Learning to be a good Father
Today we celebrate Father's Day. While socks and ties will reign supreme in the gift-giving department, it's really a day to say, 'thank you, dad'. To kick-off our special Father's Day issue, contributor Natalia Oh sat down with Dwight Pinnock as he shared his story of growing up without a father and explains how he used that experience to help him become a better father. Happy Father's Day, all!
I would compare fatherhood to watching a movie about a fairy tale. Fatherhood was not something I observed as a child, it wasn't a reality, for myself and my twin brother, or our friends.
I met my father when I was 13 years old in a bar near my community of Rae Town. My mother was a woman of few words -what you didn't need to know for your survival, was not shared, and I trusted if she had something to share, it would be said. I guess this left more confusion than anything else, surrounding what a father should be.
At that first meeting, I remembered walking into the bar full of strangers, one of whom was the man who called me 'son' that day.
My mother introduced us and he ordered two soft drinks for us. It seemed special to me because they were in a glass bottle and it was something my mother would have never spent her small wage on.
Was this it? This was what having a father was? A soft drink in a bar every 13 years of your life? I was not angry, I was just missing so much information regarding what I was supposed to expect of a father. We walked home that night, little words spoken and went back to what we knew.
It was a few years later, at age 15, that I came to an understanding of the nature of a father - not just a good father, but a perfect father. I was given the privilege of attending Moorlands Camp through the sponsorships of Dr Peter and Patricia Morgan. There I encountered the love of Christ for the first time. I fully gave my life to the Lord, knowing that the love I experienced in His presence was not comparable to anything I had ever felt before. I knew I was loved. That love drew me to a resolve that I made in my heart regarding fatherhood - that although I can't change the childhood I had, I could forgive my father and decide that this cycle stops with me.
It wasn't obvious to me as a child that some of my fears, vulnerabilities, and insecurities came because of the absence of a father and protector in my life. I don't know that children can truly express the loss that they feel not knowing the other half of who they are, but as they grow older, the impact becomes glaringly real. I struggled with self worth, identity, and a general sense of insecurity.
In the face of a tumultuous, violent community, you live on guard, always looking over your shoulder, knowing as a young boy that you are vulnerable. Then as we become men, we live to prove that we are not, which only continues the cycle of violence and insecurity.
Although I lacked the physical presence of my earthly father, I look back and see the hand of protection of my Heavenly Father over my life. I remember riding a borrowed bicycle through my community, and without warning I heard gunshots as they flew past my head. I was mistaken for someone else, which nearly ended my life. I was quickly recognised as someone from the community, and the men stopped firing. This among other incidences showed me that I was sufficiently protected and loved even when I didn't know Him.
The Morgans who brought me to camp, also gave me the opportunity to attend Christ for the Nations in Montego Bay, where I soaked up every ounce of knowledge I could of this Father I was getting to know. It was there that I met my wife, Shanda, and four years later at 21, we were married. Marriage was another area of life I had no frame of reference for.
So I read, and just did what the books told me to do. I learnt to love someone else, the way Christ loved me, which usually requires an intense amount of sacrifice.
Fast forward to 12 years of marriage behind us, I am now the father of three of the most beautiful children in the world.
When my wife was pregnant with our first child, I wondered what kind of father I would be. I constantly reminded myself that if I followed the lead of my heavenly Father and the example He is to me, I will do justice to this new role in my life.
There are a few things I have learnt since being a father. I am by no means an expert, but I have found they carry me along.
1. We have a perfect example in Christ. When our earthly fathers fail to meet our needs, or to be an adequate role model, we can trust that by getting to know our heavenly father, that he can give us the wisdom we need to father our children.
2. The best gift I can give them is to love and honour their mother. Children find security in our unity.
3. Be involved. Knowing the pain of not having a father present, it was important to me that I was there for my children. However, in my few years of being a father, I have learnt that being present is not always enough. My children need me to be involved in their lives. If I want my daughter to come to me in her later years with the harsh realities of life, she will learn to trust that I am there now when her harsh realities consist of broken Barbies and words that hurt her feelings.
So I had to step up and become intentional about actively interacting with them. I want them to know me, but I also want to know them. As a father, I am the initiator of that relationship.
A part of my responsibility is to instil in my children identity, value, confidence, purpose, and self-esteem, etc, that comes through a relationship with them.
4. Be the adventure. Children are most excited just to be in your presence and to know that you will take time out for them. Make memories with them, go on adventures, explore with them. They don't need stuff, they need you. Maybe I am a big kid, but I always seem to enjoy it just as much as they do. I'm so thankful to be able to give my children moments they will look back on and talk about. Childhood is fun. Fatherhood is the greatest reward.