“Cat’s in the Cradle,” a 1970s hit song by Harry Chapin, begins with a father trying to find time for his newborn son: “There were planes to catch and bills to pay / He learned to walk while I was away.” That lyric provides us all with a warning against putting one’s career, or anything else, before family. The father’s dilemma rings louder than ever in today’s culture. Many dads get the necessities right in bringing up children: providing a roof over their heads, food on the table and an education. But we often forget that we only get to pass by our kids once. The recurring verse of the song is in the son’s voice saying, “I’m gonna be like you, Dad, you know I’m gonna be like you.” The recorders are on, our children do learn and take their lead from us. They echo the way we act, what we do or don’t do. St. John Paul II’s clarion message to his flock still resonates: “As goes the family so goes the world.” After seven years of coaching couples to strengthen their marriages, we would add to this crucial wake up call, “As goes the father, so goes the family and so goes the world.”
Here’s another way to look at it: We as married couples are our children’s marriage prep.
From this day forward, let us start by making every decision in our lives through the lens of what we said “I do” to on our wedding day; our commitment, before everything else, to be husbands and fathers; or wives and mothers. As men, this is truly going to require true grit, to lead our families—not as the world wants—but in the way God intended for marriage, as covenant and vocation.
The only way to accomplish that, as the temptations are many that lure us away from this narrow path, is through a deeper prayer life and relationship with Jesus Christ. We can’t give what we don’t have, and that is love itself—Jesus. Men, commit 10 to 15 minutes a day, preferably first thing in the morning, to enter into relationship with Jesus by reading holy Scripture and asking the Holy Spirit what he wants from you based on your conversation with God.
Deciding to take our vocation as husbands and fathers more seriously, we will make deeper commitments and connections to our wives and children and they will count on us to follow through. Make and keep promises to spend time with your wife and children. This requires grace from God. Your bride does not expect perfection. However, she thirsts for you to lead her and your family to Jesus Christ. Growing in this way, we can take fatherhood to the heavenly bank and bear fruit that lasts. By being noble and striving to be men after God’s own heart, we can change the world for the better by raising kids who will be people of God, terrific citizens and bold leaders.