So after watching How to Train Your Dragon, I’ve been reflecting on my relationship with my sons and how each of them have such different relationships with me. My oldest likes to engage me intellectually, a bit of a schemer, and do what I do. He asks questions, talks to me, challenges boundaries at every turn, writes, believes he’s more charming than he is, and watches television like it’s an interactive event. He’s his father’s son.

My youngest is a daredevil, physically and emotionally as he’s prone to wear his emotions on his sleeves. He loves to be held, constantly needs physical assurance that I’m there. So he hugs, enjoys snuggle time, lays on me, and holds my hand. He pretends to be shy, but really just enjoys keeping people at a distance and making them relate to him on his terms. It’s like raising my baby brother.

One thing it’s reminded me of is the need to be present for them. We often forget how much our relationships with our parents can teach us about our relationship with God, how it should be, what it ought to be, and what it isn’t. The longing of our heart is to be with our fathers (sometimes causing us to seek out adopted fathers or mentors or other role-models when one isn’t present).

Fathers can be absent in a variety of ways: emotionally distant, aloof; overly critical, abandoned us physically; or being abusive. Sadly, even these things can teach us (false) lessons about the idea of fathers: that they can’t be trusted, they are prone to abandon, they aren’t safe, they are prone to judge, they are prone to be painfully silent, they are prone to be abusive.

We teach when we aren’t intending and we communicate in all we say and do. What we model is more important than what we preach. To be known, find security, and have stability, that’s what I want my sons to know about fathers. Most importantly, that they are loved.