by Ken Canfield, Ph.D.
Your child is an incredible gift! Not a liability as some would suggest.
No matter what your current situation, whether you have a special-needs child, a child who’s struggling in some way, or a child you don’t get to see as often as you’d like, you simply can’t lose sight of the fact that children are a gift from God. Believing that truth will distinguish your fathering in countless ways, and most important, entrusting your children to His care will increase your capacity to face the toughest of challenges you or your child may face.
One of the most powerful examples of seeing your child as a gift is found in José DeVinck’s fathering. When José’s first child Oliver was born, after a few months it became clear that he had significant brain damage. Oliver would not be able to walk, speak, crawl or hold anything in his hand. The DeVincks’ doctor suggested they place Oliver in an institution for care, but José DeVinck refused to do so and took Oliver home.
Oliver lived to the age of thirty-three, and as an adult was the size of a ten-year-old. The DeVincks were able to have other children, and the whole family helped to feed, bathe and care for Oliver. In all respects, he was (as his brother Christopher would write) one of the “weakest, most helpless human beings” you would ever meet.
After Oliver’s death, Christopher once asked his dad, “How did you manage to care for Oliver for thirty-three years?”
“It was not thirty-three years,” his father replied. “I just asked myself, ‘Can I feed Oliver today?’ And the answer was always, ‘Yes, I can.’”
When our children are viewed as a gift from God, our capacity and commitment to care for them increases significantly. Even though many of us don’t face the daunting challenge of caring for a special-needs child, you may experience other challenges like: estrangement, a divorce, having a prodigal child, and being separated from your child, just to name a few. All of these challenges will test your faith, but even in those painful situations, if we can rest, recognizing that our son or daughter is a gift to us, which we can cherish and love, then we will discover uncommon strength and a tenacity to persevere.
Growing in the practice of viewing of our children as gifts will impact our commitment to our family, marriage and life. It will also pave the way to a humility and respect for life and the sacredness of marriage.
Being a dad is undoubtedly one of the most incredible privileges you or I will ever hold. With that in mind, here are some hands-on ways to live out your commitment:
1) Make a list of life habits that are interrupting or interfering with your role as a dad. Choose one you can give up in order to become the dad you want to be.
2) What new task do you need to undertake in the next 90 days that will demonstrate your fresh resolve and commitment to being a dad?
3) Where can you backstop or support your child in his or her current life situation? For example: helping with homework, taking them to and from events, attending a special event, making sure their car is in good shape, etc.
4) Share the challenges of your personal fathering situation with another dad, seeking camaraderie, advice, support and/or prayer.
5) Honor the mother of your child. Thank her for insights or thoughts she has to support you as a dad.
Share your insights on our Facebook page: How do you stay motivated and positive about your children despite the challenges?