"Will you dance with me daddy?"
|Emily (pic: www.courageousthemovie.com)|
What they are really saying is: "Daddy, I need you. I need your time. I need your attention. I need you to protect and guide me. I need to set boundaries and enlarge them as I grow. I need you to be there. I need you to make me do the right thing, even if I don't want to. I need you to love mommy. I need you Daddy, please...."
I'm guilty as charged. I like to think of myself as an engaged dad, but an "urgent" email here, and a blog-post there, and even simple opportunities for special memories slip away. Did I blink at some stage in my late twenties, and now our oldest is almost taller than his mom, and at the other end our little baby is nearly eight?
Life might be short, but apparently it's only getting shorter. I'm becoming convicted that I have to invest in my kids at an even higher level, while I still have a chance. Notice that the term I use is invest in THEM, not in what they do, nor what they get. How do I build character into their lives, so that they do what's right, not what's cool? So they think about the big picture, and see their value here on earth, and value of the lives around them? So they weigh the vapor that is our cultural climate against traditional bedrock concepts of life and death? So they long to give, rather than to get?
These can be uncomfortable issues to consider, particularly if you didn't get much guidance from your own parents as you navigated your journey to adulthood. A fathers role in leading his children to functional maturity is currently misunderstood, maligned, or basically ignored in our culture. But, if you want to know how critical their role is, just ask someone who grew up without one, or lost theirs all too early.
Many of these issues and consequences are dealt with head-on in the movie "Courageous". It's from the makers of "Facing the Giants" and "Fireproof", and it tackles many of the fatherhood-related problems facing society. It's opening in cinemas on Sept 30th, and I got to attend a preview screening this week. It's a great movie and I recommend it, especially for fathers who are questioning how to "get it right" and how be intentional in rearing children into adulthood. As you would expect from Sherwood Pictures, the movie has underlying Christian themes, but even if you don't agree with their principles, many useful pointers can be taken away.
First and foremost is that you can't be half-hearted about fatherhood. Your children are learning about life by observing your character, much more so than by what you say. Do not underestimate their capacity to spot the difference.
A second principle is that failure can be recovered. Failure in your own home, or someone else's shortcomings. Would our prisons be quite so full of the fatherless, if more of us stepped up and mentored our children's friends?
The movie is both more refined and complex than their previous releases, and blends a sophisticated storyline with extreme swings in the emotional pendulum. While open to criticism of B-grade acting/editing as before, Sherwood's MO of delivering stories that mirror real life (rather than the glamorized facade of Hollywood staple) is maturing with each effort. Courageous is another quality step forward, and in comparison, comes across as a breath of fresh air. I was left feeling like I'd had a fatherhood-workout, drained as if I'd viewed a micro-encapsulation of my own failings, yet encouraged to get up and push forward again.
PS- The prescreening audience was also provided with samples of the accompanying material Sherwood have produced for churches and mens groups. These look outstanding and mirror many of the concepts I've weighed in on this blog.