“Daddy read me stories please!” Just barely two years old. Five simple words. On that night years ago that little phrase changed everything. I’d been waiting to hear those words for quite some time, but when that little voice cut into the silence, a million emotions flooded my mind. Bitter-sweet. So very bitter-sweet.
As I looked on from the doorway and my little boy climbed into his daddy’s lap for bedtime stories, I realized that those first two years were unique. He was mine. All mine. He wanted me. He needed me. Then all at once he grew up. Suddenly I would have taken back every thought of wishing he’d let someone else hold him, play with him, feed him, read to him, change him, dress him… Just for a minute. That’s all. Just long enough to make dinner, clean the bathrooms, take a shower…
Grocery store with mom–Obscene and extreme torture beyond anything you could possibly imagine.
Hardware store with dad–Best day EVER! When can we go again, Dad?
Helping mom water the garden and pull weeds–Eh. Do I have to?
Picking up dog poop with dad before he mows the lawn–Ok! I’ll get the pooper scooper!
Mom helping wash hair–Ahhhhhhh!
Dad helping wash hair–You do it so much better than Mommy. Can you do it every time?
Mom getting the kids to eat broccoli–Ugh. I can’t eat it, Mom! Please, please, please don’t make me!
Dad getting the kids to eat broccoli–You like it, Daddy? Really?? Me tooooo!!!!!
Mom’s lasagna she spent half the day making–Thanks for dinner mom. That was good.
Dad’s concoction thrown together out of desperation in two minutes (including, but not limited to hot dogs, hash browns, onions, lots of salt, pepper and katsup, and any other leftover in the fridge)–Dad. This is AMAZING!! This is my new favorite food. I LOVED it! When can we have you cook again?!
I admit it. The transition from Momma’s boy to Daddy’s little buddy was just a bit difficult for me at first. Suddenly Dad was the chosen one. For everything. That man had a little boy shadow everywhere he went, a little parrot mimicking phrases, expressions, and words at every turn. I was finally left with all the time I’d wished for during those first two years, but it just wasn’t what I had imagined it would be. I missed it. But instead of jealousy or sadness, I suddenly found myself watching on the sidelines in wonder as my husband took that little hand. I realized that as hard as it was, nothing could have been so amazing to witness and so important to my sons, then and forever.
Dads, do you know what you have? Do you realize the powers that you hold? In the eyes of a little boy, you’re a superhero. You are the very person they want to become. You can do anything, be anywhere, accomplish the impossible. You have a child that wants nothing more in this world than your love. They need your love. Sure, they need their moms too, but a dad is something different. A dad can toss them over their shoulder and carry them around like a sack of potatoes. He can talk to them about “guy stuff” and show them how to treat a woman. A dad can take them on a father-son camp out and tell the funny stories and jokes that guys tell when they’re in the wild around a campfire. A father is there to confide in when certain discussion require someone who truly understands. A mom can teach a son how to be a gentleman, but a dad can show him through his actions.
They need YOU. They need that superhero to teach them, guide them, and help them to someday become that incredible man to a child of their own.
I know not all circumstances allow for both mother and father in the home. Sometimes things just don’t work out that way, for one reason or another. I believe that when one is missing, a hole is left that must be filled. Sometimes those superheroes aren’t dads, but are extended family, church leaders, teachers, coaches, friends or neighbors. When you take on that role, you’re taking a child’s heart and mending it where it’s been torn. Maybe not perfectly, but they need that. You will mean more to them than you know.
That bitter-sweet night those years ago still hangs in my memory. A two-year-old boy holding his giraffe in his dad’s lap, listening to Brown Bear, Brown Bear, his eyes beginning to droop. I witnessed it again as my next youngest rushed to find his shoes to follow his dad around the yard. Now my third. Bitter-sweet. I will be forever grateful to the dad of my boys who fills in where I can’t.
Fathers, you may never know the impact you have on those boys’ lives. When you take his hand, you take his mind, his heart, and his future. He will remember the baseball games, the fishing trips, the bike rides, and the times working with your tools out in the garage to help with a project. Probably most of all he’ll remember the rides in the car, the nights at the dinner table, and the simple every-day chores he helped you with. Even if it doesn’t seem like he cares, he does. He will always remember the way you made him feel.
Yours is a role unparalleled to any other. Thank you for teaching our children and showing them what we as mothers can’t (or at least not as efficiently and easily). Thank you for being that dad.