Fatherhood seems to be on a decline these days. From portrayals of the “idiot dad” in commercials to the epidemic of single mothers, there is a real problem that goes beyond just our modern culture. Men love adventure, and the real secret of fatherhood is that there is an adventure every day. We’re not talking hostage rescue or dragon slaying adventures, although that may happen when your children start to get more of an imagination. Honestly men have been lied to about what fatherhood means. Men are threatened with the “loss of independence” through movies, TV shows and other modern portrayals of relationships. Economic losses are waved in the face of future husbands, and I fear this has scared many men from commitment. Add to all of this a culture that is hostile to the chivalrous male and you have a recipe for disaster when it comes to holding the family unit together. There certainly is a loss when it comes to fatherhood, but not in terms of what most men think it will be.
Before I was married, I thought I had it made. Every weekend was an open book. I had friends to hang out with, hobbies to occupy my time, and a pretty awesome truck to get me where I wanted to go. There was one thing missing: true joy. All of those things could never fill the gap of a life well lived. After meeting my future wife, I knew I was going to get married. There really wasn’t any doubt. I heard all of the lines from my friends that spelled doom for me after getting married. One friend in particular thought that I was so lacking in brains that he spoke these words, words that every man eats who speaks them: “I’m never getting married; marriage is for suckers.” Needless to say, he’s married with children now, and I believe that I must confess this schadenfruede I’m feeling next time I’m in the confessional (but I digress).
Slowly all of the hobbies and toys that I had accumulated were stripped away and replaced with two little girls and endless adventures. All of the mere things that I was holding onto slipped away, and I missed them less and less. This is where the humility comes in. Life became less about me and more about my wife and girls. My truck was replaced with a beater car so that my wife could have the good vehicle. Most all of my toys for shooting sports were sold for plane tickets to see my wife before we were married. Soon there was a budget and much more.
At this point most people would be wondering about the adventure part. The adventure was in the stripping away of all those worldly things that were eventually replaced by duty to wife and children. There is also one virtue that fatherhood stretches to the breaking point: patience. Punchy kids who won’t go to bed, an exhausted wife that needs help after your own day of exhaustion, a sick dog who left a present for you first thing in the morning and a multitude of other issues can try anyone’s patience on any given day. These are the adventures that bend and shape you as a man in the forge of fatherhood.
Going from having much to possessing very little in the worldly sense helps you rip away all that is unnecessary and helps you to become more like MacGyver. Torn diaper while at church and it was the last one in the diaper bag? No problem; I have duct tape! Being pushed and stretched in all of the daily situations you face helps you become more resilient in the face of actual adversity. Those inconveniences that seemed like mountains just five years ago have been laid low by God’s grace to handle what He throws at you.
This begs the question for those who have become squeamish about commitment and fatherhood: are you man enough to accept the challenge? Challenge and adventure do not come packaged in video games. They do not come in being eternally single (unless, of course, that is your vocation, which I certainly do not mock) or in living in your parents’ basement until middle age or beyond.
Challenge and adventure are lived in the day-to-day humility that every father must face. They are packaged in wiping the rear of a sick child, wearing a princess crown and feather boa while playing with your daughter (there are no pictures, and no one can ever prove I did or did not do that), putting aside your hobbies so that your wife has time to work on something in the home while you watch the kids, a trip to the emergency room, or any other host of daily happenings. In those tough moments there will be moments that melt your heart. You just have to be open to whatever adventure this day will bring. In the end everything that is made of this earth will rust, crumble, rot or fade. The souls of your wife and children will live forever, and that is the real adventure in all of this.