The Fatherhood Mystery Part 2

Mark and Dad Acrobats
My Father is the builder and architect 
of my self esteem

by HX 

Despite coming from an intact home and  a father was home every night at 5:30, my Dad remembers only ever speaking to his Dad on a handful of occasions.  Theirs was a deeply strained and difficult relationship, that unfortunately never healed in this lifetime.  My Dad had been raised in a selfish, suspicious, unhealthy environment that to this day still seeps into how he deals with life. 

I have friends who excuse their husband's absentee parenting with a sad, "He just never had a good relationship with his father -- he doesn't know how to be a Dad."  

It makes me even more grateful for my Dad.  His relationship with his father was lacking in every single way and yet, I could not have a better Dad.  He looked at his childhood relationships and said, "What did I want?  What would I have changed?  What did I resent?  What hurt?  What can I do so this doesn't repeat itself for another generation?"  

I learned about redemption from my Dad.  

He took a bad situation, don't we all have bad situations in one part of our life or another and improved it.  

This shows me just how capable we are of changing our lives.  

He encourages us to let go of baggage, to find what works in life and leave the rest behind.  Learn from the past, but don't revisit it so often that we leave the door open to it.  He may not be able to leave it all behind in his lifetime, but because of his efforts, my childhood wasn't like his.  He did it, in one generation he changed our family forever.  That is the power of one person making themselves better.  

All of my strongest spiritual experiences and dearly held beliefs came from my less-than-ideal-Dad.  Because he talked to us, we knew we were the most important part of his life, we were loved.  

If my imperfect father loved me that much, it was not hard for me to imagine a God who loved me infinitely.  

The gospel of Jesus Christ made sense to me from a young age.  I had complete faith in the reality of great and limitless love.  Later on, in my early 20s, my Dad had a renewal of faith and has since become a very active, believing member of our faith.  There was something about watching his struggle and slow journey to a testimony of Jesus Christ that helped me in my own.  

My father never expected us to fit some mold faith, instead he actively encouraged us to find our own answers and conclusion.  Then, he was completely respectful and proud of our decisions on faith, even when they were different than his own.  

He challenged us to think deeper, uncover the truths behind random rules and figure out why it was we were doing what we were doing.  He never wanted us to blindly obey him or anyone else.  

He was honest about things he didn't understand. I knew that his most sacredly held belief, the very core of his spiritual self, was the belief that family was the most important gift of God.  The one thing that kept him searching for any belief in Jesus Christ was that he felt too richly blessed as a father and husband for it to have not come from somewhere bigger than chance.  

I don't know if I can put into words what that meant to a young kid.  

Your mere existence was something so incredible, such a blessing, that it kept even the weakest of men searching for greater meaning in the universe.  

If I had to identify the one thing that made the biggest difference in my life, it was my Dad's open communication. He was open and truthful about himself in ways that were age appropriate and that formed the ongoing conversation of my childhood.  He drew lessons from his mistakes and taught us from them.  

He weaved in the parables of his youth with whatever we were going through.  He'd been there, gone through it before, he was an ally in my life.  A wise general in the battles of my teenage years, who had fought this all before and learned from his mistakes.  

We took frequent road trips during my childhood and rarely had the radio on.  My Dad will tell young Dad's whenever he can,

"Time in the car equals a trapped audience." 

"If you want to know what's going on in your kids' lives, teach them young how to apply practical math--Seven snakes are crossing the road, OH NO! We just ran over three of them and squished their guts all over the road!  How many snakes are left-- or share with them your thoughts about the world, what better time than in the car?"  

Some of my fondest memories of my Dad were of staying up late talking on long drives to Lake Powell or California.  I'm pretty sure I learned the mechanics of menstruation, conception and birth on one of these trips. 

I always knew I could talk about anything with my Dad, because what hadn't we already talked about?
When my little brother was 16, he walked in to my parents bedroom where they were both lying in bed watching TV, and said,

"I was messing around on the computer and came across some porn -- I spent like, 45 minutes looking at it before I really thought about what I was doing!  Can you guys help me with this . . . I want you to change the password on the computer, and check in with me."  

When I first heard this story, I was in the middle of dealing with my husband's porn addiction.  I was so supremely proud of my parents.  They had built this kind of relationship with their son.  

I had aspired for as long as I can remember to be the kind of parent my Dad is, with improvements, of course.  He always told us to learn what we could from him, use the parts that worked and then follow our instincts.  We'd be the best parents we could.  

If there is one thing I will get right as a parent, in the sea of mistakes I will make, I will talk with my kids.  

I will be honest. I will apologize when I need to. I will respect them as individuals with their own opinion., I will never put up walls that would prevent them from coming to me with their most vulnerable questions and mistakes. I won't pretend to be perfect. I will set up clear expectations and talk with them about their aspirations.  I will talk with my kids.  

Just like my Dad.