Few things bond fathers and sons like sharing things they both love. I’m fortunate that my two boys and I mostly love the same things. Whether hunting, fishing, playing/watching sports, or riding horses, our common interests run deep, and fortunately, we’ve spent countless hours pursuing them together. Of course, it’s not the things themselves that matter so much, it’s the way a man’s heart gets knit to his son when they’re shared. I think God just set it up that way.
One challenge, however, is we don’t live in a perfect world. Fishing lines get tangled—badly. Turkeys get scared off during the perfect hunt. Buses break down on the way to big games. And sometimes, we realize wallets were left at home a hundred miles down the road. In those moments, it’s all too easy to launch a harsh word at the ones we love most—all too easy for a grown man to say something to a boy that marks his heart.
That’s why one of the most important things fathers can learn to do is say I’m sorry. As a friend who I admire greatly recently told me, “I guess I’ve apologized to my wife and four kids ten times more than all five of them have collectively apologized to me.” That sounds about right.
The good thing about real apologies is the one asking forgiveness can cover a lot of ground if it comes from the heart. But just sayin’ “sorry” doesn’t cut it. The failure has to be owned, like a man. We have to say things like, “Hey, what I did back there, that was wrong, and here’s how I bet it made you feel…will you please forgive me for that?” Thankfully for me, they always have.
That’s a good thing because, as cliché, as it sounds, they’re not little forever. They grow up and often they tower over you, as is my case with the young man pictured above. And one day, you wake up and realize that little boy you carried a mile through the woods while he slept on your shoulder is now a grown man who needs you for very little. When those days come, a Dad can only pray that, in spite of all his failures, that he loved deeply enough when times were good, and apologized well enough when he was stupid, that even though that son no longer needs him, he still loves him, and that he still looks in the the stands after a game to see an “I’m proud of you, son” nod.
This week, I got a 7:00 am FaceTime call from my oldest son. This fall will likely be the last time he puts on a football uniform, and he simply called to show me his new helmet. “It’s sick,” I learned. We laughed, swapped a few stories, and he was off to the next thing. That was three days ago, and we haven’t talked since, but before he hung up, he said, “I love you Papa,” and he meant it.
I guess from all those memories doing the things we both love, and in spite of all our mistakes, we both got breaks we didn’t deserve and more of God’s grace than we understand (especially me). And I’m thankful on this Father’s Day weekend to know it won’t be long till he calls again—not because he needs me, but because he wants to.
About the Author: Larry Huff is Yellowhammer’s Executive Editor, and you can follow him on Twitter @LHYellowhammer