Things I Never Understood Till I was a Father Too.

Me and my oldest child, Tabitha. I used to love to sing to her, and she has pretty well always liked to look at me with that same facial expression

Tabitha & Caleb in Buble bath

My two children, Caleb & Tabitha, taking a bath on vacation when they were small

One of my favorite songs was performed by Tracy Lawrence, called “Till I Was A Daddy Too” It is one of the few songs that describe fatherhood in a favorable way. Many of the songs I’ve heard, like the “The Greatest Man I Never Knew,” or “Cats in the Cradle,” or “The American Dream,” by Casting Crowns, tend to depict fathers as being too busy and selfish to spend time with their families. Modern television shows depict fathers as little more than complete morons (“Married with Children,” “The Simpsons,” just to name few). It’s good to see somebody saying something favorable.

There is so much in Tracy Lawrence’s song that I relate to. Parents and children see things from totally different perspectives. Individually, most of  us don’t have much trouble taking certain risk. As a child riding motorcycles, playing dangerous sports, and even doing recreational drugs was just matters of a good time. From a parent’s perspective, they are dangerous and dreadful. For example, I’ve been around motorcycles since I was quite young. I’ve also had my share of accidents; but it’s amazing how reluctant I became when my children wanted to ride motorcycles. I’m sure I would let them and all, but all of a sudden I was much more concerned.  I also have noticed, even parents who use recreational drugs themselves become alarmed at the idea of their children using. Why is that? It’s a different perspective.

You can read about parenting; you can learn from others too;  but you won’t really know what a parent goes through till you’re a parent. There are phases of parenting as well. There was a time when my children looked to me with great adoration. I knew things they didn’t, I provided them with things they wanted, I figured out solutions to hard problems. Even if I didn’t have a clue, somehow they thought I did. Well, that phase is over.

I’m in the Al Bundy phase now. In this phase, the father is little more than a babbling idiot. The children see mainly the shortcomings of the parents, especially the father, and know without any uncertainty that they can and will do better, and deep down inside they wonder why their father did not aspire to being more than he has become.

Once again, I learn what my own father must have felt like. As a young adult I had a lot of disdain for my father. I considered him irresponsible, immoral, and unimpressive. I was determined that I would do better. My father wasn’t in my life much. Mom packed up and left while my dad was at work when I was just a toddler. Mom hated my father, and taught me to hate him as well. Mom blamed my father for not supporting us kids, but she is the one who left. In time, he had his own family to support, and he didn’t exactly have money to spare.

Even though he had his own family, my dad still managed to save my butt a couple times while I was growing up. As a young adult I was determined to find a reliable woman, get my education, work hard in my profession, pay my bills, and bring my children up in the Christian faith. But there were some unexpected pitfalls and shattered dreams along the way. The dreams I had as a young man, became a nightmare. But that’s life isn’t it? We pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and climb back on the horse. That’s what my father had to do as well.

Now days, I see my father in a much different way. There is no doubt that we are completely different people with different values and outlooks on life. But just as I have grown, he has grown too. Neither of us has much as far as material possessions. I’m sure he had dreams as a young man too, but life happens. I think he did what he could to pick up his own pieces and go on.  I bet he figured he would do better than his old man too. The truth of the matter is that when I really needed him, and he had the means to help; he did. He saved me from the state reformatory when I was 16 years old.  He drove through bad weather to be at my high school graduation.  He even drove down to Mississippi to show me how to run a picture framing business. He even drove the 500 miles one Father’s Day so I could actually get my biological family together for the first time.

My children have now flown the nest. They have their own dreams and ambitions. They want to do better than their parents, and I honestly hope they can, but as they spread their wings to take flight, I’m filled with the irresistible urge to scream, “Watch out for the hunters in the weeds.”

Someday, as my children grow and become parents themselves, maybe they will see me in a new light. Maybe they will understand that I worry because I love them. I hope they can understand that I’m screaming about the hunters in the weeds because I don’t want them to get hurt. Maybe they will understand the sacrifices I made just to provide them with a house to live and food to eat. Maybe someday they will see that I wish I could have given more. In spite of all my failures, maybe they will someday see that I tried to do the best I knew how with what I had. I hope one day they will see my efforts, my compassion, and my intentions. I may not have reached the summit I at one time sought, but maybe I’ve still made a difference in their lives.

Me and Tabitha walking down the isle at Northside Church of Christ

My oldest, Tabitha, is now married and expecting a child while she in the middle  of her college education. The panic sirens are are going off in my head. Her dreams are about to change too. I guess that is how life is. Like the song, Life Happened by Tammy Cochran, life never turns out as we expect it, but it still turn out okay. I have no idea what lies ahead for my little girl, but I do have assurance that she will do the best she can. I know that much about her. She is about to undergo a radical paradigm shift. Through it all, I’m hoping she will be able to appreciate some of the choices I made as she was growing up.

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About Ken Sayers

I'm currently employed by a children's home where my wife and I care for a cottage of girls who have been displaced from their families. I'm a middle age man with two grown children of my own and one grandchild. I have worked as a United States Marine, a youth minister, a preacher, a childcare worker, and a truck driver. My hobbies include photography, horses, playing guitar, writing, and fitness.
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