With Father’s day today, it’s important to take a moment to reflect on both the blessing and the responsibility of being a father. It’s great to be celebrated, but it’s also important that we treat fatherhood with the weight and importance that it deserves.
From the first moment our children come into our arms, they look to us for protection, for guidance, for comfort. With that in mind, here are three essential lessons that either my father taught me, or that are essential for my three boys as they grow to become young men.
Work Hard – The World Doesn’t Owe You Anything
It’s unfortunate that the sense of entitlement has grown to become ubiquitous. I can’t say whether our parents ever felt that way about us and our generation, but I see it now, especially out in the workforce.
A paradigm of entitlement is a precarious way to look at life. It leads to thoughts of “what’s in it for me,” and “where is my share?” It’s expecting something for nothing, as if you’re somehow owed a salary, a social following, and a Star Wars movie every six months — but not too many strong female protagonists.
I’m not talking about our “unalienable rights”, like feeling safe, equality, and the pursuit of happiness. Outside of those basics – which we still struggle to extend to everyone all the time – we get what we put into life. It’s not a perfect principle, but it is a universal one. Sometimes life hits us in unexpected ways, like getting fired from a job after 20 years of hard work, or Facebook changing it’s algorithm…again. But overall, the harder your work ethic in your career, your passions, your relationship, your finances, your personal growth, the greater the outcome.
Our children need not only to be taught, but to be given examples of hard work. Less chasing after the next bitcoin gold rush, more pragmatic, focused work toward a desired goal and a celebration when that goal is attained.
Celebrate your kids hard work. Help them understand that they have control over so much in their lives if they’ll just work for it.
Act, Don’t React
Hypocrisy is pervasive today. You see it in politics, in climbing the corporate ladder, and even in our churches on Sunday. It’s an unfortunate contagion that sucks when we come into contact with it.
What would happen if we actually lived the golden rule, treating others how we hoped to be retreated in return? Could it brighten someone’s day? Avoid a fallout between friends? Prevent nuclear war?
Consistency in character is an enviable trait. No one grows up hoping to have the temperament of the angry gent forcefully laying on his horn in rush hour traffic. We often can’t alter the world around us, but we always have the ability to control our emotions.
Striving to act, rather than react, to life as it comes at us is an invaluable lesson for our children, who every day have to struggle with figuring out how life works. It can’t feel great when someone takes your legos out of your hand, or unfriends you on Instagram. Whether or not that incident throws off the rest of your day, however, is completely within their control, if we will just take the time to teach them.
Enjoy Life and Live In The Moment
When’s the last time your spouse caught you head down staring at your phone rather than listening to her as she recaps her day?
This isn’t a guilt trip, it’s a call to arms. We can do better!
Life is meant to be lived with those we love, not vicariously through digital screens and crafted streams. These incredible devices can do so much good, to connect and to educate us, but they can also muffle the sound and mute the colors that life has to offer.
When our kids look back on their childhood, will they remember their Father’s smile? Or will they remember the phone that was constantly between them and their dad?
Fatherhood isn’t easy, because the rewards are too great to come easy. The joys of Fatherhood last longer than a like or a view, they last for generations, if we’ll invest the time to do it right. As stated before, the harder we work, the greater the outcome.
Take time today to celebrate, yes, but also take time to reflect on the kind of Father you are, the kind of Father you want to be, and what you can teach your kids to help them as they grow.