Before you go, I want you to tell me everything I need to know about taking care of her. You are leaving soon, and you know far more than I do. Please, before you go, just tell me what it is I need to know. Tell me everything.
The look on my son-in-law Matt's face told the story. He sat in the leather Pottery Barn rocker, bleary eyed from sleep depravity. I stood nearby at the changing table with my hands resting on our Newborn Angel.
Her difficult debut left us enveloped in cobwebs of exhaustion - the lengthy birthing process, the extended hospital stay, the urgent return to ICU. Thankfully, Our Baby rebounded. Under one roof again, Operation Newborn gained momentum, and ours became a high-po team.
But now, in the soft light of the nursery lamp, the reality of my upcoming departure hung in the air. The challenges seemed daunting with one adult out of the picture.
In earnest humility, sitting forward in the rocker, Matt articulated his need: Before you go, I want you to tell me everything I need to know about taking care of her. You are leaving soon, and you know far more than I do. Please, before you go, just tell me what it is I need to know. Tell me everything.
The internet provides voluminous information for today's new parents, but it does not provide encouragement. And new parents need seasoned encouragement. After all, Google has never walked the floor all night with a crying baby.
Thus, as Father’s Day approaches, I find myself still pondering this young father's request: I want you to tell me everything I need to know about taking care of her.
Matt, I am honored you asked. Though I cannot tell you everything you need to know, I willingly share with you several pivotal priorities. The answer to your question is not that complicated. Yet, it needs a lifetime to accomplish.
Love her to the Lord - lead her to The Lord. She is not yours; she belongs to Him. Introduce her to Him and to His Word - early and consistently. Love her lavishly; envelop her with grace and truth. You don’t have to be a perfect Dad to be a wonderful Dad. Love trumps perfection. Love her Mother; intentionally work to keep your marriage relationship fresh and healthy. Love.
Embrace parenting as a privilege - invest wholeheartedly into each phase of the process. Do not wait until you have confidence for the mission to be involved in the mission. Spend time with her at every age and stage of her development, and grow with her. If you want her to talk to you as a teenager, talk to her as a toddler. Don’t blink; high school graduation is just around the corner. Someone said, Thedaysarelongbuttheyearsareshort. Engage.
Be a praying Dad. Look to the Lord in vulnerable humility for the ongoing, supernatural wisdom you need. Emulate the prayer of Manoah, Samson’s father: O Lord…teach us how to bring up the child. (Judges 13:8) Be mindful that no one has ever brought up your little girl. Only God Himself has the blueprint. Be quick to ask Him for guidance. Pray.
Be gracious to yourself. You won’t get it 100% right 100% of the time. Laugh with her; allow her to know you. Teach her, but also let her teach you. Allowing my children to help me grow up became one of my greatest joys in parenting. Relax.
Matt, though I ache to provide a complete answer to your genuine question, I could never tell you everything you need to know. But God can - and He will. On this your first Father's Day, I commit my ongoing prayers and loving support. Faye is blessed beyond measure to have you guiding her life. As she places her hand in your hand, as you place your hand in God's Hand, you will always have Light for the next step. And, as you pursue parenting with all your heart, remember: ...underneath are The Everlasting Arms. (Deut. 33:27)
Living with Eternal Intentionality: What encouragement would you offer a new father?