My husband, Jeff, and I have been married for fourteen years. We were both in our mid-twenties, committed Christians, and enthusiastic about all the things our future together could be when we tied the knot.
Like everyone, we brought our own expectations to the marriage based on our experiences. I grew up in a single-parent home with my two younger brothers and didn’t see my father much at all as a child. So, when it came to expectations about the kind of father my husband would be to our children, I had hopes based on my concept of an ideal father, but nothing based on the actual experience of a live-in, see-you-every-day kind of dad.
We knew we wanted to have children, and we saw no reason to put it off. So, we had all four of our kids (a daughter and then three sons) in the first five years of marriage. Early on, it was a whirlwind of dirty diapers, toddler tantrums and toys everywhere. But along the way, I realized there were these unexpected moments of pure pleasure in seeing how my husband was fathering our children.
I’d distill those moments into these five characteristics that I never knew I needed the father of my children to embody.
First, he’s a prayer warrior. For a Christian, prayer is an integral part of living out your faith, but to be a prayer warrior is next level. Prayer warriors are strong when others are weak; they are steadfast when others waiver; they believe when others doubt.
Due to pregnancy complications that threatened both my life and our baby’s life, our daughter, Taylor, was born at 27 weeks gestation. She weighed 1 pound and 9 ounces. She was the size of my husband’s hand. We had barely been married one year, and her early arrival and uncertain circumstances rocked our world. It’s the kind of crisis that might cause a lot of people, even Christians, to question God and His goodness. But not Jeff. He doubled down on God’s promises.
Jeff immediately went into action, calling and texting friends and family to let them know our baby girl was coming 13 weeks early and she needed their prayers. He started a social media campaign called “Pray Taylor Home.” He updated friends, family and even strangers from all around the world daily on how Taylor was doing and specific things they could pray over her life.
At the time, Jeff was in a grad school for campaign management, and I remember him saying that he’d willingly lose every other campaign he was ever part of if he could get as many people as possible to successfully pray Taylor home to us. After 94 days in the neonatal intensive care unit, God answered our prayers, and Taylor came home!
In that time of crisis, Jeff’s faith was unwavering, and he knew prayer was the answer. His faith was a steadying force for our marriage then, and it continues to be for our family today. Every night before bed, Jeff prays a prayer of protection and blessing over each of our children. And it was Jeff who led each of our children in their prayer for salvation. His commitment to praying for and with our children is invaluable.
Second, he’s a funmaker. From early on, my three boys, as toddlers, would wait for Jeff to get home from work and then yell with excitement when he walked in the door, “Wrestle!” They would gleefully pin Jeff to the floor and then get pinned themselves. Once a year, I would spend a couple of days away at a MOPS retreat, and Jeff would take care of the kids while I was gone. He was not only great at managing things while I was away, but he turned the whole weekend into a much-anticipated holiday for the kids. The weekend became known as “Dadfest,” and the kids would look forward to it all year long because they did outrageous things like have silly string fights in the house. Thankfully, I always came home to a clean house with no evidence of the wild shenanigans that recently transpired. Being a dad can often come across to kids as a serious, no-nonsense kind of job. But it’s fun to have fun with your dad, and it’s important to make those memories.
Third, he’s an equal disciplinarian. Growing up with my mother as the only parent figure, my experience was that mom does it all. I didn’t realize just how important shared responsibility for discipline was in an intact family. I was talking with my now 13-year-old daughter recently and asked her what she liked most about dad. Her response was pretty shocking. She said, “I like that he disciplines me. He’s firm but loving.” After the initial shock of hearing those words come out of my teenage daughter’s mouth, I thought to myself – she’s right. There is something different and significant about a father’s correction. When done right, it demands respect but also conveys loving kindness. Indeed, it reflects the discipline of God.
Fourth, he’s an advocate for adventure and taking risks. I’m an attorney, so my nature and training has taught me to avoid risks. Jeff grew up in a family of entrepreneurs; he’s been watching people take risks and seeing them pay off since he was a young boy. And as much as it scares me at times, I want my kids to be brave and take risks too – those are the kind of people that change the world. I want them to pursue adventure and live their lives boldly. It’s Jeff’s adventurous, risk-taking spirit that has taken our family white water rafting annually for the last eight years, on numerous family camping trips all over America’s west, and has put my kids on the path to scuba diving certification. And I’m sure I’ll have him to thank for many adventures to come!
Finally, he’s a coach. Yes, he has been and still does coach the kids in the traditional sense. He’s coached our boys in soccer, baseball, basketball, and flag football. But more than that, he’s coaching them in the game of life. He’s teaching all four kids about overcoming adversity, learning from mistakes, never giving up, trying again, having a positive attitude even when things aren’t going their way, and on and on and on. These are the lessons of life, and they are blessed indeed to have their dad as a coach.
As I think about what makes fatherhood so important from a mother’s point of view, these are things that stand out to me. It’s about taking your faith seriously and praying for loved ones without ceasing. It’s about saying yes to the fun and silly things and knowing how to let loose with your kids. It’s about correcting wrong behavior with love. It’s about teaching your kids to live their lives with courage. And it’s about coaching your kids to embody good sportsmanship in the game of life.
So, here’s to the fathers who live out these traits for their children. Not only will your kids love you for it, but your wives will also appreciate you for it – more than you may ever know. Happy Father’s Day!
Photo from Shutterstock.