“Goodnight, Dad. I love you very much.”
I was just finishing my tuck-in for the night and these words caught me defenseless. I’ve heard them before and appreciated them deeply, but this night was different. This was a moment where I simultaneously felt the weight of fatherhood, my flaws as a dad and my desperate desire to love my kids well. You see, these words were spoken during the concluding moments of a day (or, probably more accurately, a few days) when I had fallen far short of the high calling of fatherhood.
A lack of patience, frustration, short temper and other non-laudables had marked this stretch for me. If roles had been reversed in the bedtime tucking in process, I’m fairly confident I would have determined that a grunt would have sufficed as a goodnight. But thankfully, the roles weren’t reversed and I was instead the recipient of grace and forgiveness and love. It was undeserved, a fact that was painfully obvious to me as soon as the words were spoken.
My experience as a dad has been marked far more by apologies than I ever would have imagined when I held that burrito-ed life on B-day +1. Great dreams and ambitions for the level of maturity that I would bring to fatherhood fast met the reality of my impatience, short fuse and good dose of selfishness. So, I’ve come to realize that apologizing is often the best sort of dadcraft I can offer my kids.
Despite how much I want to be perfectly worthy of that “I love you very much”, I’m not going to be. I could string together day after day of memorable activities, but it still wouldn’t be enough. Instead, my kids deserve my honesty when I’m a jerk. And they need to regularly see an example of forgiveness and grace because I desperately need theirs.
Having apologized just a few times, we have some thoughts on what a good apology looks like here.
Picture by Chris Horst.