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Being a good father means doing your best

Updated: July 23, 2012 7:29AM

I believe that we as men have no calling greater than fathering our own children, and none more encompassing or more challenging.

I have long believed that to be a good father is honor enough and a good and faithful calling. That calling is not contingent upon whether our relationships with the mother of our children endure, neither on what new love, opportunity, challenge, or hardship arises in our lives as the world turns.

And even if it is the case that we have failed or fallen down on the job, we must now — right now — decide to get up and begin anew. The stakes are too high.

I have always wanted to be a good father. I don’t know if this was as much innate as it was born by the desertion of my natural father, by the countless days of futilely waiting as a boy on the front porch for him to return, or his absence from the seats at my basketball games, from the stands at track fields, or from the audience at graduations. Inasmuch as it stemmed from my own desire to be a good father — a good man — my drive was steeped in my own pain as a child who craved a long-gone father’s embrace, and also a prepubescent vow that my own children would never know such pain.

I vowed not to become an invisible man.

And though it is now 34 years later, I remember like yesterday the moment I first set eyes on my firstborn and namesake, lying swaddled in a blanket, minutes after he was born that summer evening. I remember vividly each of my five children’s births.

More important, I have been there, endeavoring to produce, provide, and protect, though sometimes admittedly falling short along this journey called life, with its many unexpected twists and turns. Through their falls, scrapes, and spills, through a lifetime of parent-teacher conferences, field trips, hospital visits, school plays, recitals, and myriad other events and functions; through divorce and heartache, through good times and bad times.

It has not been easy. Parenting never is. And whether I have been a good father ultimately is not for me to say. For as fathers, we are not the best or most crucial assessors of how well we have kept the unspoken charge we owe to our children.

This much, however, I think, every father, at the end of the day, should be able to say: That I have done all I know as a father. That I have endeavored to do better when I have come into that knowledge. That my mistakes are never an excuse. And that I have exhaustedly poured my heart, mind, and soul into loving and caring for my children.

As fathers, we must learn to say, “I’m sorry.” To seek forgiveness, and yet to try from the start to avoid those regrettable, hard-to-forgive, and egregious inflictions that can so indelibly stain our children. And we must forgive ourselves, though the prospect of forgiveness and the miracle of grace must never abdicate personal responsibility.

A call to responsible fatherhood without condemnation is what is needed to redeem those men who have vacated their vocation as their children’s paternal guide, to help restore those fathers who have failed or fallen down on the job.

And a celebration of fatherhood and unbridled praise of those men who, though less than perfect, embrace their role as fathers, is what is needed — for our posterity and the restoration of the institution to its rightful place as being among the most sacred of life’s callings.

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