When Emerson was just a few weeks old, JR and I went to lunch at one of our favorite Chinese restaurants with our precious girl asleep in her carrier. The man sitting next to us struck up a conversation with us when he saw JR’s “Young Life” hat. We talked briefly about ministry, DTS and our newborn. The man finished his meal, exited the restaurant and then came back to our table with a book for JR on being a dad. As he handed him the book he said, “Be a dad, not just a father.” After he left, we talked about this statement and what it means to be a dad.
It seems to me that father is the term used for the role and dad is more a term of endearment. Dads do more than just donate a sperm. Dads provide. Dads love. Dads show up. Dads forgive. Dads encourage. Dads teach. Dads discipline. Dads cheer. Dads support. Dads hug. Dads play.
I recently returned from a week of Young Life camp with teen moms. As I listened to their stories, I was shocked by how many of their parents have completely dropped the ball on parenting. The effects have been devastating to these teenagers. These girls have needed their dads and most of them barely have a father. After every week of Young Life camp I attend, I am incredibly thankful for both my parents, especially my dad. My dad has always been active and involved in my life. He has embodied what it means to be a dad.
While I was growing up, my dad played with me. Whenever he came home from work he would jump in with whatever I was doing. He played make believe. He played with toys. He played tennis with me. He wrestled with us. He tickled us. We played hide and seek for hours. I remember thinking of him as my playmate, not just an adult.
I can’t remember a time where I ever doubted my dad’s love for me. He made it clear with his words and his actions that he loved me. He communicated his love for me over and over again. He said, “I love you.” He gave me hugs and kisses. He gave me back tickles for hours. He came to my side in the middle of the night when I yelled for him to ask for a drink of water from the cup on my nightstand. Bless him for that. As I have become an adult, he has called me and texted me. Once we started living in separate cities, he took me to fancy dinners when he was in town. He has made it a priority to see me. I have always known that he loves me.
Before I write them, I almost want to eat these words. My former teenage self is cringing right now. In my head, I can hear my mom saying, “You’ll thank us for this later.” Part of me hates it, but she’s right. My dad wasn’t afraid to tell me no. I am so thankful for that. Yes, he was a little easier to get a yes out of than mom; but, he still gave me rules and boundaries. He wasn’t afraid of taking away a privilege. He was fine not being my friend for a few hours, days or weeks. He gave me a curfew. He grounded me on occasion. He yelled at me when I deserved it. He corrected me if I mouthed off to my mother. Much to my dismay, I did not run my house when I was a teenager. Already with Emerson, I am learning that saying no may be one of the best ways I can love her. My dad told me no when he knew it was going to be in my best interest for the long-term. As an adolescent, I did not know how to always choose what was best for me. My dad communicated his love for me by stepping in and giving me guidance and boundaries when I needed them most.
My father is a dad because he played, he loved and he said no. I love him so!
Happy Dad’s Day!