29 Aug 2012

On (not) raising deadbeat dads. {An open letter to my sons}

Dear Jackson and Micah,

Sons, you’re both fast asleep in the bunk bed next door and I’m sitting here wrapped in the blue and gold Michigan blanket that Micah got in Traverse City this year. It’s early and even Wolfie isn’t awake yet. I need to tell you something that’s a little bit grown up but when I see you both with your long arms and legs and strong hearts, I know you’re ready.

You’re ready to learn some of the hard things. Some of the grown up things.

Jackson you’ll be in first grade this year – public school. I know you’ve asked me about “home school” and why we don’t do it and I could give you a long answer but the short version is that honestly honey, it’s just not my thing. And your teachers are SO much better at it than I would be. I’m happy to teach you all kinds of stories about South Africa and how to stalk a rhino and the best ways to make chocolate fudge. But a,b,c s would drive mommy around the bend and let’s face it, just having to help you with your math homework is going to be an extremely large challenge for me.

But boys, listen up. This one’s important. It’s not about the back pack you take with you to school or what kind of candy comes in the snack pack I send with you for lunch. It’s really about all those other kids you’re going to meet. And here’s the thing – lots of them won’t have dads.

I know that’s crazy for you to even imagine.

I know your dad comes home from work and before he’s even had a chance to take off his tie he’s wrestling you in bear claw crazy on the bed (that I just made and will have to make again).

But there are kids whose dads choose other things. They choose work or fast cars or new mommies instead of their kids.

I know you are starting to know this because of the talk we had on the way home from Vacation Bible School two weeks ago. Micah when I accidentally gave your toy away to Grace and you cried and cried – remember what I told you? Remember how I told you that Grace’s daddy climbed up on his motorcycle and rode away from her. And wouldn’t you rather have a daddy at home than a pair of plastic glasses that glow in the dark?

Daddies shouldn’t break as easily as a pair of dollar store glasses.

But boys, some daddies do. Some daddies break into bits and pieces of who they used to be and they never get put back together again right. And here’s the scary, wonderful part – both of you, my sons, will probably grow up to be daddies one day. And I’m going to do my best to teach you now what you might need to be a good daddy then.

Your dad and I are going to start now to make sure that one day you don’t run away from your kids.

We want you to know that God expects big things from boys and husbands and dads.

We want you to know that strong isn’t mostly about muscles. Strong is choosing to stay when things get really hard. Strong is cleaning up after yourself and then being willing to clean up after someone else. Strong is sometimes giving up what you want so that you can give someone you love what they want.

We want you to be the Jesus kind of strong.

We want you to learn to love so hard and so strong that when it really matters you’ve already got a lot of practice at putting other people first. Watch how daddy unloads the dishwasher every night and never forgets to take out the dog or the trash.

Watch how he stops what he’s doing to listen to you when you want to tell him about your Beyblade tournament.

And I know you know how loud and growly his voice can get when you disrespect me. He is the dad. His job is to protect his family. And that starts with the mom.

We will teach you to clean your rooms and clear the dishes not because of the pocket money you earn but because of the habits you learn.

We will read to you about all the heroes from The Action Bible and history and The Lord of the Rings who gave up their lives to save people. Some days it might feel like that when we make you give up video game time to give your baby brother a chance to watch Caillou. But sons, giving up what we want is often the best thing for us.

Let me be clear, if it teaches you to be the kind of men who won’t leave the mother of their gorgeous one-year-old son sitting alone in a coffee shop trying to figure out how to parent alone, we will teach it to you.

While you live in this house we will help you live lives of honor.

You have greatness buried in you, boys.

Your dad and I – we are determined to unearth it. We will be relentless and some days you will think us unfair. But we will not be moved. We will dig fingernails deep into the wet soil of your young selves and mold you from the inside.

Because we love you.

And we love the women you will love and the kids who will have your crooked smiles and beautiful DNA.

Starting now. This morning. As I hear you waking next door and calling daddy to come back from the front door for one last hug. Because he always does.






{ Leave a Comment }
  1. 1


    I love this letter and I say: Its a very touching letter. I feel connected to you. My daughter goes now to a secondary school. I’m worried. But our God is also the Lord of our children. Let us form a wall of prayer around our children.


  2. 2

    I’m working on this same sort of letter for a guest post and you’ve given me much to think about. And I can relate to so much of what you share Lisa-Jo. The one thing that stands out as I read it, is the gift of having a Godly husband and father for our children. How truly blessed we are, like finding gold among the pebbles. They make us better women, and for that I’m thankful.

  3. 4

    This is so very lovely, Lisa-Jo…

    (And as a daughter whose daddy left her and the mommy whose husband left her little girls, I can tell you it’s spot-on.) On behalf of my sweet granddaughter, I thank you for your tender spirit and your willingness to fight for your children’s someday families. They are oh-so worth fighting for! I’m praying for all of you young mamas doing the hard every day… Soldier on! :)

  4. 5
    Joanne Viola says:

    Thank you for so getting this down on paper. Absolutely beautiful.

  5. 6

    Your post left me breathless…thank you.

  6. 7

    This is an amazing thing that you’ve done. So sad that it needs to be said, but so great that you said it.

  7. 8

    This is so lovely. Again, these posts are the ones that make me so hopeful to one day being a mom. You girls (all the blogs I read) have given me such beautiful examples of motherhood during the good times and bad times. And as I read your post I smile thinking “wow, these little kiddos are going to be grown ups one day!”. :-)

  8. 9

    This is so well put. I was this child…left by a dad and a step dad. Then I married a military man who left, and left again, and then left forever. My heart was more broken for my kids than myself. I am hard on my 13 year old…for those very reasons…some days I wonder if I am sending him to a therapists couch…but I have told him so many times that it is for the very reasons you wrote about. Thank you for teaching your sons.

  9. 10


    Thanks so much for your recent posts/letters to your children. Even though I don’t have children, or am not even married; it gives me hope that someday, that one day I will get the pleasure of raising children alongside wonderful examples like you. Thank you for your continual inspiration and motivation for all of us to be better parents, siblings, and people of this world.

  10. 11

    This is so wonderful. Yes some daddies do break and sometimes they never go back together but boys will still be boys and when that happens it is up to ‘us’ the others watching to fill in the gap and help those boys have men who will come alongside them and teach them to be men.
    Good men. With integrity of heart and strong spirits and love for God and others.

  11. 12

    Well, your open letter became one for my son, sons-in-law, and grandsons!!
    Thanks for so eloquently relating the heart of our Father to your boys….to THESE boys… I look forward to seeing how it impacts their lives, I hope encouraging them to live unselfishly and train up those behind them to live by example.
    You’re a dear Lisa-Jo! Thanks for sharing your personal note…precious!! PERFECT!

  12. 13

    I think that this is an amazing blog and something that all parents should make sure to teach their sons (and daughters for that matter.) I think that far too often what happens is people get caught up with life or with what they want and forget that it is their job, their responsibility to ensure the next generation is better than the last.

  13. 14

    That you are trying to teach your kids about being a good dad is a wonderful thing! Really!
    BUT … not all dads choose to leave their kids. It’s not always the mum that is the victim. Life is darker and more horrid than that.
    We NEVER know the whole story about another family, however much we sympathize with the one that tells us their story. THEIR story. Not the whole story.
    Not all dads want to stay. True. But not all dads want to leave either. That is also true.

    • 15

      Yes, true. On both counts. And for now, the only story I can help shape is that of my two boys. And I will invest there while I still can and trust them to their Father God for the rest.

      • 16

        It is honorable task.
        They will hear you teach them all you can, out of love – THAT, in itself, is a wonderful gift!

  14. 17

    Oh, Lisa Jo…

    I read this and I cried. I cried because my son has a daddy who ran away. I cried because he’s never known what it’s like to see his father do the dishes or take out the trash or put others before himself, and set an example of what a Godly man should be. I cried because his father has never been there to help with homework or cheer from the stands at ball games. I cried because I’ve seen my sweet boy cry, and struggle with the whys and what ifs and because his father has never been there to wipe his tears. I am going to print this out, and read it to him, and tell him that even though his father is absent, he never has to be. I’m going to tell him that all of my hopes and dreams for him are centered around God. I want him to know that I believe that he will love stronger and be better because of what he’s gone through. I want him to know that he can be the kind of man his father couldn’t be… and that the only father he’s ever really needed has been with him the whole way through. With that Father, all things are possible for him.

    • 18

      Courtney, if I could hug you through a computer I would. You are brave – you and your beautiful son both. And we cheer for you. We cheer loud and we learn from your example. Thank you.

    • 19

      That made me cry…I have a son who is turning 18 soon and has had an absent dad since he was 10. And he is struggling. Struggling to believe he is strong without fighting. To believe He is strong because of God. To believe He is better because of God. And that his fists don’t prove anything. He wants to fit in and is making bad choices. I pray always for him to see they should not define who He is but God should. I wish I had a letter like this when he was younger. I can try now but he is an adult now and sometimes by this stage all you can do is pray. So while your son is young take every advantage of things like this with him and PRAY.

  15. 20
    Sarah Noll says:

    Dear Lisa Jo, Once again you’ve touched my heart! What a beautiful letter!

    Thank You!!

  16. 21

    You have put words to this mom’s emotions concerning her boy, and also made me cry tears of gratitude that my children has a father who is there in every sense of the word. And for my dad who is still always all there for me.

    Thank you for salting my coffee this morning! Every child should have such a letter from their parents.

  17. 22

    This is a wonderful post.

  18. 23

    Fantastic! We need more boys to grow up knowing that being tough is to be self-controlled, to sacrifice for those we love and to actually be there for those who need us. I’m astonished at how few of my kid’s classmates come from stable two-parent families, so many fathers seem to abdicate their responsibilities and abandon their own children.

    Pointing out to your sons the qualities in their own Dad which make him great is the best way to help them learn what a real man should be like. Good on you.

  19. 24

    May God bless you and your husband in the always important task of teaching them to be Godly Husbands and Fathers.

    Thank you.


  20. 25
    Lisa Milman says:

    This is so great! I’m sharing it with Brian. It’s never too soon to start living the right example.

  21. 26

    Holy crap, woman. This is marvelous. I mean – I wish I could send it to a former brother-in-law who walked away from his wife of 38 years, his grown children and any chance of being a part of his grandchildren’s lives. Seven years and it still hurts. May your tribe increase. . . exponentially.

  22. 27

    Lisa-Jo, thank you for this of-the-earth and of-the-spirit love letter to your sons (and their future wives and children). I pray my three girls marry men like your boys will be — those who understand the responsiblity and joy and Christly love of staying and pushing through what is hard…and always coming back. Boys who become men who are empowered by Christ are powerful and gentle and tender, solid, but willing to be moved in all the right ways. After my complicated and messy childhood story, I am grateful this morning for a husband and father to my daughters who loves and gives himself away every day on our behalf. Bless you for this, Lisa-Jo, and for all you pour out..

  23. 28

    This brought tears to my eyes. You are so right, we have to raise our boys to respect and honor their mothers and wives. It’s through our example that they learn to stick with things, despite difficult times. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, beautiful post!

  24. 29

    I blogged a short letter to my oldest son today (as I do from time to time), and then I read THIS. I am crying. It touched my heart as a a girl whose father left when she was a pre-teen. And it touches me as a mom of two little boys – trying to raise them to be good and kind and godly.

  25. 30

    Your sons will be fine, but they won’t look to you. They look for an example of fathering, and it seems that they have a good one. But they might fear your judgement. The title shows this. A real man can stand up to a wife who is not in the marriage (and the bible gives several admonishons to women as well, assuming that they are equally prone to sin)
    but it is not easy.

    I am a single dad. I could tell you about my ex, but i won’t.

    Take care.

  26. 31

    Beautiful post! I have only been given one son so far (two daughters came before him) but life is nothing short of busy and amazing and I love him to pieces. My husband is here and is a good dad in his own way, but it falls to me to make sure my son knows that real men don’t use cuss words, etc which is hard sometimes especially when I see my friend’s husbands who are godly (but have their own issues as well). I disagree on the homeschool – my 6 year old son just officially joined our ranks in our school :) but I know it’s not for everyone either. Blessings to you!

  27. 32

    what a beautiful prayer…love how you and your hubby are casting this vision of faithfulness and greatness for your boys…praying that for you and your boys, Lisa-Jo

  28. 33
  29. 34

    Still sobbing as this hits home for me in more ways than one….thank you for this letter.

  30. 35

    ;) can’t help but to shed a few years on this one!!!! Amazing thing you have done!
    So glad I’ve come across your post!!!!! Amazing writing….

  31. 36

    I’m sitting here crying right now and have to say thank you for this. Thank you SO much. As a mother to three daughters (sadly, much older than your boys), I am terrified that they will marry men who don’t stay. Men who don’t come back for one last hug. I pray constantly for their future husbands.

    So thank you for raising your boys to stick it out and for encouraging other moms of boys to do the same. This is just wonderful, Lisa-Jo.

  32. 37

    I love your post, Lisa Jo. And I love all those dads (and moms) out there who are sacrificing for their kids even when it’s not easy.

  33. 38

    Oh gracious goodness. To do this. To say this. To love like this.
    Hug that husband tight, and kiss those boys in their hair so they can’t wipe it off (hopefully they won’t reach that stage!).

  34. 39

    As the mother of three boys (now ages 15,13 and 11) this letter is very near and dear to my heart! I have written similar letters in years past and I will continue to do so. It’s encouraging to me to read other mother’s letters to their sons. Being the mother (and father) of sons is a very mighty task. We are raising them in a much different world than our world has ever known before. Thank you for sharing Lisa Jo! Your writing is beautiful and it touches my Mama heart deeply. :)

  35. 40

    As a mother to a son, love this!

  36. 41

    Lisa-Jo, You boys are so very blessed to have you as their Mommie. Don’t ever doubt how good your are!

  37. 42

    oh wow, what a beautiful letter to your boys. I have an only son and I want him to grow up to be a loving, happy, and caring husband and daddy. I am going to follow your blog, twitter, and fb.

  38. 43

    Wow! Over and over again, I say, WOW, as I read your posts!
    I got “one of the good ones.” A husband, I mean. My dad… not so much.
    Thank you for fighting the good fight and turning your boys into “good ones.”
    God Bless you and your family!

  39. 44

    You’re a U of M fan?! I KNEW I liked you!

    Thanks for sharing this letter to your boys.

  40. 45

    Thank you. Because one day I will have to send my daughter out into the world.

  41. 46

    I found this post through a friend of a friend of a friend, and it is exactly what I needed to read today. My son is turning one tomorrow, and one of the things I worry about most about having a little boy is how to make sure he grows up to be the right kind of a man — godly, responsible and willing to work hard. A man with character. Thankfully my husband (his daddy) is exactly the kind of example he needs to do that very thing. Thank you for writing this wonderful post. I hope you don’t mind if I share it on Facebook.

  42. 47

    Absolutely beautiful, Lisa-Jo.

    As the mother of three little GIRLS, I sincerely hope that lots of parents of boys are reading these words (and taking them to heart).

  43. 48

    Mercy, child. I’m just getting around to reading this and I’m so glad I did. Nothing like tears with morning coffee =). Thank you!

  44. 49

    As a mom of a son left by his dad this gave me goosebumps and chills.
    Thanks so much for putting your words out there.

  45. 50

    Please remember to teach your sons that there are just as many dead beat moms as there are dads in this world. Dads are not the only parents who walk away from their children. It has always been so and for some reason the dads get all the “dead beat” status and the public hate and the moms who are dead beats go unnoticed in the background. Just make sure they know that all humans are capable of running away from their responsibilities.

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