What to do when your father model is absent
So you’re a father. You have a child (or children). You’ve had nine months to get used to the idea and prepare for fatherhood. A whole nine months. So, nine months to download all you need to know about fatherhood. Because you want to be the very best dad you can to your children.
Here’s the interesting thing about fatherhood. It’s a learn-as-you-go sport. I mean art. But even then, an emerging super dad needs to see being a father demonstrated from the apprentice position. He needs a mentor. Even with a mentor, being a father is still very challenging, perhaps the greatest challenge a guy could ever have in a lifetime.
So you’re a guy like me – “broken boy-broken man” guy – and you’re a father. Now the challenge is greater. It’s doubled down, compressed to the 10th power, unmitigated pressure. And you look into eyes of your little treasure(s) and realize that you’re definitely in the weeds and can’t see two feet in front of you. How do I lead? What do I do? How do I say all the important things a dad needs to say to his kids? How do I even know what those important things are? How do I comfort a broken heart?
Silence. Crickets chirping. Void. No markers or reference points to look back on to project into the future. Neither can you look forward into the future to plan, orchestrate and strategize for you family. C.K. Chesterton once said (para.) “if a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing badly.”
We will never know everything there is to know about being a dad. And there will be lots of occasions when experience is our teacher. But that’s the beauty of having an experienced, seasoned mentor. He coaches you through the situation, investing his experiential wisdom into your life and your immediate fathering moment.
6 Steps to Settling the Fatherless Storm
1. Stop. Breath. Steady. Forward. You are where you are by no cause or fault of your own. So, move forward, one step at a time. It will be a while before you get your running legs and when you do remember that fatherhood is not a sprinting event. Fatherhood is a life-long marathon.
2. Don’t freeze up; it’s better to move forward and make adjustments than to sit still. I once was told that a parked car doesn’t go anywhere. Navigating a non moving vehicle is only arm chair quarter backing. It’s not navigation. Course correction is best done, and only done on the move. Move now.
3. Feel free to fail but fail forward. Failure can be a wonderful teacher and mentor. She is, however, brutally honest and shows little mercy, save the fact she is steady and true. John Maxwell, in his book Failing Forward writes, “The essence of man is imperfection. Know that you’re going to make mistakes. The fellow who never makes a mistake takes his orders from one who does. Wake up and realize this: Failure is simply a price we pay to achieve success.”
4. Embrace the position of apprentice. Part of being a good father is being first, a son. It’s just the natural flow. Life as a fatherless kid was confusing enough at times and complex all the time. You had to grow up quicker and take on adult responsibilities before the natural design intended. In so doing, a boy misses out on a coaching /mentor relationship that he can only get from his father. Absent dad-absent experience and opportunity to imitate dad in the how to’s of manhood/fatherhood.
5. Find a mentor-teacher-trainer. These great men are called Double Duty Dads. They are experienced dads who have had a modicum of success at being a family man. Their success is not their point, nor are they perfect examples of a father, but they are living examples of one. A living example is someone who has moved forward, learned, and mastered the craft of being a father. They don’t quit. They keep moving forward. Leading always.
6. Study fathers in other cultures, both the positive and negitive characteristics.
The 3 L’s–Love, Lead, Learn. You can’t be a father without these three movements in operation in your fathering game. It’s like a three legged stool. All three must be working in triune.