For men born in the United States of the Baby Boomer generation and prior, the ideal of fatherhood that our culture often touted went something like this:
• Do things on your own, you don’t need anyone’s help.
• You are weak if you share your feelings.
• Be the strong, silent type.
• Fatherhood is more about discipline than nurturing.
Unfortunately, I bought into this, big time. I let culture — not God, Our Father — influence my concept of fatherhood.
Parenting doesn’t come with a handbook. We learn a lot of it from examples around us like our parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends. (Fortunately, I was blessed with a terrific mom and dad, two sets of wonderful grandparents and a loving, caring wife, so our children turned out well in spite of me.)
My misguided idea about fatherhood soon became a self-fulfilling prophesy. When our kids were younger, I could see that I needed help, but I didn’t ask anyone and neither did any of my friends who were fathers.
This was a tremendous lack of maturity, not only in growing as a man, but growing in my faith. The problem was I just “went” to church. I did not have a relationship with God. I showed up on Sunday for Mass but my pride got in the way of me actually listening to God or our priest.
As my relationship with God grew, so did my fatherhood. Once I recognized that I was “broken,” asked for God’s forgiveness, thanked Him for all that He gave me and listened intentionally for His guidance, He responded. God was there all the time, just waiting for my invitation to let Him in.
I wasn’t a good spiritual father for my family when I was younger, but I feel like I’m making positive strides. Fortunately, it’s not where you start, it’s where you finish. God, Our Father, is merciful and He made us in His image and likeness. It’s through our weakness that we grow stronger in our dependence on God and reflect His love, mercy, compassion and empathy for others.
The gift of fatherhood has given me much joy throughout my life. It has also made me a better son — son to God in heaven and son to my father on earth.
Happy Father’s Day.
Baranowski is the director of stewardship education in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. He and his wife are parishioners at Mary, Mother of the Church in south St. Louis County.