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  • Writer's picturejamesbriankerr

The Job of a Good Father is the Job of Being Present

With Dad in his garden a few months before he passed

Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there.

You may not always get the credit, the cards, the kudos, but know that your role in the world is important beyond measure.

In a world that so often feels like it has gone off the rails, you provide a daily ballast and compass for your children to make their way, safely and with integrity, in that world. That, even more than whatever money-making job you hold to provide for your family, is your job.

It’s a big job. Often a thankless job. But the world needs unsung heroes—God, does it need them—and you’re one of those heroes. Never forget that.

Statistically speaking, we fathers don’t live as long as the mothers out there, but our words and—more importantly—our example cast a long shadow in the lives of our children. Likely, your kids won’t realize just how tall of a figure you were in their lives until you’re gone. I, for my part, didn’t fully understand that about my father until I lost him nearly four years ago.

But make no mistake: you are a sun in the sky of those you have brought into this world. Who gets up in the morning and thanks the sun for lighting the day ahead?

No one.

So it is with being a father. You’re just there, providing light, warmth, and direction for those in your orbit.

Does the sun shout its importance? Does it demand recognition for what it does?

No. And neither does a good father. You—we—don’t need buttons or trophies or plaques to be a good father. We don’t even need to be perfect, as the sun is perfect. We just need to stand tall and be present.

That, in my view, is what the art of fatherhood is all about. It’s about being present.

The best fathers are present in their kids’ lives. Even when they are not physically present, they are present in the example they have set for their children, in the moral compass they have put in their kids’ pockets, without the kids even knowing it.

We won’t be there to make the decisions for our children as they face tough challenges and moral dilemmas down the road. But our compass, like the sun above, will be there to help them know what is right and true, so that they, hopefully, will make the right decisions.

They won’t always decide correctly, just as we didn’t. But that doesn’t matter either. Perfection doesn’t matter. What matters, again, is being present.

Let’s face it: because we are imperfect, sometimes the shadows we cast as fathers are dark ones. Our children likely will struggle with those shadows. They will want to step out from those shadows and be a sun of their own.

That’s perfectly natural, and right. One day when our kids are tall enough to be suns in the orbits of their own children, they will look at the shadows they are casting and understand that casting shadows is part of what it means to be a parent and a father.

Shadows come along with compasses. They’re two sides of the same coin.

Remember that, all you fathers out there, next time you feel you have failed in something you did and said. You only fail when you’re not present.

Yes, what a job it is that you have! Today you get to rest. I hope you do.

And to my departed father in heaven: thank you for always being present in our lives. Know that every day, I pull out the compass you left behind so that I know where I am and where I need to go, and I will keep doing that until the day I depart this world.

Your compass is my compass. My compass is my kids’ compass. We’re just passing it on.

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