We had a great concert in Valdosta, Georgia last night. So, after the crew packed up all the gear, we headed back home to Atlanta. The bus dropped us off at our studio at exactly 3:33 AM. It’s always weird when you look at your phone at exactly that moment. But anyway, as I was driving home from the studio, trying to keep my eyes open, I passed a church sign that read, “Being a great dad is easy, just be there.” I laughingly said out loud, “I’m trying,” thinking about how much I wanted to get home to my bed and back to sleep. However, as I continued the short trip to my house, I couldn’t help but ponder, “Is the standard really that low? Is just being there really the mark of a great dad?”
I was making a similar late night/early morning drive to be home for Mother’s Day this year after a show in Huntsville, AL. I was dreading the short night of sleep I would have because I had plans to wake up before my wife and make breakfast, give her gifts, do the dishes, take the kids to church, and hold down the fort while she got a little R&R on her special day. I remember at the end of the Mother’s Day feeling no small measure of self-satisfaction at the great job I’d done to make my wife feel special, and I was exhausted. For one day, I had tried to do just a fraction of what my wife does every day, and I was worn out. Certainly, the standard for a great mom is a lot greater than just being there.
So, on this Father’s Day, I would humbly like to offer that being a great father is more than just being there. I understand what the sign is trying to express. There is definitely truth in the sentiment that “Showing up is half the battle.” I understand the social commentary on absentee and delinquent fathers, etc. But, what about all the abusive fathers whose wives and children want nothing more than for their husbands to just go away? If we’re jerks when we’re there, being there hardly constitutes greatness. I started thinking about all the times I’ve been content to “just be there,” caught up with the television, or the Internet, or a book instead of really engaging with my wife and kids. Fatherhood is a job, and it is never okay to just be there in your job. If we just showed up in Third Day, we certainly wouldn’t be great. We try, we practice, we plan, we dream. (I’m not saying we are great. But, we try to be!) I’ve had crew guys that were content in “just being there.” They no longer work for us. Just being there doesn’t cut it.
So, here is my edit for the church sign committee:
Being an okay father is easy, just be there. However, if you want to be a great father, really be there: love your wife, wrestle with your kids, talk to them, help them with their homework, read the bible with them, pray with them, listen, play sports with them, teach them how to take pictures or play instruments, coach a team, teach them how to type or do a spreadsheet. Love them, hug them, tell them that you love them, tell your daughters they are beautiful, take the whole family camping, help your boys be strong. Volunteer at their schools. Go to their long, boring plays, and practice your own acting by pretending it was awesome. Show your boys how to treat women, hold chairs and open doors. Show them how to serve others. Sacrifice, stop being selfish, and give your children great memories. Be more like your wife!
What do you think? Obviously, this would make a horrible church sign. I’m certainly not writing this from the perspective of someone who has this all figured out. I’m writing this as a challenge to myself first and foremost. But guys, I think it’s time we raised the standard. It’ll take more than applying the words from a church sign. It’ll take everything we have for the rest of our lives. But, there is always a cost to greatness.