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Fatherhood and Pandemics

Fatherhood and Pandemics

My experience in this recent pandemic and ongoing role as a father are quite similar. Mostly, I feel overwhelmed; full of fits, starts, and stumbles. I don’t really remember having much preparation, training, or proper orientation for each of these events (fatherhood and this pandemic) the moments they arrived. In fact, there is an irony to both events.

The day my son was born in 1989, I had been under a week-long observation and treatment from our hospital. Each day of the week preceding his birth, I would go to the hospital, be given an IV of fluids, and be observed, evaluated, and then sent home. The doctors suspected that I had some type of intestinal virus. To be allowed in the delivery room for the birth, I was covered from head to toe in personal protective equipment: mask, gown, gloves, and foot coverings. I remember holding my newborn son, and suddenly the room, world, and my mind were spinning. Like my wife, who labored for 23 hours, I was physically weak and exhausted. The next day, the doctors admitted me to the same hospital where my wife and son were patients. We remained together, though on separate floors (I was quarantined), for five days. The family that recovers together . . . 

Weak and in need of help were the conditions that I entered into fatherhood. Pandemic, same.

In parenting and pandemics, control is an illusion. God is in control; not me. In fact, God uses both circumstances to wrest things from my grasp. Seemingly simple tasks or situations become challenging, arduous, and, quite frankly, if you can keep your sense of humor, comical.

  • Compare my first time shopping for toilet paper after a 14-day quarantine in March 2020 and the first time l was left alone for 3 hours with my infant son in September 1989: I never found TP in any store, and my son cried the entire time. I could neither procure the needed item nor hush or comfort my son. There was no sense of accomplishment, just sighs of submission acknowledging my inadequacies for the tasks at hand. It felt like failure.
  • Then there’s the monotony of pandemic and parenting.  Similar tasks repeated daily; albeit, demanded daily without any discernible progress from the effort that can be both herculean and numbing. You can feel lashed to the mast, sailing toward a distant gathering storm. The challenges are so pervasive and up close, that you can easily lose perspective. It can feel like you’re washing mud. There’s little clarity and lots of murkiness.

My hat’s off and my heart is tender toward you moms and dads parenting through this pandemic. My children are adults now and are navigating this global crisis in their own ways. We are close in relationship but not in physical location. Proximity of parenting in a pandemic can be a heavy burden. You may find yourselves weakened by the load, weary, and in need of rest in mind and body. If so, there is hope.

“So your hope as a parent is not found in your power, your wisdom, your character, your experience, or your success, but in this one thing alone: the presence of your Lord. The Creator, Savior, Almighty, Sovereign King is with you. Let your heart rest. You are not in this parenting drama alone. Your potential is greater than the size of your weaknesses, because the One who is without weakness is with you, and He does His best work through those who admit that they are weak but in weakness still heed His call.”
― Paul David Tripp, Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family

I don’t know about you, but since March 2020, these have been the most stressful consecutive months of my life. Consequently, in the midst of this unprecedented time, my adult daughter came to stay with us. She had lost her job because of the pandemic. We grieved that with her, but the sweet in the bittersweet of the situation is that it has been wonderful to have her home. She is a joy, and we love the person she has become and is becoming!

Recently, more times than I would like to admit, in my weariness of navigating through a global pandemic and the recent ugly cycle of racial injustice in our nation, my weaknesses have been on display for my daughter (and wife) to see. And when they surface, I tend to flounder, fluster, and withdraw. I quickly come to the end of myself, and I don’t like it. In fact, I fear it. But there is no need to do so. By the grace of Jesus, my daughter and wife patiently love and kindly engage me back into life. They gently remind me that we ALL are weak.

Dads, take it from me, if you don’t admit that you have come to the end of yourself [weakness], as I have heard another pastor say recently, you’ll never come to the all-sufficiency of Christ your Savior. And that’s our hope as a fathers, as husbands, and as the people the Lord is forming us to be.

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 2 Corinthians 12:9 New Living Translation (NLT)

Dad to dad: I want to encourage you, not burden you. There are hidden joys in your weak condition that you were completely oblivious to before the pandemic and parenting hit. Astonishingly, amidst conditions ripe for the reactions of frustration and anger, in the grace of confessing your own weakness and embracing Christ’s overwhelming power for you, your heart becomes teachable and tender. You become a greater instrument of His love to your family. The I can’t confessed to Christ becomes the I can expressed in Christ (Philippians 4:13). So, don’t be afraid to admit your weaknesses to your children. Please do. Then, confess to them that your Savior’s grace is enough to handle your deficits, liabilities, and struggles. Celebrate this! Trust the Lord and love them, especially in the overwhelming times. That’s parenting in a pandemic!

Find more articles and resources for your parenting journey on our Parenting Pathway blog!

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  • As Senior Associate Pastor, Charlton oversees all Pastoral Ministries at Stonebriar. He served on staff at Stonebriar as Pastor of Counseling Ministries, then as Pastor of Care Ministries from 1999 to 2007. In 2008, he assumed the role of Senior Associate Pastor. Additionally, Charlton leads Marriage Foundations, Stonebriar's Premarital Ministry. Charlton earned a master's degree in biblical counseling from Dallas Theological Seminary in 1999. Prior to attending seminary, he served as an Officer in the United States Army from 1986-1999. Charlton graduated from The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina in 1986. Charlton and Ginger have been married since 1987 and have two adult children.