Tag Archive: To Be A Dad


I thank God for the example I received from my parents about what being a godly, loving parent and spouse looks like. By God’s grace whether we have had a shocking or terrific upbringing we still have the responsibility to choose how we parent. However, it is easier to aim at what we want to emulate, than to just know what you don’t want to replicate.

I thank God for the naivety and bliss with which my wife, Lydia, fell pregnant with Danielle, our first born, with the pregnancy itself, with the birth and raising her (she is now almost 2 years old). Because little did we know that our worlds would get rocked upside down in a matter of days after Dani’s first birthday…. Similar to Lydia’s pregnancy with Dani falling pregnant with Impi (just our in utro name), our second child, went according to plan, but suddenly at Dani’s first birthday party Lyd started having severe back pain. We went for a scan and all looked great (what a relief), but then a few days later Lydia miscarried at home (when Impi was 14 weeks). Simultaneously we found out that our daughter was being mistreated by her carer.

So has parenting been easy? No! I can honestly say life was easier without thinking of children, we were carefree, our schedule’s were our own. Would I change it? Not at all! I love watching a little life bloom. Being a teacher and wanting only the best for other people’s kids, it is a privilege to have our own children. Would I have stopped at one child, now knowing we were to lose our second child? Not a chance! Sure it was painful, there were tears, unanswered questions but we were brought into a deeper reality of God’s love, a closer connection with friends and family and in faith were, and still are, able to encourage other’s out there going through tough times. We have walked our journey open-heartedly and have been amazed how literally every 3rd couple has a story of losing a child, which has fuelled us even more to share our story. Praise God as I write my wife is 30 weeks pregnant with our 3rd child. God gives and takes away, but He is big and we can trust Him.

So what’s it like to be a dad? It is a great responsibility to lead your family, but at the same time there is so much fun to be had. Those who know me know that there is a boyishness in me that will be ever present until I am 105. I love how kids bring that out of you even more. If you put your being schedule aside kids help slow you down and live in the PRESENT like nothing else on earth. I know kids spell love T.I.M.E and that is what I aspire to provide my kids with.  But foremost I want them to see a dad that loves their mom to bits and lives out his faith blatantly before them, taking risks and owning up to my mistakes. BEING A DAD ROCKS!!!

[To read another ‘To Be A Dad’ story, this time by John ‘Zippy’ Benn, click here]

[For other encouraging stories from Parents who have Lost a Baby, click here]

Let me start with a bit of context: I’m not a dad, but I have a dad and I’m an uncle to four nieces, a nephew and a bunch of my friends kids. I’m also the godfather to three girls, two of which are my nieces.tim

I regularly have the privilege of getting to babysit (look after) my niblings (the collective term for nieces and nephews) and I know that that doesn’t make me a dad, but it does give me a taste of how amazing it must be to be a dad. I’m purposely using the term dad here in place of father (and not just because the title is “to be a dad”), because I think there is a major difference between being a father and being a dad.

The connotations of a father / child relationship is primarily biological to me, whereas for a dad / son or dad / daughter relationship is primarily an emotional bond. Only three of my five niblings are biological niblings, yet I feel that they all have equal nibling status to me.

Now to the being a dad bit and what that means to me… I feel it has a lot to do with being intentional, if I look back at my life, with reference to my dad , he made time for us (his three sons) throughout his life. (I’m blessed by the fact that he is still around.)

Some of the earliest memories I can recall, include working in the garden with him, working in the garage with him, working on the house with him, working on cars with him, working on boats with him… going fishing with him, going to fly kites we had built together, riding off road bikes with him, going camping with him… Did I always enjoy having to do all the “work” we did as kids? I honestly don’t remember it being “work”. Did I always enjoy having to do all the work we did as teenagers? No. Do I appreciate it now? Yes, because I got to spend time with my dad and learnt how to do things myself, how to work with my hands.

My dad has always been there for me, and still is. I feel that he made intentional choices to include us (my brothers and I) in what he did, he taught (guided) us to be the men we are today… He took time out of his schedule to watch us play rugby. He let jobs around the house take longer to do, because he taught us how to do them, instead of just doing them himself. As we got older he no longer needed to “supervise” us, so I think he may have had a long term scheme going so he didn’t need to do it all himself and could delegate.

Looking back at some of my earliest childhood memories, they are of spending time with my dad, most of them are of helping him with something or the other. Be it picking up stones on the lawn before he cut it, be it passing him tools as he worked on a car (when we were to young to do the actual work), be it waiting in the car on a Saturday morning for a spares place to open so that we could get the parts we needed to get going with fixing the well point pump… looking back it was work, but I didn’t mind, because I got to spend time with my dad.

He got the balance between work and spending time with his sons right most of the time. And as I look at spending time with my niblings, they don’t care that what they doing, what we adults see as work, they see as getting some attention (quality time) from an adult (their dad or in my case, their uncle). Think back to when you were younger and what it meant for an adult to include you in what the were doing, how it made you feel…

Yes, including kids in a job takes a lot longer (e.g. making them lunch, washing the car, pulling out weeds), but hopefully it is in those moments that we are building their memories of their childhood, in a way which lets them know they matter, just as my dad did for me.

Unfortunately so many children today are growing up with a distorted view of what a dad is, because of how men (dads) have been portrayed in the media over the last few decades. Spend a few moments and think of a current TV series where a father is portrayed as great dad? (I intentionally don’t have a TV for about six month now, so I don’t know if it has changed recently.) I can’t think of any, now think a TV series where a father is portrayed in a negative way? Much easier to think of…

I feel we all have a role to play in changing societies perception of what it means to be a dad. I’m asking myself the following question too, when last did you encourage / compliment / thank a father (yours or someone else’s) for being a great dad, for sacrificing something for their kid(s), for choosing to spend time with their kids in place of watching the rugby?

How different would the world be if we had a generation of fathers who were dads, that weren’t absent (at work 24/7); that made the spiritual / emotional well being of their children a priority, above excessive material possessions… that made time for there kids a priority over stuff for their kids… the most important things in life, aren’t things… Where kids see the dad as a provider, a place of safety, a place of being noticed, a place of acceptance, a place of being loved… a place of being taught and corrected… a place of stability… a pillar of strength… a source of wisdom… A world were fathers are revered and respected beyond the playground age of my daddy is bigger than your daddy and “it’s true because my daddy said so”…

To be a dad is a great privilege, but also a responsibility… fathers set the standard for their kids as to what it is means to be a man… both positively and negatively…

My dad isn’t perfect, but he is my dad and I feel he (along with my mom) did an amazing job of raising their three sons and I wouldn’t want any other dad. I don’t have a bucket list, but if I did, being a father that is a dad, like my dad is, would be high up on the list. Thank you dad, for all you have taught me, done for me and mean to me, I know I don’t say it often enough.

[To read John “Zippy” Benn’s story of ‘To Be A Dad’, click here]

[For a whole series of ‘To Be A Mom’ posts, click here]


To be a Dad

I’m heading towards 50, a father to a 19yo son Dylan, and an 18yo daughter Brynn.  I lost my dad this year and I miss him terribly.  I seem to have done a fairly good job of fathering my kids if other people’s unsolicited comments are anything to go by.  There are a good few things I regret not having done, but very few I regret doing. Here are some of my thoughts in response to Brett’s call for “to be a dad” articles.  I hope they resonate with someone and encourage you to be more intentional about fatherhood:

Fatherhood is hard.

Every dad has a large “Learner” plate on his back and seldom admits it.  The lack of good fathering, I firmly believe, is a root cause of many weaknesses in our society, but that’s a whole new topic.  You don’t have to stand alone though, and you have a great role model to follow if you study Him well.  Anyone who views God as a vengeful, aloof, distant deity has clearly not read the bible diligently.  The essence of all I believe about life, finances, career, and fatherhood stems from my understanding of what it means to call God “Father”.

Be there.

The first thing I’d say to any young father is that you need to make time for your kids.  Quality time is good, but quite frankly just showing up for bath time, bed time, reading-to-them time, is better than attending the odd sports day or prize-giving (do make those a priority though!). Later, you might want to be more intentional about time for ‘doing stuff together’ that broadens horizons and minds, and is great for bonding. Pounce on opportunities (no, rather make opportunities!) to have intentional conversations about life; the half hour or so, lifting or walking your kids to school can be life-changing.


Moms do this naturally; dads don’t. Find other dads who share your principles and conspire with them.  Make time to talk about the challenges; how to enforce boundaries, how to deal with mood swings, defiance, deviant behaviour. A teacher at my son’s school started a movement called Engage Schools, where the school initiated meetings for fathers of boys at the school to get together to hear from older, wiser fathers, and to share their own experiences.  It doesn’t have to be that big – it can be 2 or 3 of you. Grab a beer together, have a braai… but bring up your kids together.

Create traditions and memories.

I regret not doing some sort of coming of age ceremony with our kids. I regret not creating more family traditions (who cares if it only starts with you, if it lasts for generations and creates a means of growing women and men of character and stature in your family!). We decided to view our kids as adults at 16, but unless you mark that somehow, the rest of your family won’t treat them that way and it can be problematic.

Kick the kids out of home.

That really is your job, believe or not.  By the time you are finished fathering, they need to be able to stand alone to a large degree, with a healthy view of who they are; how to be active and constructive members of society and their community and how to be good parents.  If you are a God-fearing man, then you need to have given them the foundation of knowledge of Father God and the means to make their own relationship with Him.

Love and protect their mother (from them!).

One of the best ways of giving your kids the best childhood possible is to love their mother fiercely and openly.  Kids see through pretence like glass.  You chose to be their father and her partner – step up to the plate.  When they get to their teens and your wife’s nurturing role starts to wind down and your preparation-for-the-future role kicks up a gear, you will need to let them know quite clearly that when you promised to love and protect her, it included protecting her from them.  Do not let your kids disrespect or bully your wife, ever.  They will be all the better for it.

Be the hero you’d want them to emulate.

This is hard, but you have to be the person, you’d want them to look up to.  It does not mean you have to hide flaws and be perfect.  It does mean you have to remain true to your principles, stand up for injustice, be the change, not tolerate wrong, apologise when you’ve screwed up, keep going when it is hard.  I have a copy of Rudyard Kipling’s “if” on my office wall; I like to think it applies to fatherhood as much as it does to manhood.  If you won’t be that hero, someone else will and they may not share your values.


Tough job, but your kids should never feel that dad will not always be doing his level best to provide food, shelter and security.  I’m not talking about the latest fashion accessories; I’m talking about meeting needs and keeping them safe. You in turn can look to God as Father for that – the Word is full of examples of His faithfulness in this. I can testify to that.

Young adults.

I caught myself in a yelling match with one of my kids over the age of 16, I forget which one.  I remember clearly realising that I was expecting them to behave like an adult just because they wanted me to treat them as one. Not exactly fair when they’ve spent the last 16 years being kids!  When I realised that I had to allow them to still behave like kids while treating them as young adults and gently guiding them into adult behaviour, the stress levels lowered and we stopped fruitlessly yelling at each other.  Home was more pleasant for it.

Give direction and then step back.

As my son stepped through the security gates to catch a plane to the USA to spend 3 months being a leader on a Summer Camp earlier this year, I realised that at that moment there was nothing more I could do for him, he was on his own with only his experiences, observations, learning and Father God to guide him.  It’s worth giving time to thinking about what sort of things you’d want your kids to be able to do if you’re not around any more, from changing a tire or the oil in the car, to applying for a bank loan, to keeping their integrity and soul intact.  Give them direction, give them learning opportunities, then stand back and let them fail.  Help them up again, and be there while they take wing.

I seldom saw my dad after I turned 18 and went to varsity; we lived in different provinces and visited infrequently. I always knew that he loved me unconditionally and that he was there for me if I needed advice or guidance.  It’s my turn to be there for my kids now.  I’m not alone though; no dad has to be.  My dad died while my son was in the US.  Dylan sent me this to read at my dad’s funeral and it completely undid me:

“… I take comfort in knowing that he was the man who made my dad who he is and my dad is the reason I am the way I am today. I will miss him like crazy and never forget him as long as I live.”

It is a privilege to be a dad; don’t waste a moment of it.

[The one glaring omission here is that fathering is meant to be only one side side of the parenting coin. Standing back to back with me at times, but mostly alongside me, is a wonderful, long suffering soul-mate, my wife Barbara, mom to both of my kids. Without a life partner, I can only imagine how hard being a dad must be.]

[To read Tim van de Venter’s thoughts on ‘To Be A Dad’ click here]

[For a whole collection of posts on the theme of ‘To Be A Mom’ click here]



Every morning for the past 8 months I have woken up and at least one thing is the same as the day before and as the day to follow… I am a dad.

My wife and I received the incredible blessing of our little girl, Cori Rose Benn, at around 13:00 on Wednesday 26 February 2014.

Something I have always wanted to be is a dad. Since almost as long as I can remember I have be excited for the day that I would begin the incredibly journey and be granted the indescribable responsibility of raising a child. The moment I saw and held my daughter for the first time is something I will never forget, but in the past 8 months I have come to learn that my understanding of what I had started then was but a fraction of the true picture of fatherhood.

In the past 8 months I have learnt that to be a dad:

  • Is a 24 hour, 7 day a week, life time commitment – there is no return policy, no off button, no skip function. I have amazing friends and family that give my wife and I a chance to get away every now and then, but I’m still Cori’s dad, regardless of where she or I am. Everything I do has an impact on her in some direct or indirect way. I constantly need to remind myself that who I am at work, or around friends, or at church, or when stuck in traffic is the same person I am when I play with, feed, change, or comfort my daughter.
  • Is freaking hard work – as much as I love it, I cannot deny that it is easy. Being a dad takes physical, emotion, spiritual energy. It means not only meeting the needs of my daughter, but meeting the needs of my wife as we raise our kid together. But like a lot of things in life this is hard work that is rewarding. Even now I know that my commitment to put my little girl (and my wife’s) needs ahead of my own is shaping her to be someone who will hopefully make a lasting, positive contribution to our world.
  • Is a team effort – I am not a good father, or even just an okay one, by my own efforts alone. I am the product of my heritage, my endevours, my friendships, my family – just as Cori will be the product of hers. I hope I will make choices that surround my little girl and my family with an environment which will nurture and challenge and shape them.

I wouldn’t trade being a dad for anything. Really. It is a calling that I know God has placed on my life and a task that He is equipping me to do well. To be dad is a privilege and an honour and a huge responsibility and it is the greatest task I will embark on in my life time.


[To take a look at John Benn’s brand new blog and read more of his writing as it happens, click here] 

[To read Dave Gale’s most excellent post on ‘To Be A Dad’, click here]

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