Start children off on the way they should go,
and even when they are old they will not turn from it.
Proverbs 22:6 (NLT)
“He’s just not a baby guy.”
I’ve heard that said of many a father or grandfather who shuns holding a little one, getting involved in changing diapers, or relating to infants and toddlers. I’m sure it is cloaked in machismo or family systems in which men avoid getting involved with kids until “they’re old enough to have a relationship.” I wonder, however, if the reality is simply a toxic mixture of good ol’ fear, ignorance and cowardice.
Either way, my experience tells me this is a sad reality for both the man and the child. Relationship, and the lack of relationship, start in the earliest moments of life. If you wait at all to get involved in the rearing of your child, you’ve waited too long. A child, even in it’s earliest stages, needs the strong hands and nurturing of a father. A a man needs both the blessings and lessons that come from caring for his infant child. Being a dad is as much, if not more, a part of the masculine journey as being successful at a career or proving yourself on the field.
My adult daughter has shared with me on more than one occasion the experience of having conversations with groups of her peers. Almost everyone, she says, talks about their distant and detached fathers. They longed for their dads to be engaged, to feel their presence and support, to hear words of blessing like “I love you” and “I’m proud of you.” She finds it sad how many never had that experience, and how much it seems to have spiritually and relationally crippled her friend’s lives.
It makes me sad as well. Being a father has made me a better man. I made a promise to myself that I was going to enjoy relationship with my daughters at every stage of their development as infants, toddlers, children, tweens, teens, young adults and adults. I have not been perfect. Both of my daughters can attest to that. I can honestly say that I’ve done my best. There are so many lessons about being a man, being human, and being a child of God that have come directly from the daily role of being a dad to my daughters at different stages of their growing up.
To any dad reading this: Better late than never. Spend time with your kid. Play with them. Read to them and tuck them in. Go watch their game or concert. Write them a letter. Hug them. Tell them you love them or that you’re proud of them. Perhaps it would be appropriate to say “I’m sorry.” However you need to do it, be man enough to rustle up the courage to be a good dad for your kid.