I’m not one to sit still. I’ve always been concocting my next interest when I wasn’t even halfway through my current one. Back in 2013, with my wife expecting our first child, I was taking courses toward a master’s in pastoral studies and training for a marathon, and a Ragnar Relay on top of preparing our house for our baby. I was also gardening, home brewing, and working full time as a campus minister.
Like I said, I don’t sit still.
But amid all of this, one of the faculty members in my master’s program took me out for coffee before class. What I knew of her life story intrigued me, and I wanted to learn more. She was a Black woman, teaching feminist theology, and was a parishioner at St. Sabina on the South side of Chicago. Fr. Pfleger and his parishioners are fierce advocates for gun reform and are often in the news for their ministry. So, while enjoying some coffee, I asked her whether she took part in the work.
She said, “Not in the ways you are thinking.”
When I pressed her, she said, “I’m not on the streets or on the protest lines. I’m back in the church kitchen making sure everyone gets fed when they come home.”
Her comment pulled me up short. She was right. I hadn’t expected it, and seven years later, I still reflect on the importance of having leaders leading the protests and leaders back home tending to our basic needs.
Fatherhood isn’t all that different.
Often, fathers think they have to be larger than life for their kids, but the reality is we already are. This summer my girls were wonder-struck by my ability to build them a tree fort. Little did they know that I spent hours watching YouTube videos, consulting with my dad and other friends to ensure it wouldn’t fall down the moment they climbed to the top.
While it is fun to show off our abilities, it isn’t about winning every game of cards or checkers or chess. It isn’t about running faster than them in a foot race or lifting more weights. Clearly, if you are the adult and then are in elementary school, you should be winning any contest of skill. But they don’t need you to beat them, they need you to show them the strategies so they can win against their friends. They need to know you have their back, that you have food waiting for them when they come home victorious or frustrated in defeat.
I’ll admit that with everything I have going on, I sometimes forget this important lesson. I get my priorities out of alignment and think having so many things going on shows my daughters how important I am. But it doesn’t show them that. All it shows them is that my hobbies and interests take priority over them, which is the last thing I want them to think or feel.
Now I involve them in the activities so they will soar at them one day. Some activities are a long way off, like running in the local 5K, but for other things, like Uno and Go Fish, they are already leaving me in their dust.