is something wrong with them because of how angry they get. My mother-in-law even admitted she scared herself with how angry she became.

Although our anger reached new levels, I learned that this is a perfect opportunity to become more like Jesus.  Often with increased anger, sin follows closely.  In Ephesians 4:26, Paul tells us, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.”  I’ve often had to seek forgiveness from Emily for my attitude, and way before the sun ever started to set.

I also started asking forgiveness from Isaac.  He may not understand what I am saying, but it provides great practice for me as he grows up.  Forgiveness is something that we continually need to seek from others as we follow Jesus.

3. Remember that this is God’s child. One night Emily and I were talking about different decisions we would make as Isaac grows.  At some point in the conversation we just stopped.  We realized that we can’t protect him from everything.  And we can’t provide everything he will ever want or need.  But we know who can.

God loves my son more than I could ever love him.  He cares for Isaac more than I ever could.

I can’t explain how liberating it is to say out loud to each other that, “We can’t, but God can.”  He has given us the awesome responsibility to train this little boy.  This is His child.  What an amazing thing to know that God loves Isaac more than I do.

Husband lessons

1. Man up and grab a diaper. As a new dad, it’s easy for me to withdraw and make an excuse that Emily is better at taking care of Isaac and that she doesn’t need me.  But she does need me.

This gives me great opportunity as a man to be creative.  I must look for ways to serve around the house and play an active part in raising Isaac with Emily.  I’ve found that I can be very helpful by taking care of all the dishes, changing diapers, keeping up on household cleaning, and taking out the trash.

Part of being a family leader is learning to anticipate needs that are coming before being asked to do them.  When I look to serve Emily—just to purely serve and take some burden off of her—it goes a long way. In Ephesians, Paul calls all men to love their wives as Christ loves the church.  Christ lived so sacrificially for the church that he died for it.

Why is it that we would be willing to take a bullet for our wives, but we forget the simple act of serving them?  It could be as simple as holding the baby for 30 minutes after work to give my wife a needed break.  So when I feel the urge to flop down into the recliner, I just need to make sure I have the baby with me.

2. Dates are essential. Getting away together is essential to our marriage.  This allows us to fight isolation by feeling like normal people.  We can concentrate more on each other rather than the needs of Isaac.  Isaac is very important, but our marriage is the top priority.

It is also very important to spend some time in conversation about things other than Isaac.  We are still real people.  What has been going on with each of us?  What has God taught us?  Where would we like to go on our next vacation?

This is essential in keeping our sanity.  Our family can’t be all about him.   And dates don’t necessarily have to be in the evening.  Dropping Isaac off at someone’s house on a Saturday to get a few hours out together, even if it is just going to the grocery store, is worth it.

SheafferDanEmilyIsaac3. Stop and enjoy the moment. There have been so many special moments with Isaac.  It was exciting to see his smile develop and to watch him learn to laugh.  I think I could sit for hours and just watch him peacefully sleep.

Many dads miss these little moments.  They miss the birth.  They miss the first few years.  They miss the school years.  They are living in the same house, but miss speaking into the lives of their children.  I know many parents who turn around after their kids leave the house and ask, “Where did the time go?”  No offense to these parents, but I want to be able to turn around when my kids leave the house and say, “I know exactly where the time has gone.  Emily and I have been there hand in hand every step of the way.”

God calls me as a parent to train up our children.  That means it is my responsibility, not someone else’s.  I won’t miss the moments with my kids.  There are so many things in this world vying for the attention of Isaac, and I need to be the voice of truth and love in his life.

I may never achieve perfection.  In fact, I will screw up.  But learning is a process.  Striving to be more like Jesus and love my wife is hard work.

The same is true for you, whether you’re a first-time dad or you’ve been at it for a while.  You don’t have to be perfect today—just work a little each day to love your wife and kids better.  Love with your children is spelled T-I-M-E.  That starts right now.  Go get ‘em, dads!

© 2013 by Dan Sheaffer. Used by permission.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “6 lessons from a first-time dad” by Dan Sheaffer on the Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistWhether a new dad or a veteran, what are some areas where you could be more intentional about fathering?

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistRead the article “Dad University” by Dennis Rainey and get a quick course about being a godly father.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistPass either of these two articles to any young dads or expectant fathers you know. Encourage them in the fraternity of dads.

How to dad



The dud dad is dead.

The superhero of a new Cheerios commercial campaign delivers a mortal wound to feckless fatherhood. The clueless father image propped up by the media for so many years has been stuffed in a closet somewhere and replaced by his superhero nemesis.

“Let me introduce myself. My name is…”

“Dad!” (calls out a child from another room).

“and proud of it. And all dads should be.”

YouTube Preview Image

Being a dad is being a superhero amid real family life: Kids rudely waking you up in the morning, being annoying, being rude to each other, being childish. But these are the same kids who need engagement, encouragement, instruction, and reminders to step up that can only come from a dad.

In the commercial, Cheerios lightheartedly shows “how to dad,” highlighting the things that make dads different from moms, and so endearing to kids. Things like telling hilarious jokes and building the best forts. Like not being afraid of getting messy and like seeing “boo-boos” as badges of bravery. And believing cereal is for breakfast … and lunch, and dinner, and late-night snacks.

The campaign doesn’t pass up the chance to take some great pot shots at today’s perpetual male adolescence. It casually points out that true “awesome” is not about breaking rules but making them, and about wearing your clothes like a man.

But the true focus of the commercial is pointing out (in a fun way) how important dads are to their children.

“Kids: they’re our best friends; they’re our biggest fans. And they look to us the same way we look at superheroes …”

“Up … because we’re taller.”

Throughout the commercial the dad encourages and engages with his children and holds up a high standard by word and example. And from the comments I’ve seen on YouTube, the commercial is doing the same thing for menlaying out for us a standard of fatherhood and encouragement on how to dad.

So, if your wife catches you having that late night cereal snack, tell her you’re just manning up.

Copyright © 2014 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just read a post by Scott Williams, How to dad, on the Stepping Up blog for men by FamilyLife.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistWhat in the video encouraged you in your job as a dad? What area(s) did it make you want to work on?

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistRead “3 Gifts Every Dad Should Give His Kids.” Pick one gift each week and work on that as your “how to dad” assignment.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistShare this blog post and the “How to Dad” video with other dads via Facebook,  Twitter or email.

 

 

What it means to be a man



The following post first appeared on Breakpoint radio broadcast on June 11, 2014.

Two of my recent BreakPoint commentaries—the ones about the Epic Fatherhood initiative and film critic Ann Hornaday’s linking the shootings in Santa Barbara to the stories Hollywood tells us—would appear to be unrelated.

But looking back on them, I find that this isn’t true. Both touch on the same subject: what it means to be a man.

That’s obvious in the case of the one on Epic Fatherhood. But when Hornaday wonders about the possible cultural impact of “outsized frat-boy fantasies” and men being “raised on a steady diet of comedies” featuring “schubbly arrested adolescents,” she’s also talking about manhood.

7MenGraphicWhen I was working on my book, 7 Men: And the Secret of Their Greatness, I thought about the way that our culture has depicted men, specifically fathers, over the past half-century or so.

It’s hard to believe today, but one of the iconic television shows of the 1950s was actually called Father Knows Best. And believe it or not, the title was not ironic! Jim Anderson, played by Robert Young, really did know best. He was kind, patient, generous, and firm when he needed to be.

As the saying goes, that was then and this is, well, not then.

Arguably the defining phrase of what’s been called “the long 1960s,” which ran from approximately 1967 to 1980, was “question authority.” As I wrote in 7 Men, since that time we’ve adopted the idea that no one is really in a position to declare that something is right or wrong. Authority figures and role models have taken a major hit in this process.
Perhaps no one more than dear old dad. Jim Anderson of Father Knows Best was replaced by Archie Bunker, a loud-mouthed bigot, followed by Homer Simpson, a buffoon. Both of them are lovable and fun to watch, but not role models.

Now this lack of male role models in popular culture is tragic for many reasons, one of which is that being a father is an essential part of what it means to be a man. That’s not the same thing as saying that you can’t be a man unless you’re a father—three of the seven men I profiled in 7 Men—George Washington, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Pope John Paul II—did not have children.

But that did not make them any less fathers to the people in their lives. In his biography of John Paul II, Witness to Hope, George Weigel chronicled how the then-named Karol Wojtyla functioned as a father-figure to a group of younger people in his native Krakow.

Likewise, Washington was definitely a father-figure to his men. So much so that he was able to defuse a possible mutiny by unpaid Continental Army veterans, simply through appealing to their shared sacrifices.

And that is the essence of fatherhood and manhood: service and sacrifice. They are what enable a man to avoid the false choices of, on the one hand, “macho” domineering and, on the other hand, the emasculation that denies the differences between the sexes. The men I wrote about in 7 Men “seemed to know that, at the heart of what it is to be a man, is that idea of being selfless, of putting your greatest strength at God’s disposal … of giving what is yours in the service of others.”

We’re extremely unlikely to get the role models we need from mass culture. That makes it especially incumbent on us Christian fathers and men to be those role models, starting at home.

 

MetaxasMug2Eric Metaxas is a Christian biographer of Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy and Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to end Slavery. He was the keynote speaker at the 2012 National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. and currently is co-host of BreakPoint, a daily radio commentary launched by Eric’s mentor Chuck Colson.

A Father’s Prayer from Gen. Douglas MacArthur



In June, 1942, General Douglas MacArthur was named National Father of the Year. The honor came just three months after he moved his family to the Philippines to lead the U.S. Pacific campaign of World War II, a level of honor and responsibility realized by few men. His statement in receiving the award truly revealed his heart and priorities.

father's prayer

“By profession I am a soldier and take pride in that fact. But I am prouder — infinitely prouder — to be a father.

A soldier destroys in order to build; the father only builds, never destroys. The one has the potentiality of death; the other embodies creation and life.

And while the hordes of death are mighty, the battalions of life are mightier still. It is my hope that my son, when I am gone, will remember me not from the battle but in the home repeating with him our simple daily prayer, ‘Our Father Who Art in Heaven.'”

In the early days of that war and campaign, MacArthur acknowledged his dependence on a Heavenly Father when he composed “A Father’s Prayer”:

“Build me a son, O Lord, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, brave enough to face himself when he is afraid, one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat, and humble and gentle in victory.

“Build me a son whose wishes will not take the place of deeds; a son who will know Thee — and that to know himself is the foundation stone of knowledge. 

“Lead him, I pray, not in the path of ease and comfort, but under the stress and spur of difficulties and challenge. Here let him learn to stand up in the storm; here let him learn compassion for those who fail …” 

“Build me a son whose heart will be clear, whose goal will be high; a son who will master himself before he seeks to master other men; one who will reach into the future, yet never forget the past.

“And after all these things are his, add, I pray, enough of sense of humor, so that he may always be serious, yet never take himself too seriously.

“Give him humility, so that he may always remember the simplicity of true greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, and the meekness of true strength.

“Then, I, his father, will dare to whisper, ‘I have not lived in vain.'”

What is your Father’s Prayer for your children? You’ll probably never achieve the level of accomplishment of General Douglas MacArthur, but when all is said and done, what will make you whisper “I have not lived in vain”?

4 reasons why I am very thankful today



I’m sure that you all know about the devastating tornado that ripped through Moore, Oklahoma, recently.  What you don’t know about me yet, is that I am from Norman, Oklahoma, and I live in Central Arkansas, which is relatively nearby. Watching the tragedy unfold on TV, and witnessing the loss of property and lives, my family and I were deeply touched and saddened, as I’m sure you were also.

My sons and I are involved in the Boy Scouts of America together, and we resolved to collect money, bottled water, and other much-needed items, and deliver it to Moore. We also participated in some cleanup work.  Everywhere we went we saw survivors picking up the pieces of their homes with American flags flying high. I love my fellow Okies. God, country, and family are in our blood.

I am so proud of our scouts and how they have stepped up to help others.  The trip we made to Oklahoma was intended to bless the folks there, and I’m sure what we gave, and what we did, was helpful to them, but it was also a huge blessing to me.  I got to see my sons and the boys in my troop reach out and give help and the things they collected to folks that really needed them.

Today, I am very thankful for the kindness, sharing, and giving hearts that I see in my sons.  I see our Father in them, and I don’t mean me.  I see our Heavenly Father reflected in my children’s hearts.  And, I’m so thankful for that.

Seeing all the devastation and loss has made me even more grateful for the three children that my Father has entrusted to my care.  I’m even more resolved to be a good steward of the children God has given me to raise.  I came home from our trip looking forward to speaking a blessing over the ones I have at home.

What about you?  What are you thankful for today? What good traits are you seeing in your children?  Please visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/mensteppingup and share all of the reasons why you are thankful for the traits you see in your children.

6 non-negotiables for training young men (part 2)



The previous post discussed the first of 6 non-negotiables for training young men so they might grow into mature, godly men: They need help assassinating selfishness and pride.

Today’s post focuses on the next two non-negotiables:

Training young men to be men of God2. Young men need to learn and apply fundamental convictions and character qualities to real-life issues.

What are the fundamental values and truths of your life—the lessons you want to pass on? I developed a list of more than fifty items. Here are a few:

  • To know how to love, forgive, and ask for forgiveness. Too many young men know how to make a living but don’t know how to resolve a conflict.
  • To demonstrate common courtesies and communicate honor and respect to others, especially women.
  • To know how to turn away from temptations that men face, such as lust, greed, idolatry, stealing, cheating, and lying.
  • To know how to handle success and failure — some of the best lessons I taught my sons were from my failures as a father and a man.
  • To know how to lead others in the valley when facing tragedy and suffering. I wanted my sons to know that courage is ultimately built on convictions. And convictions are developed as they learn the truth about God and life, and about who they are as men. Convictions and courageous actions occur when life and truth collide. I’ll never forget celebrating a courageous choice to withstand peer pressure that our son Samuel made in college. We cheered him on.
3. They need a relationship with their dad.

A dad’s relationship with his son is the bridge over which truckloads of truth, wisdom, training, and character lessons are driven. If the bridge doesn’t exist, or if it washes out, a boy is dangerously isolated. Dads must keep that bridge in place so the supply lines can flow during the battle. The natural tendency of teenage boys is to push their parents out while inviting peers in. To counter this, dads can map out what their sons like to do and develop common interests so they can enjoy one another and experience life together.

Relationships are built as we are transparent and authentic with our sons. Share your failures and struggles, as well as your successes with your son.

What questions do you have?  Or what successes have you had with your teen or in mentoring a young man toward maturity?

Read the next post for training young men in non-negotiables 4-6

Adapted by permission from Stepping Up, by Dennis Rainey, FamilyLife Publishers, 2012.

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