6 Attitudes of the “Good Enough” Dad

photo credit: fiddle oak via photopin cc

Last weekend I saw the movie Courageous and was inspired by its call for excellence in fatherhood. This was the second time I’ve seen the movie and it was just as thought provoking as before. Driving home, I thought about how a person even who is pursuing greatness as a dad can go in and out of “good enough” dad mode. So, just how does a man know he is in “good enough” mode? Here is a list of attitudes I took away from the movie.

1. I’m a good provider, that ought to be enough
… “I put food on the table”…
…”I pay my child support”…
…“I give them everything they need, much more than other folks”…

The “good enough” dad measures his fatherhood in things and money. I remember going to a friend’s house once as a child. They had a huge playroom over a garage with every kind of toy you could think of. The dad had no time for his kids though. His marriage ended, his kids distanced themselves from him, and the things didn’t matter.

2. Quality time is what matters, not quantity.
…”I’m gone all the time, but I am going to take em to Disneyworld soon“…
…”I’ll make it up with a party or big adventure”…

The physical presence of a man is vital in the lives of his kids. I was flying back from Indonesia on a twenty-four hour set of flights a couple of years ago when this hit me square in the face. My kids don’t care what I do, how important I am to a business, or what deal was just won. They need me there to talk to, laugh with, cry with, fight with, etc,. The “good enough” dad thinks a high-quality event or trip will average out all the time he’s been away. This example doesn’t cover the guys on duty in Afghanistan. Their life is unique and their family’s bravery and sacrifice is unique. There’s nothing “good enough” about a soldier dad. It doesn’t mean the business traveler is always in this mode either. There are guys who bust their butt to get back home as quick as they can, and there are guys who maybe take their time or don’t turn down enough trips to bring things into balance.

3. Yeah it’s important but I’ll do that later
… “I’ll do it later, when they get older”…
… “it would be great to do that, but I’ll save that for a better time”…

The image of the father crying “Why didn’t I dance with her?” hit me hard. There are opportunities a dad cannot get back, moments when a man shuts down instead of opening up… the time you should have given a hug or merely walked across the room for a handshake… something. The “good enough” dad hesitates. He tells himself to do stuff later.

4. I’m still a better dad than my dad is/was
…”my old man never told me he loved me, these kids have it great”…
… “at least I’m here, that is more than my father gave me”…

It is natural for sons to benchmark themselves against fathers. If a man set the standard really high for his son, that could be a great thing. If the standard is low, surpassing it isn’t all that difficult, doesn’t require all that much effort and misses the mark entirely. The “good enough” dad compares himself to man’s standards instead of God’s.

5. My kids are out of the house now, not my problem
…”so glad to have the kids out of my house, now I can do what I wanna”…

The “good enough” dad thinks he’s done when the child becomes an adult. I was personally struck by the scene where the man says to his son, “I want to finish well.” Experiencing my Father-in-law’s death earlier this year made think about how a man finishes the race of life.  Somehow my two grandfathers come to mind. One grandfather was selfish and fixated on his health challenges, his family tree, and his words. He only ever talked about himself. As a teen, I wrecked his favorite car. He didn’t want anything to do with me after that. But, the other grandfather was my biggest hero. He was kind and giving with me to the end. There was nothing he and I couldn’t talk about even after I got married.  He was the guy I wanted to be. He loved me no matter what, a mirror image of God’s fatherly love.

The “good enough” dad does not think about how his wife and kids will remember him when he is gone. His plan doesn’t begin with the end in mind. He simply allows his life to unfold without a plan even though the way he lives will impact up to three generations into the future.

6. You’re not my kid, you’re on your own
…”I’ll worry about my kids, everyone else should worry about theirs”…
…”I don’t want to get involved, people might not understand”…

Many men have a sphere of influence that includes people who don’t have a dad, or whose dad is failing them, or just the young people who could use someone outside their family to encourage them during those hard years transitioning from childhood to adulthood. A “good enough” dad is concerned with the minimal, doesn’t risk sharing his experiences, doesn’t lend his encouraging voice, and only invests when asked to. He just takes care of his own and doesn’t use intentional influence to better the lives of those already within his reach.

So, why define the “good enough” attitudes anyway? Shouldn’t you write a post about the 5 characteristics of great dads instead? You can read every parenting book out there and still fall into these traps. For me, Courageous compels self examination in light of these attitudes. Do I ever have these attitudes? On any given day I could. But, I’m not taking a trip down guilt road – that isn’t the point.

Learning to recognize them is a key step. A person must benchmark against the ultimate Father and Son (Matthew 3). That topic could be a whole blog post on its own. Yet, the whole point of Courageous, it seems to me, is that a man cannot be a great dad when he is content to live with these attitudes.

Like most people, I am likely to improve with clear actionable steps born out of honest communication. What if you could schedule for yourself a 360 degree performance review as a dad? I wonder what that could tell us.

In the corporate world openness and vulnerability are critical to professional development. So, what if you sent a blind survey to your kids, wife, best friends, and asked them to rate you as a dad on key things? I bet I could use that feedback. You might be surprised to hear what you are dong well and possibly a few things to improve upon.

We spend how much time in the professional world perfecting our skills? How much effort doing strength and endurance training in athletics? How much searching for more effective programs and engagement in ministry?

Fathering is the most important and meaningful thing a man will ever do. Good enough when you spell it out like this, just isn’t good at all.

What do you think about this list of attitudes? What does your self talk and attitudes tell you about your efforts as a dad? How can we help each other recognize these attitudes? What kind of dad do you want to be when it is your turn to raise children?

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