We just returned from a two week road trip to see family in the Smokey Mountains of Tenesee and in Washington, D.C. While in D.C. we attended church on Fathers' Day with my cousin's family where I spied this dad zonked out with his little guy on the foyer couch. Been there. This picture says so much.
As a father of two girls and two boys I caught as many desperate cat naps as I could snag wherever and whenever I could. This father and his baby boy brought a lot back and I felt for him: For his exhaustion, and for the sublime honor and pleasure to be so entrusted with such a profound little life.
I don't know anything else about this guy as a father—whether he's a patient, nurturing man or short-tempered and distant. I do know this scene though. I do know this moment. I do know the desire of wanting so badly to be a good dad and not always knowing how to do that. I'm sure he's doing his best though and for that I wish to honor this anonymous father.
Father is a powerful word and Fathers' Day can be a powerful focal point. Fathers' Day can be a time for joyous celebration of the great men in your life who taught you how to be a man, a husband, a father. Or it can be a bitter reminder of the power of masculinity poorly and even abusively applied. Or it can be both. Depending on the kind of man your father was makes Fathers' Day a joy or a trial.
I have often pondered with my clients (and with myself) the scriptural injunction to "Honor thy father and thy mother." Unfortunately, many people's father's choices and behaviors were heinous and destructive and so very far from honorable. How does one "honor" such a father then? The answer that makes the most sense to me and the one that brings me a sense of both freedom and peace is the simplest: Whether your father was honorable or dishonorable you honor them by simply doing better than they did.
Yes, giving fathers due respect and acknowledgment is wonderful, of course. And certainly learning from them and carrying on the good that they have taught is wise. However, what every parent wants most for their children (to the point of wanting it so bad for them it aches) is simply for them to do better than they did; to have what they didn't have; to be wiser, smarter, more capable; to simply be happy.
So to honor my fathers (my biological father, my step-father, my many grand- and great grandfathers, and certainly my Heavenly Father) I try to learn from their wisdom and from their folly. I try to do better than they did or than they knew. The simplest way, and most profound way I have found to do this is to invest my heart, mind and soul into loving my children's mother and honor her with words, commitment, friendship and service. Doing so has provided for my children a secure home they need and thrive in. Further, by loving my children, my treasures, through continuing to develop my patience, my ability to be fully present with them, and making sure they know without a doubt that their dad is absolutely crazy about them then I am able to not only honor my fathers but also honor myself as a father by teaching my children, through example, how to do it well. From that example, I trust that my dear ones will improve upon my abilities in their own unique ways for their own children.
So, reflecting on Fathers' Day I wish to express: A simple "thank you" to my fathers; My deepest gratitude to my children for teaching me how to father them, and; My love forever to my wife for making me a father by giving me the four greatest joys of my life.
And to the unknown sleeping dad and son pictured above I just wish to say, "Keep up the good work. It looks like you're off to a great start."