The Many Fathers of My Children

BIRD-KIDLewis Smedes wrote, “My wife has lived with at least five different men since we were wed–and each of the five has been me.” That’s true of my wife.

Likewise, my children have lived with many different fathers, and I’ve been every one of them, too.

The older the child, the more fathers they’ve had to live with. My oldest has seen them all, from the first version of her Dad to the current edition, and all the awkward transitional stages in between. In her case, the father-to-child ratio has been most unfavorable.

Please pause with me to observe a moment of silence for that poor girl.

My youngest child has had it the easiest, being acquainted with the most mature, stable edition of his Dad. But even he has seen the sudden appearance of those ugly faces that reveal a need for a father who is new and improved.

Sometimes I cringe at the thought of the many faces of fatherhood my children have seen, especially the scary faces.

What’s become so evident to me in recent years is that for such a long time when I was doing my best to father my children, I was a broken Dad. I wounded my children out of my own wounding, without any self-awareness about what was going on in my own heart.

Have you ever wondered how any child survives childhood?

But here’s the great news: God is a Redeemer. He redeems us. He redeems our pasts. He heals, restores, and renews us.  Through Jesus, God makes something beautiful out of our brokenness.

He gives guys like me the privilege of being a father, and then patiently teaches me to love my children more and more like their Father loves them.

In anticipation of Father’s Day, I asked my kids to draw a picture representing a memory from any experience they’ve had with their father (any version), so that I could include their drawings in this post. I put no limitations on their choices. They could depict something good or bad or funny. They were free to make sport of me. My kids have extended mercy to me, because these are the memories they chose 🙂

FD-One_DayBy Aaron

Aaron really didn’t grasp the assignment. He drew himself and his brother, David, under the summer sun. Then he asked David to put the words on.

FD-Breakfast_ClubBy David

I call my two youngest sons, David and Aaron, “the breakfast club” because they are always the first ones up in the morning. On the weekends I join the breakfast club for a bowl of cereal.  David observed that Dad stands up when he eats.

FD-FlamingoBy Jonathan

Jonathan recalled when I joined them on the park swings for some friendly competition. We’d launch ourselves off the swings trying for height, distance and style points. Jonathan recalls his Dad saying, “This is called ‘the flamingo.'” (As for my scores, I was robbed by the judges.)

FD-DanceBy Elisabeth

Elisabeth recalls the father-daughter dance we recently had the privilege to attend with our very dear friends. That’s just how I remember it, Elisabeth. What a wonderful time.

FD-SunburnBy Stephen

Stephen chose to capture a memory of one of my glowing red sunburns.  I spend most of my time under fluorescent lights. My son Sam said he recalls that I got that particular burn when I walked to the mailbox.

FD-FlushBy Sam

Sam recalls a painful memory from his tender years when he had a favorite stuffed animal named “Slush.” He remembers that I would sometimes call his special friend, “Flush” and laugh. That really aggravated young Sam. It’s not a proud father moment for me. Thank you for your honesty, Sam.

FD-Franzia1FD-Franzia2By Dan

In his memory-in-two-frames, Dan depicts the occasion when I upset my glass of Franzia,  and the contents spilled onto the carpet. He claims I announced that I had to clean it up before my wife found out. Those kids and their active imaginations!

6 thoughts on “The Many Fathers of My Children

  1. I think this is my favorite Father’s Day post ever. Why? Because you invited your children into the discussion. And they so eloquently displayed that children teach us more about love and forgiveness than anyone else in the world. A picture truly is worth a thousand words.

    • “children teach us more about love and forgiveness than anyone else in the world.” Brilliant. There is more truth content in your 14 words than in my 300+ Thank you for contributing a most valuable sentence to this post.

  2. What a wonderful blog! I think it’s my favorite yet. Thanks for sharing your kiddos’ artwork. They are all very talented as well.
    I love that they all were able to capture a memory in art. When you asked the question, “Have you ever wondered how any child survives childhood?” I laughed out loud! Nate and I have that conversation on a regular basis. We have worried and laughed about what our kids will end up like and how they will survive. God is good, that’s all I know!

    • I have the kiddos to thank for saying so much more through their artwork than I did through my words. I am glad you enjoyed what they brought to this post. I like the way you described your conversations with Nate. You worry and and laugh together because there’s something funny and something scary about our impact on our kids. But “all [you] know” is all we need to know. God is good. That’s the answer to all of our concerns.

  3. I loved this post, Dave. And the pictures your children drew—priceless. I think I like your imitation of the flamingo best. 🙂

    My father grew up without his father. Somehow, even without that influence he learned how to be a dad. I definitely saw some of those scary faces, but more often, I knew his love in the form of hugs and discipline and words of affirmation. I had many different fathers, too.

    Have a wonderful Father’s Day, Dave!

    • Thank you, Jeanne. Yeah, the flamingo works better in theory than in practice, but at least its a memory 🙂 I am grateful to the kids for their willing participation in this post because their part was my favorite part. I am so glad to hear that your own father learned how to be a great Dad to you without the benefit of a model in his own father. And I’m glad he passed down some things to you that have become part of your own family life–like the license plate game 🙂 Thank you for your Happy Father’s Day wishes and thank you for telling me a little about your father. He sounds like a fine man.

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