“FATHERS & DAUGHTERS"
“These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7 NIV)
We are thrilled to honour the fathers in our church family with this special blog featuring answers to a series of questions we posed to one of our dad’s. As a father of a daughter (and two sons), two daughters-in-law and four granddaughters, Neil understands the father-daughter bond. Here he shares some of his insights and experiences.
Where did you get your parenting ideas from?
How unaware was I of the amazing experiences or the huge responsibility that awaited me as I held our first child for the first time! Born to Pat and me, on November 16,1983 was a beautiful and healthy baby girl, we named Noriko. Pat and I were both dentists trained at university to pursue this career however we received no formal training to be parents.
My parents were both second generation Japanese-Canadians, and raised us with a goal of providing lots of opportunities to succeed. My dad worked hard to support us and was involved in our sports activities by coaching or just being there. He was loyal to his family, didn’t verbally teach us but we learned from his example. My mom, well, she was always there meeting all our needs by her actions in a gentle way. That experience in my family was the basis of the idea that one day I wanted to get a job, get married and be a father.
Pat and I both became Christians while at dental school. For me that was in 1976 and from that moment on I became very aware that God had a plan for my life which initially confirmed I was to be a dentist. I was so relieved that I began to turn to Him for guidance on other areas of life like getting married, where to live, where to go to church, when to have kids. When Noriko came, I had already experienced a dental situation where I was afraid. I was desperate and turned to God and He was there for me. I was also involved as a leader in our church’s youth group and was becoming aware of the responsibility parents have in providing an environment where God is first. I was burdened by the desire to see our kids come to faith as I believed that a sincere faith in God would be their best chance of navigating through life successfully and making good choices.
How did you see your role as dad influence them in that regard?
Somehow, I knew that to be Noriko’s dad, I would need all the help I could get. I realized that I had to be intentional in my role as a father and found books, tapes and, courses on raising children. As well, we hung out with other families who shared our concerns. As I grew as a Christian, the Bible became central in my life and verses such as Deuteronomy 6:6-7 (quoted above) and Proverbs 22:6 (NET) “Train a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not turn from it. “had huge impacts.
I knew that if our children were to see the importance of faith, my faith had to be sincere and I had to share with them how much I needed God. I couldn’t rely on the church to do it all. I recall reading something that said something along the line of, “what you learn in the first six years of life lays a deep foundation” and I recognized that our impact, as parents was definite.
We began to have nightly devotions, we supported our kids in all their activities and with Noriko, I started to have “daddy-daughter dates”. During our family times, we talked about their behaviour, their attitudes and related them to pleasing God. Teaching about forgiveness as a life time activity was important. It was while doing this that I realized I couldn’t teach what I didn’t do myself. Hey, I wasn’t a perfect parent and at times, I had to say I was sorry and ask for their forgiveness, sometimes to a 3-year-old.
The reality is that there is a freedom in knowing what’s the right thing to do, even if it is difficult to do. There is an even greater freedom when you do it! Another reality is that your kids will eventually see what you really believe is important. It begins when they see how we are spending our time. Are we spending enough time with them?
I became very intentional about being organized so I could be home to participate in our kids’ activities and to just be there. I even sacrificed some of my own activities. Something significant happened as a result: I learned more about our kids as I observed how they responded to the situations that arose in their activities. For example, I witnessed their discovery of fairness, their fulfilment of doing something they didn’t think they could, their disappointments, giving up, selfishness, selflessness, etc.
How do you think the “father-daughter” relationship affect the daughter as she walks into adulthood?
May I share my story to help answer this question?
When Pat was pregnant with our first child, deep down I really wanted a girl and God blessed us with Noriko. She became special for many reasons as we watched her blossom. She loved being a little girl; so, dresses, dolls and, playing house were parts of her world of imagination. At the same time, she was right in the middle of a ball hockey game. She loved being the big sister to her two brothers who would do anything with her. As she grew older, she traded in her ballet costume for hockey equipment getting tired of just watching her brothers. She always had friends but her family was important. We shared special “father-daughter dates.” Somehow, I was aware when Noriko was a child that I was the first man to take her seriously and that my attention to her would someday influence who her choice of the second man would be. How I responded to situations was therefore influenced by that awareness.
Case in point: Piano practice at age 8. It was a daily struggle to encourage, push and yet know when to stop and not exasperate Noriko. I certainly didn’t have all the answers. So much seemed to depend on her mood, her state of fatigue, what else was on her mind etc. She seemed to think she was right when sometimes she wasn’t and when I corrected her she often disagreed.
As she got older she did start to grow up. At 14 she wrote me this note: “I want you to know that I am trying to accept the fact you won’t always be there for me because of baseball. I love you in spite of everything. Love Noriko ps. Please don’t coach summer baseball. HaHa”
Noriko reflected on the value of life including the people in her life; this she expressed well on Hallmark cards and I always looked forward to Father’s Day. On Father’s Day in the year she was to be married she wrote: “You were the best daddy in the world, a great friend and now tied for # 1 in important men in her life.”
I do believe how we treat our daughters influences the kind of person they look for in a husband. They want to be loved and cared for unconditionally and, to be in a secure relationship. This fact is mentioned often in some of those parenting books I used to read and those that dealt with the importance of the father–daughter relationship. As well, a healthy marriage influences the security of our daughters as they begin their own adult lives.
At some point, we have all messed up as parents. What do you say to parents who are struggling in their relationships; is there hope?
I want to emphasize that there is hope, no matter how badly we have messed up. We all have weaknesses which also show up while we parent. This lets everyone down; therefore, the challenges in parenting will give us opportunities to see something about ourselves.
To begin, harmonious relationships within a family are one of God’s richest blessings. Think about that statement. How strongly you believe that will influence how you respond to your situation. I have read this to be true from those older than me, believed it and desired it especially when we faced our challenges.
Secondly, believe God knows the situation so, cast that care upon Him because He cares about you and is waiting with open arms. (1 Peter 5:7) Acknowledge that you are helpless and need help, His help. This is a good place to start because you are also acknowledging responsibility in the relationship and that you are in part responsible for it’s present condition.
God has a plan for you as He did for me. Apologize and ask for forgiveness without expectation. This is unconditional love. Be on a journey of asking God to reveal how He wants to change you. Our personal growth gives us teaching opportunities to share how we need God to help us be better parents. Then, commit more time to your relationship so you can get to know your kids better. I understand that depending on the age and situation this can be easier or more difficult. Finally turn to a friend who shares your concern, to trusted and godly parents within your church family, or otherwise, or turn to your pastor.
Finally consider this: you are giving your daughter a process for dealing with struggles that she will face both now and in the future and perhaps even the confidence to enter one. I’d say that is a gift; don’t you?
By: Neil Fukumoto