“We can’t prepare our kids for every eventuality. So much about fatherhood is unexpected. There will be challenges our children encounter that we simply can’t forecast. But then again, the job is to be a good parent, not a good prophet.”

Join co-hosts Andy Lamberton and Stephen Mullan as they chat with David Smyth and Dawn McAvoy from Evangelical Alliance and Both Lives Matter.

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Related Links from this episode:
Both Lives Matter Website
Evangelical Alliance Website
2 Minute Video explaining Legacy.

Fathers and the Unexpected – Article by Stephen Mullan.

We’re back with another episode from the Legacy Podcast. I found this to be another really helpful conversation that gets into all sorts of important topics. Thanks to David Smyth and Dawn McIvoy from Evangelical Alliance for being great contributors.

On the back of the conversation, I’ve been thinking that we can’t prepare our kids for every eventuality. So much about fatherhood is unexpected. There will be challenges our children encounter that we simply can’t forecast. But then again, the job is to be a good parent, not a good prophet.

Stories prepare our children for the unexpected

One way we can give our children the resources they need for the unknowable future is through telling stories.

In the podcast, David points to storytelling as a way to prepare our kids for whatever lies ahead. I’ve thought about this before, but only in terms of reading good books to my own children. I’m excited to pass on the old tales and fables, as well as the modern classics like Narnia and Lord of the Rings. What I hadn’t thought about before was the value of my own stories or the tales from my family. I appreciate David’s encouragement to tell more of these to my children.

Stories help prepare children for the unknown.

When we tell good stories:

  • We introduce our children to role models and heroes to imitate.
  • We fill their imagination with visions of a good life.
  • We teach them to take a long view – it takes a journey and many obstacles to reach our goals and to become who we’re made to be.
  • We connect their individual life to something larger than themselves.
  • We inspire them to stand for good and to fight against evil.

Crucially, stories shape our children’s sense of identity and purpose – two realities that will hold them as they navigate the future.

Where do we start all of this?

First, let’s embrace our job as storytellers. Let’s find good stories and tell them often. That might mean asking for recommendations and spending some money. But while I will definitely be buying more books, my major take-away from our conversation with David is that my children need to hear more stories from my own life and my parents’ and grandparents’ lives.

When the unexpected happens, say something certain

As time passes by, our children will inevitably experience the unexpected.

In the second part of our podcast conversation, Dawn talked in depth about one significant example – unplanned pregnancy. But there are many other examples.
The point that struck me, however, was the power of a father to give his children hope through how he responds to the unexpected.

In Dawn’s own case, the response of her dad gave her the support she needed during an unplanned pregnancy. The certainty that her dad was going to be part of her circle of support made all the difference and encouraged her to move forward as a young mum.

Sadly, when men don’t give this kind of support to their partner or daughter, the likelihood of abortion skyrockets. As Dawn puts it: “among women who terminate their pregnancy, 82% are single … the lack of support persuades them to terminate the pregnancy.”

This is a message dads don’t hear enough: our words matter – and they especially matter during times of unplanned crisis.
When we look our children in the eye and assure them of our full support, regardless of the mess and pain that must be faced, we fill them with hope and give them confidence to move forward. We guarantee them that however difficult the next few steps will be, they can count on Dad to be on their side.

Practically, that means we need to be ready to speak to our children with certainty. One word Andy Lamberton encourages dads to use more often is ‘always’. I like that advice.

  • “You can always come talk to me.”
  • “I’ll always be here for you.”
  • “I will always love you.”

Said with sincerity, words like these can be the lifeline that gets our children through the challenge.

Did you enjoy the podcast? please share with other fathers you know and tell us what you think. Email: hello@legacyfathers.org 

By Stephen Mullan
Cohost of the Legacy Podcast.

Stephen directs the work of Dreamscheme Northern Ireland, a youth work charity that provides support and opportunities to young people growing up in housing estates. He also writes on the subject of youth via his newsletter Rethinking Youth. Stephen is married to Sharon and has two young children.