How do you explain a senseless, racist tragedy to an innocent child? This is one of the many responsibilities of fatherhood that sometimes weigh heavy on me. Though far overshadowed by the joys, there is a price tag to being an engaged father. Frequently it means getting out of my comfort zone and doing something I don’t like (such as signing up for swimming lessons so that I can help keep my daughters protected in the water…yeah, I know, I should already know how to swim…). Other times it means explaining things that are happening in the world around us in a way that a 3 or 5 year old can understand. Often it means admitting that I don’t exactly have the answer, and that one possibly doesn’t exist. That’s hard for a kid to hear, unless you’ve raised them to accept the fact that sometimes life is about asking the right questions, rather than finding the perfect answer (and even that’s hard for adults). My point is, there’s an intentionality with parenting that comes with being an engaged father.
As I write this, both of my girls have tip toed downstairs into my office and have crawled up next to me in the big chair by the window (sucking their thumbs of course). They’re pretty naive (though perhaps more conscious of the world around them than I’m aware). I have to fight the urge to keep them in their protective bubble, because most instincts I have as a father is to protect them from any type of harm, emotional, physical, or otherwise. But I know that’s not what’s best for them. The sooner they start developing the tools of character, faith, and intellectual curiosity to navigate the world around them, the better prepared they’ll be. Today for them it might mean having a difficult conversation if they ask an uncomfortable question about why would someone want to hurt people at a church. Tomorrow it could mean sharing my own anger about the existence of racism and the societal lack of will to acknowledge it. Here’s what I take solace in though as a parent: if we get it right (meaning us parents), in helping our children ask the right questions, then perhaps their generation will get it right in finding the right answers. That’s my hope and my prayer.