As I’ve interviewed and surveyed tens of thousands of men over the last 18 years, I’ve seen such a common and important pattern: Most men have a deep, abiding desire to do good things—to be a husband who can make his wife happy, or be the type of analyst who can save the company money—yet they secretly doubt themselves. So there is a profound impact on a man’s heart when someone trusts him to do something well . . . and then notices when he does.
And perhaps the most intense example of this is when a man is affirmed as a father.
In this weekly blog, we are in the middle of a series about the most important marriage advice for newlyweds. Technically, today’s piece honors Father’s Day and is not a part of the series . . . yet it really is. Because even among the most newly of wedded couples, who aren’t parents yet, understanding this one fact about men has the potential to breathe life into a marriage for all the years to come. (And yes, men need to know some meaningful secrets about women, too . . . but that’s a different blog!)
Just to state it again, here’s the secret for every woman to know: there is great power in trusting and cheering on your man in the little daily things of life—especially in his little daily actions as a father. As one man told me in an interview, “I think down deep, I just need to hear ‘You’ve done good.’”
Say it out loud
It is easy to notice and appreciate the big things your man does: when he lands the supervisor position on the shop floor or takes “drive the kids to activities” duty for weeks while you’re on a big work deadline.
But all too often we don’t say out loud how much we appreciate our man changing the diaper or taking the kids to the bus stop because he doesn’t want us to have to go out in the rain. All too often we find it hard to trust him when he wants to let our child experience the daily consequences of their choices—being cold because they refused to bring their coat, having to pay late library fees after being reminded to return their books, or being benched from the big game because they slept in and missed too many workouts, etc.
All too often we find it hard to trust our man in all sorts of things, simply because we know he will handle something very differently than we would.
And all too often, we miss something remarkable as a result.
A protective dad
Not long ago, a great “dad incident” went viral in both video and the press. According to a Wall Street Journal piece, Jacob Kingsley is a big Cincinnati Reds fan and wanted to bring his 11-month-old son to his first game. His wife Jordan was extremely nervous (Could the baby be hurt? Could he be hit by a foul ball?) but Jacob promised he would be ultra-vigilant and she agreed because she knew it meant a lot to her husband. Yet she was still twitchy at the game (“Are you watching? Are you watching?”). Suddenly, as Jacob was bottle-feeding the baby in a front carrier, a foul ball flew straight toward them and he thought, ‘OK, this is my time. I gotta step up.” While protecting the baby with his body, and holding the bottle with his left hand, he reached out and grabbed the ball with his right.
If you watch the video, you can see the look of profound horror on his wife’s face as the ball rockets toward them, and then her intense astonishment and pride in what he did. He told the reporter, “My wife was pretty shocked. She was pretty impressed. I think I won some points with her.”
Every man I have shown this video to has said the same thing: having been a hero for his wife probably meant more to this man than she will ever know. One man pointed out: “Did that dad say, ‘I can’t wait for my buddies at work to see this? I can’t wait for the guys I went to high school with to see this?’ No, he said ‘I think my wife was impressed.’ I don’t think women have any idea how much of what we do is in the hope of impressing our wives.”
My husband, Jeff, pointed out something else: “His wife was nervous but she trusted him when he said he would protect the baby. And he didn’t let her down. That’s what every guy wants to do, if given the chance.”
And that, in fact, is what most men—most dads—actually do in thousands upon thousands of little everyday moments. But because those moments are not caught on video, the only way he can be affirmed that he’s “done good” is if someone tells him so. Which requires trusting him and giving him the chance to be a hero to begin with. Now, men aren’t perfect, just as we aren’t perfect, and some will, sadly, be irresponsible and uncaring. But most dads intensely love their kids and work hard to be the dad they need—and the husband their wife needs.
Jacob Kingsley did something amazing and his action got millions of views. But he was just taking the same protective, loving actions millions of other dads do without celebration. At least . . . without celebration from a viral social media post. But we can celebrate them. We can say “thank you.” We can tell them they “done good.” All day. Every day. In the little things that they do simply because they are being an everyday hero called “Dad.”
This article was also published at Patheos.
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