The man my kids are blessed to call Dad

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I’m not one for gushing.

But today I feel compelled to write a post honouring my husband, affectionately known on this blog as DesertDad. Perhaps it’s because he’s been away most of this week, and has therefore gone up in my estimation, or perhaps it’s because tomorrow is Fathers’ Day – although, to all intents and purposes, this day functions like any other Sunday in our household, as he’s not a fan of what he calls ‘commercial festivals’.

I don’t know.

But recently I read this (celebrating the real men in our lives), this (speaking life to our spouse), and then this (how to show him he’s a great dad), and was challenged that our marriage is so full of banter and sarcasm, that to say uplifting, honouring things about each other (certainly in public) does not come easily – and maybe I need to change that.

The problem, of course, is that this type of post is likely to sting for those who have a poor, or non-existent, relationship with their fathers – or those who, for whatever reason, are raising their kids without a father. Others of you, I know, mourn the fact that, although your kids do have a Dad, he doesn’t fulfil his role with any sense of commitment.

So I want to be honest. I want to tell you, straight-off, that my husband is not perfect. To illustrate this, I just wrote a paragraph of his character flaws – but thought better of it and deleted it. But please promise me you’ll read the following in the context of knowing he can’t possibly be superhuman – just in case what I’m about to write makes him sound made-up.

Agreed? Then we’re good to go.

For someone who, in another life, would have been perfectly content as a childless bachelor, DesertDad has grabbed parenthood by the horns, and is fully immersed in the parenting of each one of our children.

He does the practical stuff.

After long days at work, when he’d be justified in collapsing in front of the telly, he doesn’t shy away from the grotty jobs, but willingly feeds, bathes and clears up the toileting accidents of our offspring.

It makes me very happy that he’s been able to spend today at the Stag Do of an old friend, because most of his days off are entirely child-focused. There are loads of hobbies that he’d love to do, yet building relationships with his kids remains his priority.

He’s also proactive with housework. Perhaps we don’t have the same ideas about which jobs are the priority (and we definitely both see ‘mess’ differently), but if he sees something which needs doing, he does it without being asked.

He willingly takes charge of the kids so that I can do things which stretch my brain. Governor meetings, PTA commitments, church events – he readily switches roles so that I can have a break, even though it might mean him having to play catch-up at his work later on.

He does the emotional stuff.

He’s amazingly pastoral and non-judgmental – and this isn’t just me, people say it all the time. A friend once said to him, “I feel I could tell you anything, and you’d never be shocked”. Our kids will benefit from his empathy more and more as they grow up, but already he is a great listener to our kids, often picking up on stuff that I’ve missed, even though he spends a fraction of the time that I do with them.

Our church feels like a family, and I think this is partly because he leads it like he leads our nuclear family: with love, grace and gentle nurture. He teaches his ‘flock’ with passion and authority – whether it’s his flock at church, or his flock of kids at home. He sets boundaries and he disciplines with love.

He does the spiritual stuff.

He shares his faith with our kids, reads the Bible to them and explains aspects of theology. I do these things too, but I worry about the impact on children who’ve only had spiritual leadership from their mother, and it makes me so grateful to have a husband who acknowledges his role in bringing up our kids to love Jesus too.

He’s fiercely outspoken about aspects of secular culture that most of us Christians accept too readily. He questions the things people take for granted about their children and planning for their futures. He’s not irresponsible, but he’s prayerful and godly, and wants our children, above all, to cultivate their own relationship with Jesus, knowing that nothing else completely satisfies.

He does the awkward stuff.

Like parenting ‘someone else’s children’.

I know some men who wouldn’t consider adoption, even though their wives might be keen, but this one willingly gave up his right to have more biological kids, in order to become the father that our twins would otherwise not have. He’s every bit their father, and gives them the same love, kindness, security and boundaries that he gives our birth kids.

In doing so, he leads by example. He shows our little family, our wider family, our friends and our church what it means to father the fatherless. What God’s priorities are when it comes to relationships. That a family which doesn’t reach out to others is poorer for it.

He is the father of my children, and they are so blessed to have him.

Read my first ever blog post – about Fathers’ Day 2012!

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Can you imagine having no father?

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I can’t imagine how it would feel to have no father.

I can imagine a remote father – detached, preoccupied, no space in his life for children. I can imagine his regret and guilt at having been talked into a family he never really wanted – or, perhaps, the absence of regret and guilt, as time starts to justify the distance that’s grown between him and his kids. I can imagine the loss, the sadness, the shut-down, the self-preservation of the children who long for his time and know they will never get it.

But I can’t imagine no father at all.

I can imagine an absent father – living in a different town now, perhaps with a new wife, new life, new kids – remembering birthdays (or not), sharing a week together every summer, occasional weekends. I can imagine the awkwardness for a child struggling to fit into a different family every now-and-then, having to adapt behaviours and routines for different sets of parents.

But I can’t imagine no father at all.

I can imagine a neglectful father – leaving everything to Mum, putting his own needs first, not noticing the children who require his help to regulate their emotions, because he can’t yet regulate his own. I can imagine the children who grow up thinking this is what family life is like: Mum raises the family, Dad does what he likes.

But I can’t imagine no father at all.

I can imagine an abusive father – letting his anger control him, free-flowing with the insults, the lies, the manipulation, the fists. I can imagine – although it pains me to write it – a father who cannot control his lust, who does the unthinkable, who abuses the trust of those who have no one else to rely on.

But I can’t imagine no father at all.

No father? Obviously, at some point, there must have been.

But was that a father? Or was that a few drops of bodily fluid, moving from one body to another? Two lucky sperm which made it, which kick-started two new lives, unbeknownst to the person who ejected them from their being?

And now, somewhere, that person walks free, unaware of the lives he has created. He may pass them in the street – or he may be living on the other side of the world – and we will never know. Was he old or young? Tall or short? Does he have other kids? A wife?

I can’t imagine – because the possibilities are infinite.

What was his ethnicity? Was he unemployed, or was he a CEO? Was it a romantic liaison, or a one-night stand? Did he pay?

Okay, so maybe I am imagining. But imagination usually starts with reality – and here, there is no reality to know of. No clues, no evidence, no memories and no one to ask. With endless possibilities of what this sperm-donor may have been like, I’ll likely never guess the real him.

And the kids – how will they respond? Not just knowing little, but knowing nothing. Future Fathers’ Days, when they’re old enough to understand. “Best dad” cards taking on a new meaning. Adolescence, and wondering whether emerging character traits come from him. DNA tests when they meet their future partners.

There wasn’t really a father. What might have turned into one was actually just a couple of seeds, fertilising a couple of eggs.

But God likes seeds. Faith as small as a mustard seed can move mountains. Seeds planted in good soil will produce a healthy crop.

And a seed from a man can fertilise an egg, creating a life which God dreamed up many millennia before it happened.

You see, there is a Father after all. A Father who was intentional and loving from the start. A Father who wanted these children to be born into his world, to take their place in family life, to come into relationship with Him.

Yes, it matters that there is no earthly father. But no, it’s not the end of the story.

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