Let Your work appear to Your servants, and Your glory to their children. –Psalm 90:16
I had conferences for my seven year old daughter a couple weeks ago; always an interesting time for us parents. For the first time ever though, I was joined by her mother and step dad (usually we did separate nights). To stay covered from the enemy’s schemes and avoid any potential conflict, I said a quick prayer beforehand for God’s blessing over the upcoming 15 minutes. While the teacher went through the normal routine of explaining everything, one project stuck out to me considerably more than the rest.
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It was one where the kids had to do a short story about a past holiday memory. My daughter chose Christmas of last year and the time she got to spend with her mom, step dad, and step siblings. There was no mention of me at all. I immediately flashed back to a different project my daughter had to do last year for school, one that showed a timeline of her entire life up until that point. Now, this was a larger project, so I knew she probably had help on that one. Once the timeline was completed and I saw it hanging in the school hallway, I noticed one key person was missing from all of the pictures: me. There were pictures of my daughter and the rest of the family though, including her step dad and siblings.
I’ve had a single dad tell me in the past that no matter how hard we try, we are always viewed as the “second parent.” Based on the examples above, I can see where he is coming from, but I do not entirely agree and think it’s a matter of perception. Yes, it stung a bit when I saw that story, but that is why I prayed walking into the school.
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In his book Girl’s Passage, Father’s Duty, author Brian Molitor lays it out like this:
"As a father, I had to accept the fact that the day would come when I had to release my children into their own futures. Nevertheless, part of me wanted to keep them as little ones forever…It is a painful reality, but to prepare and then release a child is a father’s duty."
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Brian nails it by pointing out that although we are able to enjoy great and memorable times along the way with our kids, our ultimate job as fathers is to prepare them for adulthood. Failure to do so on our end can result in them becoming immature and irresponsible adults. In keeping in stride with this thought, here are a few quick ways you can pour into your son or daughter and maintain your God-given duty as their dad.
Build Them Up
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Multiple studies have shown that when fathers are engaged in their children’s lives, there is an overall increase in the child’s cognitive and educational ability, psychological well-being, and social behavior. I even found out that when non-custodial fathers are highly involved with their children’s learning, the children are more likely to get A's at all grade levels (Fatherhood.gov, Childwelfare.gov). Children may not enjoy doing tasks like homework or chores, but examples such as this give us a clear picture of why doing those little and sometimes mundane things with them can have the greatest rewards. Even if we get to spend time with our children a small amount of time, it is our responsibility to make sure the foundational points of life are handled first, before playtime. That’s not to say that we can’t turn this into quality time, because we can. Be creative when doing homework with the kids and make it fun. The same goes for chores, and a reward system such as an allowance is always a great motivator for them.
Show Some Love
Many of us have heard before that if a young girl does not receive the appropriate love and affection from her father, she will go look for it in other, often unhealthy, relationships. Boys with a fathering void tend to be more aggressive and display greater increases in violent and potentially destructive behavior. Dad, please never underestimate how vital it is to hold your kids and tell them how much you love them. Some of us may have a hard time with that because our own dads did not display any sort of fatherly love or compassion towards us; but that is all the more reason to build a secure and trustworthy bond with our children. Our kids need to know they are affirmed through our love for them. If they don’t, the tragedy occurs when they go looking to fill that gap in all the wrong places, especially if it was there all along and we didn’t step up. A simple hug goodbye or a statement such as “I’m proud of you” can make a world of difference in a child’s life.
Set Them on Rock
The bottom line is our children need to have us active in their lives, no matter how much or how little we have with them. Make the most of what you got and never take it for granted. Time is going to fly whether we act or not, so let’s be sure to get these foundational bricks in place starting immediately.
Dad, I want to give you some reassurance that you are not the “second parent” - no matter how hopeless it feels sometimes. I also want to encourage you not to dwell on how unfair the whole situation may be either. Stay focused on what you can control: teaching your kids about Jesus, using the time you have with them to prepare them for adulthood, and give them the sort of love that only YOU can. God has never viewed any of us as second rate, so we mustn’t either. Take a look at the final portion of my book; I feel it sums this all up perfectly:
"I will leave you with this: know who you are in Jesus Christ; know that as a son of the living God, you carry a power and ability that is unmatched in this world. Know that God is constantly doing good work in you, that you can do all things through Him, and He is with you always. As a father, you have the ability to bring your children to a level that they may or may not have ever achieved by themselves. You are an amazing creation, fearfully and wonderfully made. You are a disciple called to carry God’s Word and advance His Kingdom; you are a father- a calling worthy of God’s appointed. You have the ability to demolish strongholds over yourself and your children, and cement together the relationships with your sons and daughters on the Rock of Christ. Know these things; trust these things; believe these things."
He is before all things and in Him all things hold together. –Colossians 1:17
Matt Haviland is the founder of A Father’s Walk single dad ministry and the author of the book, A Father’s Walk: A Christian-Based Resources for Single Fathers. He currently lives in his hometown of Grand Rapids, MI, is the co-founder of the Grand Rapids Single Parenting Expo, and is a single dad to a beautiful little girl himself. For more information on the ministry and how to form a single dad small group in your own church, please visit www.afatherswalk.org.
Publication date: December 5, 2013