Originally published in the News Star and the Shreveport Times on Sunday, June 19, 2016.
Question: My wife and I have been married a long time and we are finally having our first child. It took us a long time to get pregnant and frankly we had sort of given up. But now this one comes along and we are so excited. What financial things do I need to be thinking about as a new father?
Answer: We’ve all heard that there are some things that money can’t buy.
My paternal corollary to that financial proverb is, “There are some things only a Real Father can do.”
First I need to define terms. It’s easy to be a just a father. A just-a-father has made a strategic biological connection with a specific obstetric result. And that’s it. Nothing else. There are many, many consequences and ripple effects of that strategic biological moment, but a just-a-father has little or no thought about any of that.
Most of us have read the statistics of what a huge economic difference fathers make in a family. Children in father-absent homes are five times more likely to be poor, for example.
But it goes a lot further than just money. Children in father-absent homes (who have just-a-fathers) are more likely to be high school drop outs, drug users, in jail, sexually active far too early or sexually abused.
Just-a-fathers have not earned and do not deserve our respect. Today is not their day.
Today let’s celebrate Real Fathers. Who are these guys and what do they do?
A Real Father protects what is important. Mothers protect as well, but a Real Father understands that he has a role to play in protecting his mate and his children, and no one can do it for him. He understands that protecting these means sacrificing a little (or a lot) of himself to do so.
Protection includes, but is not limited to, obvious acts of heroism. A Real Father thinks about predatory forces, as well as all the incidental or accidental events that may cause harm to his children. So he checks the fire alarms and buys the life insurance. But he also makes sure he understands what his children are viewing online, who they are being influenced by in their social group, and who wants to teach them what at school and elsewhere.
A Real Father protects innocence, opportunity and liberty for his children.
A Real Father provides what is important. Women today play a significant role in providing income for their families. But the statistics are not pretty for families without a father to provide. So a father provides economically. That means he goes to work to provide for his family, even if work does not meet some deep emotional need in his soul. He’s dad. He works.
But a Real Father doesn’t stop there. A Real Father provides emotionally. Work is fine and everyone understands (or should) if he has to be absent to get his work done. But work does not consume 100% of a Real Father’s time or emotional resources. Even at the end of a long, tiring day, a Real Father reaches deep within and finds the resources necessary to give, just a little bit more, emotionally to those he loves. And they love him for it.
A Real Father promotes what is important. Real Fathers aren’t passive. They don’t sit idly by, scrolling through the latest social media posts, while Mom oversees everything from bath time to homework.
A Real Father finds time to go to the game, help with the homework, listen to the heart-broken teen (as one man told me, it may only be puppy love, but its real to the puppy!) and talk with that…thing…that wants to take his one-in-a-million daughter out on a date.
A Real Father portrays what is important. It’s not enough to talk a good talk. If the kids see Dad talking one way, and walking another, confusion and rebellion are just over the horizon.
A Real Father is tender and loving to his wife, showing his sons how a man treats a woman. And perhaps even more important, giving his daughters a “man standard” to which every potential suitor had better measure up.
And if he wants his children to grow up with a sense of the transcendent, he makes sure his words about God and his lifestyle aren’t contradicting one another.
If all that sounds like hard work, it is. It the hardest and best work to which any man will ever give himself.
If you’ve got a Real Father in your life, tell him so today. And you’re just-a-father today, make today the day you make the switch to become a Real Father.
Because there are some things only a Real Father can do.
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