Perhaps you were thinking dad needed a riding lawn mower (there is a new one for over
$10,000 with cup holders and a place for an iPod) or maybe a nice box of chocolate cigars.
Take it from me, the reason it is so difficult to get a Father's Day gift is because most dads
themselves don't know how to articulate what they truly desire.
All of my parental life, I worked odd hours. My schedule was almost always the opposite
of my wife's. At one point, I was commuting every day to Sacramento. At another point, I was
leaving the house at 5am and not returning until after 7pm. I worked nights and weekends.
My wife would work all day plus cook dinner for our children. She would read to them every
night a family favorite, Cheaper by the Dozen, while they ate. She got them ready for bed.
When I was home, one of my favorite duties was singing them to sleep. I sung the girls a
re-worked version of Goodnight Irene (inspired by the Weavers). Since my daughter's middle
name is Eileen, it became Goodnight Eileen.
In a totally sexist manner, I sang Take Me Out to the Ball Game to my sons. Years later,
when my daughter was back East at college, she would call me sometimes while I was at work.
She would be wound up, upset, or unable to sleep and she would ask me to sing to her. Don't
tell anyone, but I would put on commercials and then sing her a couple of verses until she
calmed down and say goodnight. For some reason, neither son has ever asked to hear Take
Me Out to the Ball Game again. Singing to them, hanging out with them, playing with them,
and attending their games, plays, recitals, and performances are my favorite memories. But,
the heavy lifting of parenthood fell on my wife. She was also tougher and more consistent.
Becoming a father forced me to expand my definition and capacity to love. It gave me a
key epiphany about God. When my oldest daughter was born, I loved her with my whole heart
and soul. When my second daughter was about to arrive, I started to worry. I loved my first
child so much. I loved her completely and unconditionally. I would give my life for her. I was
worried where the love would come from for a second child. She was born with jet black hair
and for the first and only time I got to name one of my children (Darcy!-a name suggested by
listeners that is Gaelic for raven-haired). The moment I saw her, my heart leaped and my love
for her knew no bounds. At that moment, it hit me like a ton of bricks. This is how it is with
God. God's love is infinite and boundless and is there for each of us. My capacity to love
expanded exponentially with the arrival of each of my children. Can you imagine what the
creation of each new person, since the dawn of time, has done to God's ability to love and Her
desire for us to be the most we can be? This so affected God that She ultimately introduced
us to Her Son Jesus, so we could all love each other with no limits. This epiphany is the gift
my children have given to me.
Father Joe Walsh says the key to life is forgiveness, forgiveness, forgiveness. Becoming
a parent taught me this. I understand the desire to be waiting, ready with open arms, to
welcome my children back under all circumstances. I now understand the father in the
Prodigal Son parable, and why he throws a huge party for the son who "...was lost and is now
found". As a parent, we learn that forgiveness runs both ways.
Some say children eventually see their father with feet of clay and as a flawed creature.
It's part of growing up. If so, I have given my children a crash course in flawed parenthood.
They have been hurt and embarrassed and forced to look at their dad warts and all. As their
father, I didn't love them enough to protect them from my stupid and risky behavior. Worse
still, they didn't get to discover this in private, but rather in front of everyone they knew or
who knew them. It would have been perfectly understandable if they had thrown me under
the bus and washed their hands of our relationship. I wouldn't have blamed them. Instead,
they have walked with me on this journey. They have stood shoulder to shoulder with me.
They have extended forgiveness. It goes both ways it seems...how about a parable about the
My wife and children have taught me what family and parenthood and forgiveness are
all about. Once again, their love for me, their willingness to condemn the sin but not the
sinner, their capacity to grow in love, and give me insight into the same dynamic we have
with God. These insights are my family's gift to me.
So, while Father's Day will already have passed by the time you read this; perhaps the
mothers and fathers and our children can take the time to reflect. To all you dads, don't wait
until you screw up to appreciate and be grateful for how much you are loved. Love your
children enough to model for them how to handle adversity and how to live honorable and
compassionate lives. Marvel at the depth of your love for them and imagine how much you
are valued in God's eyes. Kids and dads screw up. Many aren't around enough. They get
caught up in "providing" when "loving" is what you want. Father's Day is merely a reminder
that every day should be filled with unconditional love. And that Love Lived is more
important and more powerful than a new propane, laser guided, rotisserie-equipped, four
burner (with warming drawer) barbecue. I wish I had learned all of this sooner, but it's better
than never learning it at all. I'm a fortunate man. Please comment at firstname.lastname@example.org