I don’t pretend to make sense. My wife will tell you that even after ten years of marriage, I still surprise her with some of the things that come tumbling out of my mouth. Let’s just say that I’m very glad she believes in unconditional love.
God designed us dads a bit differently than you moms. We don’t think the same way, act the same way, or even always have the same expectations you do. But that’s not a bad thing. When possible, kids need that difference. It can push them in their walk with Christ.
So, when you see your husband doing one of these 4 things, here’s a primer on why we think things like plastic sword fights in the living room are okay—and why it’s not as bad as it might seem.
1. We Push Our Kids to Take Chances
When my daughters want to climb a tree, you’ll usually find me underneath them—not shouting for them to stop, but showing them how to go higher or to get back down on their own. I’ve been tossing them into the air and catching them for as long as they would smile at each flight (or, at least, not scream), and I’ll usually find some way to challenge what my wife might consider “safe.”
Really, they need to be pushed.
Faith itself isn’t safe. We walk when we can’t see (2 Corinthians 5:7); we move when we’re not sure where we’re going (Hebrews 11:8). We take chances because we trust in a God who sees far beyond our current horizons (Isaiah 46:10). The kind of faith that moves mountains requires a person who believes in the untamable wildness of our amazing God.
We’re not always thinking about it like that when we have them leap from the couch into our arms. But they’re seeing what it means for God to catch them, too.
2. We Say Dumb Things
My father-in-law has a hand sign he does when he catches me saying one of my trademarked “dumb things” to my wife. He pantomimes a shovel digging deeper into the ground. That’s pretty accurate, since I have a way of making that dumb thing I say turn into a series of dumber things as I dig deeper.
Usually, what sounds good in my head doesn’t sound so good once it slips out there. And without meaning to, I’ve hurt someone’s feelings. There truly is the power of life and death in the tongue—especially one belonging to a trusted friend of family member (Proverbs 18:21). One careless remark can create reverberations through a whole family, and my girls have been on the receiving end of some of those, too.
This isn’t to justify those slap-my-hand-over-my-mouth moments. I’m guilty. But it does provide opportunities to show that wisdom is often found in keeping the lips tightly sealed (Job 13:5; Proverbs 21:23). We’re often ready to speak when we should be ready to listen (James 1:19). Dads give them ample opportunity to see that in practice—as long as we use them as teachable moments.
3. We Make Boneheaded Mistakes
How do we men frustrate you? Let me count the ways. Is it in how we forget to pick up the milk on our way home? Does it happen most often when we make plans on top of the ones you told us about last week? Are you angriest when we don’t stick to the plan we made about how to lead and discipline the kids? All of the above?
Real dads have a way of falling short of the golden dad standard. All the time. We really do strive to be the best husband and father we can be. We really are asking God to help us each day.
But we still blow it. We do something that crushes our little girl, we make a snarky remark to you, and we show our boys an example of manhood that’s pretty base. Despite all our intentions, this is the reality of daily life.
Thankfully, the Bible has some really good news for imperfect dads. God loved, and God gave (John 3:16). All our foibles and follies give us thousands of chances to prove His grace to our children as we humble ourselves to seek forgiveness—after we finally swallow our pride, that is (James 4:10). Our kids need to see us on our knees praying for God to forgive our failure (Ephesians 1:7).
4. We Have a Hard Time Knowing How to Show Our Love
Bound up in this scruffy mess of a dad is an intense love for my wife and girls. Really. It’s stocked away next to my inner collection of movie quotes and my memory bank of best dinners ever. You’ll just have to trust me when I say that it’s way bigger than either of those.
We men often have a hard time knowing how best to outwardly show our inner love. Our culture hasn’t exactly done us any favors with good male role models who can honestly show what they feel. We’re caught between macho superheroes with impervious hearts and Nicholas Sparks’ emotions-first-consequences-never pretty boys. Couple those with the ridiculous viral videos of guys who spend 5 years planning a ludicrous marriage proposal that involves a circus, a famous band, and a private yacht, and you can see why we might be having some trouble here.
So, when it comes to knowing how to say we love you, we often stink at it. Thankfully, we know that even when we do fumble here that you’re more than willing to see the heart behind it. We need that—a lot.
The good news is that even our feeble efforts to show love can point to a much greater love: the One who is love (1 John 4:8). Our imperfect expressions point to His perfect revelation on the cross (1 John 4:10).