It does me good to consider what I am thankful for, especially since today is Thanksgiving up here in Canada. There are so many things for which I owe gratitude to God, but near the top of the list, and on my mind today, is my children. I’m thankful to be a dad for these reasons and many more:
I am thankful to be a dad for the cuddles. My sixteen-year-old son doesn’t cuddle me anymore, but my girls still do, and I love them for it. I love to hold them close, I love to tell them they are loved, I love to let them know that they are safe, protected, provided for. I cuddle them gently to know that I treasure them. I gather them in my arms and carry them up to bed to let them know I’m strong. And they cuddle me to let me know I’m loved in return. I think I might need their cuddles just as much as they need mine.
I am thankful for the eyes of a daughter for her father. There is something about the way a girl looks at her daddy, something in her eyes that is pure and sweet and deep and maybe even fierce. Her eyes show love, trust…and is it admiration? It’s not like the love of friend to friend or husband to wife or father to son. It’s not better or worse, but different, unique. It’s a love any good daddy wants to treasure.
I am thankful to be a dad because my children push me to grow in holiness. They push me to grow in holiness by exposing my lack of holiness. They don’t mean to—it just happens as we live life together. They expose my impatience, my irritability, my selfishness, my pride. I know they need a dad who doesn’t just demand holiness but who also displays it. So in their own way they’ve pushed me to grow in the noblest traits while putting to death the ugliest.
I am thankful to be a dad to feel protection toward my children. And as a father I do feel fiercely protective toward them. There is nothing I wouldn’t do to protect them from harm, to prevent them from experiencing pain. Sometimes I read in the news or the history books of a father who has sacrificed his life for his children. I am moved but not surprised. What father wouldn’t trade his life for his child’s? What father wouldn’t throw himself in front of a predator, bus, or bullet to protect his child?
I am thankful to be a dad so I can feel pride in my children. Yes, I know that pride is the chief of sins and that pride comes before a fall. But not this pride. This is the kind of pride God has in his Son, that God has in us, his children. It is a good pride, a pride that desires to give to those children all that they need, a pride that delights in their accomplishments no matter how big or small. This is a pride that seeks the good of the other, that delights in the good of the other. In this way I’m proud of my children, proud to be their dad.
I am thankful to be a dad to grow in humility. Yes, being a dad generates pride (good pride!) but it also generates humility. I see the good traits of my children and know: I can’t take the credit for this. I see their accomplishments and know: They are capable in ways I’m a failure. I see all that they are, all that they do, all that they have become and are becoming, and I have to be humbled, I have to give humble thanks to God for his goodness.
I am thankful to be a dad as it allows me to become a friend. One of the great joys of parenting is experiencing that slow transition through which your children become your friends. What a joy it is to realize that you aren’t only spending time with them because you have to and you aren’t spending time with them just because it’s your parental duty. No, you’re spending time with them because you just plain love them, you love to be with them. Your children have become your friends.
I am thankful to be a dad for the hope my children give. In my children I see hope—hope for the church, hope for humanity. I see children who are kind and moral and growing in godliness. I see children who have been raised in a way that stands out from the world around them. I see children who know that they need to be heavenly-minded if they are to be of any earthly good. I see my children and feel hope.
I am thankful to be a dad to appreciate beauty. What dad isn’t convinced that his daughters are the most beautiful creatures in all the earth? What dad doesn’t love to hear the question, “Daddy, how do I look?” She approaches with her dress on, she does a twirl, her hair flies, her dress puffs. “How do I look?” There is only one appropriate answer: “You look perfect. You look beautiful.” And she does.
I am thankful to be a dad so I can better appreciate the fatherhood of God. God reveals himself to us as Father—Father to the Son and Father to all those whom he adopts into his family. Being a father to my children has given me glimpses—vague and fleeting glimpses, perhaps—of what it means for God to be Father. Seeing God as Father challenges me to love like God loves, to parent like God parents. Seeing God as Father allows me to rest secure, knowing that my children have a bigger, better Father who will provide for their every need.