Photo by Josh Willink from PexelsTHE FATHER’S EMBRACE The two greatest gifts a child can receive are a mother’s nurture and a father’s embrace. Here, Craig Wilkinson, author of Dad, gives his advise to fathers. Wilkinson will be talking at The Baby Show & #MeetUp sponsored by Pampers. The event is taking place at Kyalami Convention Centre, September 28 to 30. The father is a boy’s first hero and a girl’s first love and the father who sees this and responds with his embrace gives his child a gift of incalculable value. So much more than a hug the father’s embrace is the million things a man does in the love of his child. It’s his consistent, steady presence. It’s his look, his touch, his voice, his tone. It’s his wisdom, his strength, his protection, his provision. The father’s embrace is physical, emotional, and spiritual. It is gentle yet strong, kind yet uncompromising. The father’s embrace is a place. A place where there is freedom for a child to be exactly who he or she is. A place where a boy or girl feels safe, loved, wanted; a place where their heart finds both solace and expression. The father’s embrace is presence; consistent, in-the-moment presence. It nurtures. It gives, never takes. It imparts life. It’s there even when the father is not, lingering in his absence to affirm, to comfort, to guide. Someone who has truly experienced the father’s embrace wears it for the rest of their life; a cloak of blessing and approval wrapped around their soul that no-one can steal. The father’s embrace approves, not only of what his children do but of who they are. It helps the young boy and girl discover who they are and affirms and validates this identity so they stand strong and secure in it. It refuses to dictate a life script but helps the child to articulate the life story already written in their souls. The father’s embrace sees. It calls out to the man inside the boy and the woman inside the girl and says “come out, you have a role to play. Come out, you are good and worthy and the world needs what you have to offer”. The father’s embrace validates. It says to the girl and the boy, “you are good, you are valid, you are legitimate and you matter”. It says to the girl, “you are lovely, you are worth pursuing, worth fighting for, I fight for you”. It says to the boy, “you have what it takes, I back you, you are a man, you have my blessing”. The father’s embrace lovingly disciplines. The beautiful guarantee of love’s discipline is that a child who is truly loved will always desire the approval of the one who truly loves him and a father who truly loves will always desire the very best for the child he loves. Love does not hold back when a wrong is committed, love speaks, and love at times punishes. But love’s punishment is never harsh or damaging or unfair. It brings out the beauty of the child and begins to shape the man or woman within them. The father’s embrace protects. It sees the dangers that the child faces and fights for them on every front that presents a threat to their hearts, minds or bodies. The father’s embrace is authentic. It never calls what is good bad or what is bad good. It never flatters or exaggerates but speaks truthfully to the child at all times. The child embraced by the father’s truth grows strong and secure in the knowledge of what is and what isn’t, of who they are and what they are not. The father’s embrace believes. Through words and actions it expresses an unflinching faith in the child and the God of its creation. It passes this belief on to the child almost by osmosis so that the child grows up believing that all things are possible. The child fortunate enough to be embraced by the father’s authenticity and faith develops a life deeply rooted in reality and alive with possibility. The father’s embrace sets boundaries on his children’s behaviour but never their identity. The father’s embrace holds with reverence the life placed in its care and creates a sanctuary in which that life can flourish and grow and discover all it was created to be. The father’s embrace respects, for a young life respected will grow into an older life respectful. We fathers all are called to embrace our children, yet very few of us were fortunate enough to experience the father’s true embrace ourselves. Our calling therefore is deeper than merely embracing our own children, it is to reach out to the Father of all fathers and receive His embrace, for only as we are fathered can we truly father. We men only truly know our strength when we discover its source and give it in the love of others. We revel in the gift of our strength when it is used in the service of those given to us to care for. The father’s embrace takes all of us yet it gives so much more back to us. The father’s embrace finds expression in words and silence, action and stillness. It is firm and soft, powerful and gentle. It blesses and corrects, it approves and reproves. It protects, it holds, it provides. Most importantly it is present. Consistently present. The strength of the father’s embrace depends on the integrity of the man from whom it comes. A true father’s embrace comes from the man whose life is an attractive example of all that he wants his children to become. And when we fail we men who are in the embrace of the Father of all fathers know His grace that restores and picks us up to embrace again. The true father’s embrace starts when his child is in the womb of the woman he loves. It starts with his desire for her and his joy at the discovery of a life within her, part of him, part of her, but bigger, so much bigger. And a true father’s embrace ends only when he breathes his last. The child of the father’s embrace lives in the heart of the father until its very last beat and the embrace of the father lives on in his child. 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