By Anthony Ingram
I am the youngest of 5 children. The baby. Some of my happiest childhood memories are of being “the one” who got to dive under the Christmas tree to dig out and distribute everyone’s presents from the seemingly endless mound of brightly wrapped happiness.
Growing up, the refrigerator and pantry were never empty, the lights always came on when I flipped the switch, and the water always flowed freely when I turned the spigot. For these and other reasons, I always felt secure. I never ever questioned if my parents loved me, and I knew that when I grew up and got married and had children of my own, this was the type of stable home life I wanted to provide.
I graduated college and married at the age of 21. We had a daughter, suffered through two painful miscarriages, and then had my son. Since my wife had endured two difficult c-sections, we followed the doctor’s recommendation and decided to not try to have more children. Although we both had originally hoped to have a large family, we knew this was for the best. Still, there was a tinge of sadness and of “what if.”
During the last 27 years of being a father, I have experienced chest pounding highs and heart piercing lows. I have enjoyed the quiet satisfaction of seeing my child do well in school and other pursuits. I have learned that what I thought was my “last nerve” was not really my last nerve. Children have a unique way of “expanding our abilities,” so matter what, one thing always, always remained constant: you are my child and there is nothing you could ever do to make me not love you. As my mom once told me: “I will always love you, but I don’t always like the things that you do.” Love is not based on performance. Love just is.
Through it all, my ultimate goal as a dad has always been twofold: 1) to be the kind of father to my children that would cause them to seek a relationship with God, the heavenly Father, through a relationship with Jesus Christ: and 2) to help my children discover their God-given gifts and talents and abilities and bring them to full fruition. I have not always been consistent in the pursuit of this goal. I have made mistakes. There have been times that I was much more selfish than selfless. I have needed grace and patience and forgiveness from my family and thankfully, they gave it to me. We have all grown.
I can honestly say that I am a better man for being a dad. (My son would tell you that HE has been a good influence on ME). My advice for all those other dads or dads to be out there? Measure yourself by the standard of manhood and fatherhood found in the Bible. Be flexible. Expect the unexpected. Be a servant and a leader. Be ready to say “I’m sorry.” And decide well in advance in your innermost being that there is no “exit strategy” – that you are in it for the long haul. People say: “if mama ain’t happy ain’t nobody happy”. I have not heard of such a saying as it relates to dads, but if I had to make one up, I guess it would be: “Dads need to be like air. Just be there.”
Anthony Ingram has served as the Senior District Executive of the BSA, Great Smoky Mountain Council for the heart of Knoxville, inner-city area known as the Chehote CHAMPIONS District for almost 6 years. He and his wife have been married for 28 years and have two children: Aaron is 22 and Michelle is 27.