“And you yourself must be an example to them by doing good works of every kind. Let everything you do reflect the integrity and seriousness of your teaching.” Titus 2:7 NLT
“Old people like to give good advice, as solace for no longer being able to provide bad examples.” Francois, Duc de la Rochefoucauld
“Reflections, maxim 93”
“The difference between the ALMOST right word and the RIGHT word is really a large matter – It’s the difference between the lightening bug and the lightening.” Mark Twain “Letter To George Bainton”
Today is my Son’s birthday.
Mark Twain was right. Finding the right word – or words – IS a big deal. On my Daughter’s birthday, on July 13, I stumbled through the logjam of thoughts and emotions that clogged my mind, and my heart, and I searched for words that might help another father understand a little better exactly what is at risk when we fail to live up to the tremendous responsibility that becomes ours the first moment we hold our Daughters and gaze upon their innocence.
The responsibility of fatherhood is just as great when a Son is born, even though it is different. I have arrived at this way of looking at those responsibilities: We should, first and foremost, be fierce protectors of our children. But for a daughter, we should live as clear examples of the kind of man we would want our Daughter to marry; for a son, we should live as clear examples of the kind of man we want our Son to BE.
On the surface, this is a simple goal, but it is much more difficult to accomplish than most of us would care to admit. I have learned these last 3+ years that it is ONLY with God’s guidance that we can accomplish either objective, no matter what anyone may say to the contrary.
That is a lesson I have learned from God. And it is a lesson that I pray ALL men learn.
Lessons come hard for me, it seems. But from the pain of that thing which I allowed to keep me separate from my Daughter for so many years, I learned that holding, hugging, kissing, and saying “I love you” DAILY to a child to whom one has given life is the GREATEST responsibility of fatherhood. It is an undeniable fact that I have failed my Son in many ways, just as I have failed my daughter, but I did not fail in that. He is as precious to me today as he was that very first time I held him. So is my Daughter, but the difference is that Anthony KNOWS this in his heart.
Nonetheless, even though I failed them in many – and different – ways, I am NOT a failure. Had I died on that shower floor four years ago, I WOULD have failed. Miserably. But God intervened and now I can live the rest of my life as an example of the kind of man I should be to BOTH my children.
That said, let me point out that we can learn FROM our children as well, and I have learned from both of mine.
I would like to share with you a poem written for Anthony’s day:
“MY SON IS MY SUN”
My Son is my sun,
His love shines every day.
I would like to be like him
In every way.
I know what you’re thinking,
“It’s backward!” you shout;
It’s ME I should want HIM
To be all about.
But you have to know US
To know that it’s true;
Our Sons can teach fathers
A lesson or two.
And if he is teaching
A good thing to ME,
Then he’s grown into the man
That I want HIM to be.
As most of us are aware – some of us painfully so – life can offer up unpleasant moments. It is important that we not take our eyes off of God during these times of unpleasantness. As long as we are focused on Him, we needn’t worry about being anything BUT an example for our children to follow, and for them to be proud of.
May God bless you all, and Anthony, my sun – Have a Happy Birthday!