This morning I was awoken with a head nestled into my face. I opened one eye to see a cheeky 3 year old peering at me. His mum had said to leave me alone but eye contact was all the he needed to start jumping on me, instinctively I bent my leg upwards and turned slightly to protect a sensitive area which has been injured in this type of play before.
I’ve been the recipient of a great deal of attention this week from the boys as I’ve had this week off to relax with them over the school holidays. I can see their familiarity with having dad around has led to more inventive and inclusive play with me. It has been a fun week, replenishing and refreshing.
But most recently I’ve been weighing the responsibility of raising boys as my wife and I found out we are having another little male Ramachenderan.
I have to admit that I was scared at first. Laden on me was the prospect of raising three boys to become men. Men who love God, who have a purpose in life, who love and respect people, men who develop and use their potential and hopefully one day leave to start their own legacy.
But I remembered one of the greatest revelations I have ever had about being a dad was about 4 years ago whilst on holiday.
Samuel was two years old, and we had taken an “emergency holiday” down to Augusta because I was thoroughly burnt out from working as an emergency registrar. My work life balance was totally off center and I was emotionally and physically exhausted. It took 3 days of arguments, fresh air and walks with Samuel to remove the funk.
We were walking along a bush trail and Samuel was running along ahead. We had always thought him to hold our hands when walking, but here he loosened the grip and broke free. But soon I’d lost sight of him and then heard a rustle, stumble and crying, he’d caught his foot on a rock and fallen.
I debated taking him home but decided against it. Samuel was scared he didn’t want to fall again, so he hung back and through his tears and sniffling, he followed me down the path again. When there was an obstacles in our way, he saw me duck and weave and did the same. Soon he was walking next to me and his hand found mine.
With his hand cradled in mine, his countenance began to change as his confidence grew again. In that moment, piercing straight through to my heart was the one of the greatest revelations of being a dad that I had just experienced.
Being a father is a combination of walking ahead to lead the way as our children follow, walking next to them with encouragement and walking behind them in support as they find their unique purpose and test the waters of life
So as fathers we are called to:
- Lead our children by walking ahead of them showing the path
- Encourage and accept our children by walking next to them
- Release our children by walking behind them
As Dads we are leaders in our homes. Our vision for the family, our behaviour and our habits (good and bad) are contagious. Our children can see what is important to us by the way that we spend our time and how we spend our money. They see how we treat others and most importantly for my boys, the way that I love their mother and serve her.
Whether we accept it or not, we became leaders when our precious little ones were born. We became key factors to their success in life and the need to lead ourselves away from bad habits, destructive relationships and questionable behavior became imperative.
We can first start to develop our leadership by defining a vision for successful parenting. Then by looking at our lives, we need to see where changes need to be made and start there. Take another father out for coffee who has raised great kids and weathered the storms of life and pick his brain (this is my preferred option!)
For me it was about being a father who was present despite the busyness of being a doctor. I wanted to make memories with the boys by spending time with them and releasing/relieving Kylie to spend time on her own. This meant curtailing my hobbies and scheduling time off and in early years of my career, this was a challenge! Recently I changed jobs which has helped this cause immensely.
Remember this, if we cannot lead ourselves, we will struggle to lead others. Start with leading yourself into a healthy lifestyle and developing a personal understanding of fatherhood and parenting . It is in you! It is possible.
“Dad watch this!, Dad look at me!, look at what I’ve made!” Aren’t these some of the most common request that we hear as parents of young boys?
Most recently Samuel borrowed a book of science experiments and inventions and all he’s been doing these holidays is inventing machines and constantly asking me to “Look at what I’ve made! Isn’t it cool?” and “I’m an inventor aren’t I dad?”.
As I responded to him “Wow! That is very cool! You are an inventor!”, I could see the encouragement sink deep into his little heart and soothe a craving for acceptance.
Boys are wired for our encouragement, they seek it as it provides comfort and a foundation for them to explore their own uniqueness. They need their fathers to affirm them to let them know that they are proud of their achievements.
As I’ve talked about before, this provides them with a solid and positive life script that they will remember as adults.
I believe that our leadership and encouragement are perquisites for our children to be successful as we release them.
Our encouragement instills confidence in their unique path and our leadership is a roadmap of how they should love, act and pursue their purpose.
As they take their first steps they do so in the comfort and safety of our gentle hand behind them. But as they gain momentum and confidence they run ahead, knowing that we are right behind them ready to encourage them and provide a safe and warm place to land should they fall.
In my final year of medicine, I failed a significant exam. I was devastated and exhausted. I remember crying as I talked my dad over the phone, he encouraged me to take a week off and come back to Perth, which I did. It was one of the most refreshing weeks I’ve experienced. With their leadership and praise instilled in me, I knew I was capable to pursue a career as a doctor but most importantly that they were behind me.
The journey of fatherhood is that of a gradual release of our children. I believe for my boys that constant specific encouragement and leading intentionally will provide them with a foundation as they venture out into the world.
It should come as no surprise that one of my favourite advertisements on TV at the moment is from Dads4kids below. It illustrates these points perfectly. As dads we walk ahead, we walk beside and we walk behind our children, leading, encouraging and releasing them as fathers who love our children and desire the best for them.
Live intentionally and love relentlessly
Dr. Jonathan Ramachenderan @thehealthyGP