This week, I was honored to receive an award at the 16th Annual International Fatherhood Conference—the Spirit of Fatherhood Leadership Award.
It’s actually quite humbling because I know none of this would be possible without the people who have invested in me along the way, and those who continue to assist me and make me look good every day. If you’re so inclined, you can see a few photos from the event here on Facebook.
But more than this honor for me, as we look forward to Father’s Day I want to explore that idea: the spirit of fatherhood. What does that phrase conjure up in your mind? (Please share your thoughts either below on this page or at Facebook.)
For me, the spirit of fatherhood is all about dads encouraging and supporting each other.
For the past few days, I have been challenged and strengthened by brothers and mentors in the field of fatherhood at this conference. I also have a group of men I meet with every Friday for accountability. And I try to be that mentor and encourager for the young dads in my family—my son and sons-in-law.
There are a lot of guys who won’t get to see their kids on Father’s Day. We all know dads facing those kinds of challenges, and we can be their friend and offer our support.
Just this week I met a dad who went through a long legal battle so he could get more access to his children. He talked about a good friend who was with him—often literally sitting with him in the courtroom—every step through that grueling process.
I have often said that, in general, men don’t do well on their own. We might be fine for a while, but eventually things get difficult and many of us grow weary, feel lonely or feel like we’re failing much more than we’re succeeding. It’s true in many of our roles, and there’s no role more important than being a dad.
I cannot overstate the value of support received from other dads along the fathering journey.
One great example comes from Brian, a good friend of mine.
It was Sunday morning, and Brian was in church sitting behind a single dad and his two young daughters—a young baby and a preschooler. And just to make it plain, this dad’s appearance really made him stand out next to Brian and the other men in the room: he had piercings, elaborate tattoos, and wild hair that was colored and spiked. Brian said he isn’t proud that he quickly put this father into a “category” based on his appearance.
But as the church service went on, Brian was genuinely impressed by the young dad. Whenever those young girls got restless or started to make noise, the dad handled them patiently and calmly. Brian said it was amazing to watch.
Near the end of the service, Brian took a courageous step. He wrote a brief note to the dad that said: “I admire your patience and love for your girls. I know it is often tough; hang in there. You are a great dad.”
He tapped the dad on the shoulder and handed him the note, and the dad read it and smiled.
After church, they talked for a few minutes and Brian learned more about his situation, which is difficult and complex.
After that, they exchanged regular emails and saw each other at the church from time to time. Brian gave him a fathering resource he thought would be encouraging and has continued to invest in that young dad’s life.
To me, that’s the spirit of fatherhood! Brian simply saw a young dad in a tough situation and encouraged him. That dad’s life has been changed for the better—and his children will surely benefit. Brian says his life has been enriched as well. And it all started with a simple note and a small investment of time.
Similar opportunities present themselves every day, but we are usually too busy to recognize them. Often all it takes is a small, simple act, but it can have a huge impact.
This is one way we as dads can enlist other men and truly change the future for children. If we’re going to create a Championship Fathering culture and turn around the negative statistics associated with fatherlessness, this is an example of what it looks like. It’s all about men like Brian—and me and you—reaching out to one father at a time. And Father’s Day is the perfect time to start.
I am confident that similar opportunities will come your way—maybe even this week. Be ready, and then be an encouragement.
What embodies the spirit of fatherhood to you? What examples have you seen where dads are living it out? Please encourage me and other dads by telling about it either below or on our Facebook page.
Action Points for Dads on the Journey
- If you have found something useful to your fathering journey—a resource, a skill, a truth—pass it along. Pay it forward to another dad. Then follow up with a few questions to see how he’s doing with his kids.
- One great, non-threatening way to encourage a dad: invite him to join you in a program like WATCH D.O.G.S. at your kids’ school.
- Keep your eyes open for ways you can reach out to dads wherever you are—at work, in your kids’ teams or groups, at church, etc. Keep asking yourself, “What can I do here to help strengthen fathers?”
- Meet another dad for lunch or coffee, ask him about his kids, and just listen.
Carey Casey is the CEO of the National Center for Fathering, a nonprofit organization seeking toimprove the lives of children and establish a positive fathering and family legacy that will impact future generations by inspiring and equipping fathers and father figures to be actively engaged in the life of every child. We encourage you to help us change the culture of fathering in America by joining the Championship Fathering Team. You can also sign up for Carey’s weekly email tips by clicking here: “Yes! I want tips on how to be a great dad who lives out loving, coaching and modeling for my children.