Superhero Dads and Average Joe Fathers

I read a story last week where a guy was describing how he thought about his dad when he was a boy. His dad wasn’t around much, leaving for work early in the morning and not returning until late. Some days he wouldn’t see his dad at all. Even on the weekends his dad was gone as often as he was around.

So what did the young boy think about his dad? “I figured he had be some kind of superhero.” See, his mom always explained his father’s absences with phrases like, “He is a very important man,” and “He has really important work to do.” What could be more important than a superhero doing super things? It would explain the late nights and weekend absences, right? And it helped him, as a boy, cope with his father’s absence. It was “okay” that his dad wasn’t there for him, because he was saving people.

Imagine the young man’s disillusionment when he learned that his father was an investment banker working long hours to try and move up in the company, and those weekend absences were usually golf outing to schmooze with big wigs and broker deals.

An important man? Really important work? Well, maybe, from a certain perspective. From the view of his company, certainly had value as a hard worker. As far as providing an economically stable life for his family, he certainly was doing important work.

However, the problem with the situation should be rather apparent – a young man whose father was just too busy for him, leaving that young man to craft a fantasy in order to cope.

I didn’t grow up with a superhero father. To be honest, I had no illusions about the kind of man my dad was. That’s not meant to be negative about him; I love my dad, and I think he’s a great guy. He did good work at his job and was recognized for it, and put in overtime once in a while when he had the chance. He gardened and he took care of the house, but he also spent time sitting in front of the TV or computer, or sat reading a book. I remember him falling asleep on the couch a lot, and I never really understood why.

He was an average joe kinda guy. And I love him. He was there for me so many times. I sometimes find myself reflecting some element of his personality or life philosophy, and I’m not really embarrassed about it at all.

As a little boy, would I have loved the idea that my dad was a superhero? Sure, maybe. But would I want to grow up and learn the truth?

Dads, what do you want your kid to believe about you? Do you want to be the superhero, distant and fantastic to your child, but largely inaccessible and setting your child up for disappointment? Or would you rather be the average joe who is involved in the lives of his children?

What does the Bible have to say about this? Well, it might not mention superheroes or use the term “average joe”, but it does say this very important thing to fathers:

Fathers, do not exasperate your children, instead bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” -Ephesians 6:4

There is plenty to talk about when it comes to what it means to exasperate your children, and how to bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. I’m not going to take the time to cover those things right here. But to put it simply, which sounds more like it has the potential to exasperated, the superhero dad or the average joe father? Which has more opportunity to bring up a child in the training and instruction of the Lord?

Being a superhero in our children’s eyes may seem like a big ego boost, but consider the tradeoff. Don’t be the distant superhero. Go for average joe. You’ll still be a hero in your child’s eyes.

“Okay, Brandon,” you might be saying, “but I don’t have the kind of job where I can just start being home with my children more often.” I’ll grant you that. I don’t really either. I often have evening commitments, and some weekends. So what can a dad do if he’s afraid he’s become the distant superhero type? Here are some suggestions:

Make the most of the time you have. There are many days when I have to go back to church for an evening meeting. I might only see my boys for a couple hours in the evening. But I can use those hours by getting down and playing with them, or running around the house playing hide and seek, or sitting on the couch and reading to them. Quality time can often trump quantity time, or at least make up for it.

Bring your child into your work. Maybe your child won’t be as awed and impressed by your investment banking business, but coming to work with dad once to just sit and be part of his day is going to make a world of difference for him. If you’ve ever heard a kid talk about the “take your daughter to work” or “take your son to work” day they went to with their dad, you would think they had been transported to a new and fantastic world. Your child will love that insight into your daily life.

Write your child a letter. Receiving a hand written letter is really special for kids, and probably all the more so in a day when most communication comes via phone, email, or video call. Take the time to handwrite a personal note to your kid, let him know what is special about him, or something you noticed him do. He’ll “feel felt” all day long by this simple little act.

Volunteer at your child’s school. Nothing makes a child more proud than when her dad is the guy helping out in the classroom. Plan a personal day – or even just a half day – to be there at your child’s school and show that you care as much about her place of “work” as your own.

Pray with and bless your children. Set aside time each day to pray with your children. Show them that nothing is more important to you than their relationship with God. Say the blessing over them at night, letting them know that you want God’s blessing in their lives every day. Lead them spiritually. You don’t need to be the superhero, but you can point them to the only real superhero – their Savior.

What other ways can you think of to be a positive influence in your child’s life? Share in the comments, if you’re willing. Don’t be the distant man in the sky flying off to save the world while your child stares from the ground below. Be with them. Be immediate. Be close. And if that means being average, that’s okay.

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