A faltering father...
Parenting is tough. But fathering is much harder. Parenting clumps me together with my wife creating a synergetic feeling of success...the-whole-is-greater-than-the-sum-of-the-parts type of scenario. In parenting I feel somewhat pleased in my efforts, my bad days mix with Heidi's good days and give me a warm feeling at the end of the day. Sort of like playing in a golf scramble...no matter how badly I hit the ball I pick it up and move it to the place where the best ball lies, propped up on fluffy fairway turf. Parenting feels a little like a golf scramble.
But this fathering deal...this is a totally different story. If I hit the ball in the deep weeds, I'm in the deep weeds. If I'm in the ruff, I'm in the ruff. If I'm in the sand trap, that's where my head stays buried until I pull it out. You get my point.
There's no combining scores for a false sense of success. You are forced to deal with your own handicap and the glaringly weak parts of your individual game. Fathering feels like that. I'm left with myself by myself to evaluate my own score apart from my spouse. "How am I doing as a father?"
Fathering isn't for the faint of heart...or the haint of feart as I like to say. (sorry, mom.) You have to be on top of your game, you have to practice at the driving range. You have to take your time before you just swing for all you're worth. You have to gauge the lay of the land before you put, delicately pushing the ball into an incline on the left in order for that little white baby to find that hole down in the valley to the far right. It takes strategy and concentration. It takes mental moxie, and emotional proxy. You have to have a fluid coordination of many parts to experience what to the outside eye is seemingly easy.
I'm mean, have you ever watched golf and said to yourself, "That looks so easy. Anyone could do that." And then you find yourself on hole #1 looking a triple bogie in the eye knowing you still have a two-putt in front of you. It doesn't take long to realize that there's more to it than just swinging an iron club at a plastic, dimpled sphere and enjoying exacting pin high chips from 12o yards out with a lob wedge. That takes physical coordination mixed with mental discipline blended with religious practice over years and years of time. What looks like a simple execution is really a difficult and arduous bootcamp of mind over matter.
"Mind over matter"...that is what fathering tends to be on many days. I want to sit and watch T.V. after a long day of decisions and conversations and frustrations and elations, but my girls are dying for a wrestling match followed by a hearty game of tag. "Daddy, watch me! Daddy, catch me!" Their hearts are wondering, "Daddy, do you see me? Daddy, will you pursue me?" I know what's going on, but my sluggard heart muses. My soul fights off feelings of fatigue and futility. In a sentence...I'm tired of running in circles and feeling like I'm getting next to nowhere. This, I believe, is the Achilles' heel of the masculine soul...my soul.
I don't want to beat myself up...I don't want to rehearse my infractions fanning into flame more of a defeatist dad syndrome. But it isn't a syndrome...it's a "sin"drome. It's a dark depravity that festers like puss under a flaky scab. And this sin of selfishness that fights against my desire to inject life into my daughters won't go away, I'm afraid. I can only beat my body and make it my slave so that after I've preached to others, I myself am not disqualified. There is nothing more paralyzing than the feeling that I'm slowly becoming a disqualified dad because I'm not making my flesh obedient to truth. I'm letting it lord over me. And when it's lord, I'm a lard. A lazy lard.
But when I beat my body and exercise authority over it's impulses, I'm a great dad. I'm a dad to be reckoned with. I'm fun and funny. Engaged and Enthused. I'm sensitive and inquisitive. I'm consistent and altruistic. I love those daddy-days were I'm fully present. When I'm telling my flesh where to get off, and my spirit where to get up. And I can do it, I just need others to do it with so that I don't feel like "a voice crying in the wilderness". I need a faith community to fight the good fight with, and I with them. I falter as a father when I feel alone.
I wanna be a good father. I want to be better at fathering than I am. I love parenting. But I want to love fathering. My daughters need to be fathered into freedom.