“I got you flowers, Mommy!” He spun in three circles and then did a forward roll off the couch. Some people express their excitement in mere words. Others need their whole bodies plus a three-foot radius. My son falls into the latter category.
“Look at the flowers! I got them for you! Me and Daddy did!” In a matter of seconds, he perched himself on the edge of the countertop and crouched not unlike a baboon inspecting a furry friend’s back for insects. He fingered the rose petals with a gentleness I didn’t think possible, thanks to the coaching I’m sure he received from his dad.
Benjamin shifted his attention back to me. “Because,” he said, seriousness in his voice, “guh-wuls need flowers.”
Girls Need Flowers
I bit back my laughter and told Ben that, if he remembered those three words, he’d fair pretty well with the women in his life. This wasn’t the first time my son uttered such a politically incorrect statement. Among the others I hear on a regular basis are:
“Me and Daddy take care of you and Ryleigh because we’re the MEN of the house.”
“We love the guh-wuls of our house.”
“Me and Daddy will take care of that because we’re STRONG.”
And my personal favorite:
“When I grow up to be a daddy…”
Every Boy’s Superhero
My son is three but is convinced he holds within him the strength of a full grown black bear (which is the best kind of bear according to him, by the way). He’s convinced that I need his help in order to lift or move anything that contains mass. And if he’s unable to help in the way he believes he can, he’s quick to tell me, “Don’t worry, Daddy can do it.”
Sure, I carried the human for nine months and gave birth to him and all that. (Blah blah, right?) But when Daddy walks into the room? He. Is. The. Man.
They wrestle and “punch” and tackle each other to the ground. They show off their muscles, build (and then destroy) elaborate LEGO creations, and make an incredible amount of noise. And at the sound of the lock turning in the door at the end of each day, Ben sprints up and down the hall screaming, “It’s Daddy, It’s Daddy! Daddy’s home!”
But the first time I heard Ben say, “When I grow up to be a daddy…” I thought he was confused. The context didn’t make sense. We were talking about his favorite kind of vehicle, and he matter-of-factly said, “When I grow up to be a daddy, I’m going to drive a red pick-up truck.”
I didn’t think much of it until he started saying this phrase more often. He’d tell me that when he grew up to be a daddy, he’d get a job as a construction worker, or buy his own fire truck, or wear shoes as big as Daddy’s, or buy a minivan for me (he wouldn’t spring for the SUV).
And that’s when it hit me. In my son’s mind, growing up and becoming an adult—becoming a man—was synonymous with fatherhood.
When I Grow Up to be a Daddy
In the mornings, Ben will plant a gentle kiss on Ryleigh’s cheek and do the same to me. He’ll then look at his dad and say, “I kissed my guh-wuls good morning!” He comforts his baby sister when she’s upset, puts a protective arm around her shoulders when anyone he doesn’t know speaks to her, and at the dinner table says, “Ganks for making dinner, Mary, it looks gweat!” (Yes, he calls me Mary. I’m working on it.)
Ben watches his dad like a hawk and mimics the rough-and-tumble guy stuff, but he also mimics the gentle, take-care-of-your-family stuff. Because everything Ben knows about how to treat his mom and his sister, he’s learned from his dad.
Everything Ben knows about being human—being a boy—he’s learned from Daddy. So if Daddy is strong and Daddy protects his family and Daddy follows Jesus…then that’s what Ben wants to do, too.
We may try to downplay a father’s importance in a world that is obsessed with redefining family and marriage, but we can’t avoid the truth. Fathers matter. The biblical role of a father in the lives of his children is both mysterious and beautiful.
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The Perfect Father
In a world where almost 1 in 4 families is fatherless, it would be naive to expect that Father’s Day is a celebration for everyone. While God’s design for fatherhood is perfect, we live in a fallen world where everything humans touch is riddled with imperfection.
But for those who grew up without a godly or even decent father figure, or even those whose fathers are no longer here, we can find rest and joy in the truth that our Heavenly Father loves us perfectly and unconditionally. He offers salvation to those who believe in the sacrificial death and resurrection of his son, Jesus Christ, and a relationship here on earth that will culminate in a neverending reunion with him in eternity.
He is the perfect Father, the one we can learn from, follow, and imitate. The one we can look to and say, “I want to be like you.”
Happy Father’s Day
As our little family celebrates Father’s Day this weekend, I will delight in the multitude of ways my son mimics and follows my husband. And I’ll savor each time I hear a sentence start with, “When I grow up to be a daddy…”
Because maybe that’s not what my son means to say. Maybe what he’s actually saying is, “When I grow up, I want to be like my daddy.”
And that’s ok with me.