When I first found out I was going to be a dad, I was both excited and partially paralyzed. I was proud as a peacock and scared as a rabbit; I was confident and nervous. I was all of these things at the same time. “No way am I equipped for such a responsibility,” I told my friends. “What am I good at as a dad? This job needs to go to somebody with the appropriate set of gifts.” I was wrong, of course. It turns out that this task, this responsibility, this opportunity would be one of the most important assignments of my life. I was – I am – specifically gifted to be the father of such a remarkable son and, later, the most challenging of daughters. What I had to do (and I didn’t do this alone) was to figure out what those gifts are and learn how to apply the great resource of myself to the task at hand. The fact is, being a great dad isn’t as hard as we imagine.
But how does this happen? How can dads rise not only to the occasion but to the long haul of rearing these unique and beautiful creations? What are you good at as a dad? Discovering your essential dad-ness is a process of discovery. Here are five important steps to do that.
Allow yourself to love with abandon.
Dads were created to be good at love, so don’t snuff it out because you’re afraid. The moment we begin to erect barriers to our emotions (and it’s almost a reflex for guys), we begin to edge away from the full Dad experience. Our own tenderness scares us sometimes, but vulnerability is essential if we are to love beyond reason.
Avoid falling into the “cultural stereotypes” trap.
Men are “supposed” to be fixers, doers, and advocates of “suck it up”. But it turns out, I’m a big nurturer. What do dads do when they don’t have easy answers or some “try this” advice? This dad found out he had a gift for holding his children tight, rocking them to sleep, and just listening when there was nothing else to do.
Pay attention to what comes naturally.
God equipped me with a lot of patience so I used it on my kids. I’ve always enjoyed listening to and helping people get to the root of their story so I learned to listen rather than lecture. I love to play so I ended up on the floor pushing cars around and building with blocks. Think about what comes naturally to you. That can be your gift to your kids.
Don’t be afraid to try.
A man who never fails at anything has seldom pushed at the edges of his comfort zone. A man who never fails at anything has seldom pushed at the edges of his comfort zone. The first time I successfully “French-braided” my daughter’s hair, I got her to school almost an hour late. But what fun 90 minutes of trying, failing, trying, and succeeding. “Believe me,” I told the other dads, “you’re going to wish you knew how to do this!”
Ask for help.
It wasn’t until I surrounded myself with a group of encouraging, “I’m there for you” men (a small group at church) that I realized how much I had to offer my own children. No man is an island, and a supportive community is critical if we want to discover what’s possible. Maybe what you’re good at as a dad is looking into the resources of support and friendship other motivated dads can provide. But you won’t know if you don’t try… don’t ask… aren’t willing to fail… resist allowing yourself to love without holding back.