Like many other households, my wife and I post a bunch of stuff on the side of our fridge.
Pictures of our children and relatives, key reminder notes and many themed magnets can be found plastered along the fridge panel, nearly covering the entire surface.
One of the magnets features a man holding up his boy, with a declaration from American writer and theologian Frederick Buechner included underneath:
When a child is born, a father is born.
I can appreciate this statement first-hand, now for a third time, as my wife and I welcomed our daughter Naomi into the world three months ago today.
Not only has God blessed me by bringing Catherine into my life and joining our hearts, but He has given me three jewels as fruits of our love together: our sons Isaac and Hugh, and now a baby girl.
While our kids certainly are true blessings at whom I marvel in wonder, they are also a giant responsibility and one I don’t take lightly whatsoever.
In an increasingly secular society, raising our kids the right way is not easy, nor will it ever be. In fact, nurturing them so they can come to know, love and follow God in a fast-paced environment filled with demands and distractions is likely going to be my greatest test in life.
Come to think of it, fatherhood will undoubtedly be the hardest job I ever have – and the most important one, also.
As our children’s father, I must model for and mentor them, showing and teaching the right way to live, assisting them on their way to realizing God’s will in their lives.
I find myself reflecting on this so often these days.
In the midst of this thought, I am reminded of how much our children are treasures to me.
It could be a point of pride when Isaac makes a basket while playing basketball in our driveway and says he wants me to coach him when he’s older. It could be a feeling of joy when Hugh takes me by the hand and marches me to the barbeque, wanting to make dinner together. Or, it could be a huge burst of fulfillment when Naomi reveals a smile from ear to ear when recognizing my voice and face as I pick her up.
Each day when I leave for school or arrive home from teaching, I am so inspired by our kids’ running to the door to give me a hug or their yelling “Daddy!” with such enthusiasm. Each time we read stories, take a neighborhood walk or watch a video, it is so gratifying to have them understand items pointed out, soaking up every bit of a life lesson passed on to them.
Hoisting them on to my shoulders, admiring a craft they made at daycare or preschool, or hearing them tell someone something with kindness and compassion, I experience some of my greatest happiness from our children.
Indeed, raising these gifts from God gives me indescribable energy and delight, and I have come to quickly appreciate the extreme privilege of parenthood over the last few years.
For this reason, I will often take a moment at Mass each Sunday just to admire our kids – their innocence, curiosity and enthusiasm.
I will also give thanks to God for my wife, to whom I am deeply grateful as she serves them completely and beautifully in her role as their mother.
But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t also feel tremendous pressure, as I experience a sense of worry and insecurity at times, too.
So, I will often look up and ask God for strength and guidance, knowing I am weak and fearing I am not up to the task of raising them how a father should or how they need me to do.
As the family is the foundation of a society, it is up to my wife and me to ensure our kids are properly taught and equipped to both navigate and flourish through the many challenges life will present.
Truly, this is an immense responsibility bestowed upon us in providing the very best for our children, and one we cannot handle on our own.
While we have a network of support around us in family and friends, who better for me to seek help from than God our Heavenly Father and Joseph, Jesus’ surrogate father?
Unconditional love, limitless patience, endless compassion, tireless and responsible work ethic, and honest, righteous living – all of their qualities are ones I strive to display in my marriage, my friendships, my teaching, and, especially, my fatherhood.
And so, in this month when we celebrate Father’s Day, I give praise to God for blessing me in becoming a father.
I ask God, in turn, to continue shaping me in my fatherhood, so that – with my wife – I can love and lead our children however they need, being the man and dad they can look to as an example for how to live their lives.