Browse through the Hallmark section of Father’s Day cards and you’ll discover that, lo and behold, every father is above average. The Bobs, Jasons, and Charlies of this world get up in the morning, grab a cup of coffee, and put on their capes before they exit the house.
It seems that we are overrun with heroic, god-like dads who compete in out-fathering everyone else.
Now we all know this is just Hallmark being Hallmark. They make their money by selling $6 pieces of pretty paper frosted with sugary lies.
But suppose these claims were anchored in fact, that our streets and households were teeming with these super-dads. What if this were the case? Well, then, we’d be in deep trouble.
The last thing the world needs is men trying to be extraordinary fathers.
A Full Plate Already
If you want to make society’s list of Real Men, your plate is already quite full: your home needs to boast more square feet than your neighbors’, you need a nicer set of wheels, a smoking hot wife, sons who make quarterback, valedictorian daughters, and coworkers whose jaws drop at how quickly you scale the corporate ladder.
And that's only the beginning.
You must also be active in the leadership of your community; an elder or deacon or in some kind of leadership role at your church; sweating at the gym at least three mornings a week; can diagnose why your sports team didn’t make the playoffs this year; and come up with insights on how we can fix Washington, too.
On top of all this, of course, keep an eye on any hints of Low-T so you can remain that rock star in bed.
I mean, with all this going on, who has the time and energy to be an extraordinary father?
And therein lies the problem. Or, rather, problems.
Plain Ordinary Fathers
First, we’re way too busy. And it’s all our own fault. We devote way too many hours to things that don’t make us better people, make us truly happy, or make our lives really worth living.
They do make us stressed.
They make us nervous.
But they don’t make us men, much less good fathers.
Secondly, while we’re striving to outwork, out-sex, outsmart, out-husband, and out-father all the other guys, we are blind to the true contentment that’s found in normality, in being average, in not constantly comparing ourselves with everyone else.
We don’t need men who are super-dads.
We just need plain, ordinary, run-of-the-mill fathers.
Saying No and Saying Yes
One of the best lessons we can learn is to say No more often.
*No, I’m not interested in that promotion at work, because that would mean being on the road all the time and missing too many of my son’s games.
*No, I don’t want a leadership role at church because I'd be sitting in meetings while I could be home with my family.
*No, I don’t want to run for the school board.
*No, I’m not open to serving as chairman of that neighborhood committee.
*No, I have zero interest in being an extraordinary member of society.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying we should deny every opportunity to serve or advance at work. My point is that our tendency is almost always in the direction of doing too much, especially if the activity or position feeds our (perpetually hungry) male egos.
And over-serving, over-extending, and over-working ourselves at the cost of our wives and children is simply not worth it. Ever.
Saying No enables us to say Yes. Yes to an average life of contentment. Yes to a plain life of being home most evenings. Yes to an ordinary life of changing our newborn’s diapers, watching a Netflix drama with our wife, playing catch with our son, cheering on our daughter at her soccer game.
Yes to being an ordinary man in an ordinary family doing ordinary stuff.
We're Not Here to Be Heroes
The greatest joys in life are found in the simple and mundane, not the grand and glorious. The older we get, the more we realize this. The more we fight to be extraordinary, the more stress cripples us.
The world doesn’t need dads who are more stressed than they already are. It needs fathers who care for their families, not in heroic ways, but in common, everyday ways.
This isn’t rocket science. It’s simply love in action. The sacred yet mundane vocation of fatherhood.
So put the cape away. We’re not here to be heroes.
Find in the Yes we say to ordinary, non-Hallmark, daily acts of fatherly love the true joy that no one can take away.