There is something pretty darn satisfying about checking boxes.
Even though I’ve been taught relationships go far deeper than simply checking boxes and following routines, I still find myself going through the motions of what I think it means to be a good husband or father.
Tell Katie I love her. Check.
Take out the trash. Check.
Take a walk with Leon. Check.
Etc. . .
A few days ago, I jokingly told Katie I just finished having “the birds and the bees” talk with Leon. It seemed like a good idea to just get it out of the way while he was young. I figure every good father has this talk with their son, so I wanted to be able to check the box.
As funny as it is to picture myself explaining procreation to a one-year-old who’s not comprehending a word I say, I quickly realized I am prone to doing similar things in many other areas. I try to let myself off the hook by saying what I think needs to be said, oftentimes in a perfunctory manner, then moving on. If I check the box then I can’t be at fault, right?
The old “I told my wife I love her at the altar” approach to verbal affirmation in marriage would not work for me or Katie. We both love being affirmed of each other’s love on a daily basis. Whether through words of affirmation, quality time, or acts of service, neither of us can overdose and we both receive with grateful hearts.
Similarly, had my parents told me that they loved me when I was born and maybe one more time when I was 10, I probably wouldn’t feel as loved by them as I now do. My parents didn’t just affirm their love for me in continual verbal affirmations, they showed their love with continual actions.
My father nurtured and cultivated an open and fluid dialogue with me around important issues of life. God, women, sex, finances, careers, were not topics he merely covered one time then moved on. It was a 20 year ongoing conversation. With some of these topics it is still ongoing. He never made me feel there was a dumb question or that he was embarrassed to talk about a certain topic.
I want the same type of open dialogue with my son, but I know that it won’t naturally just happen.
I can only imagine my life getting busier, so thinking there will be a convenient time to have hard conversations with Leon is comical. Don’t worry. I’m not stressing out about this. Leon just turned one, I have time. Although, that first year went so stinking fast. . .
Ultimately, I know in order to lead Leon and Katie I need to lead myself. I can certainly see how shame and insecurity prevents fathers from speaking into their son’s lives with confidence.
Who am I to teach him about God? I’ve never been to seminary or bible college. Should I be the one giving career advice? I’m still trying to figure out what I’m going to do when I grow up. Advice on dating? Do I just say, “don’t do what I did?”
How is a father supposed to lead in areas where he is clearly lacking?
I did not earn this position of leadership. I am not Leon’s father because of abilities but rather because of appointment. I have been appointed by God to lead Leon. And if anyone is aware of my shortcomings it is God. . . and my wife.
I’ve heard it said that whether or not a father is involved in his son’s life, he is his biggest influence. Had my father waited to lead me until he had mastered each area of life, I would have been left like so many other boys, without direction from an earthly father.
There is no trained expert or professional who’s words have more efficacy in a boy’s life than his father’s.