What to Do When You Realize Dad Can’t Fix Everything

Rich Martinson holding is daughter

I thought “feeling faint” was something that only happened to older women in BBC dramas, but there I was, standing in our kitchen on a sunny Sunday morning, legs beginning to weaken and head starting to spin. I had just heard my wife call my name from the other end of the house, and something in her voice told me that what would come next was going to be no ordinary “shouting-across-the-house” type of conversation. She had just taken a pregnancy test.

I was going to be a dad.

This was July of 2019. “PPE” had not yet entered my vocabulary and, for all I knew, “social distancing” was the name of a local punk group who had just taken third place at the battle of the bands. In hindsight, my world was far more stable than it would become over the next year, but I was still overcome with this newfound desire to protect and control the environment into which my child would be born.

Of course, a desire to be in control is not unique to parenthood. For me, however, it found new heights as my mind would wander from one potential problem to another.

“What if something goes wrong with the pregnancy?”

“What if something goes wrong with the delivery?”

I had this urge to fix things before they even needed fixing, and many of the thoughts that crossed my mind were far beyond the scope of my control. It began to dawn on me that this line of thinking was not sustainable.

But I’m guessing I’m not the first dad who has wished he could fix everything. Papala in Thailand probably felt the same way.

When Things Happen That You Can’t Fix

NoeDeMoo, Papala, and their twin baby girls, Phakaporn and Phakamon, sitting on the floor in their house. Papala is looking down at one of the twins smiling, and NoeDeMoo is looking at the camera.

In 2018, Papala and his wife, NoeDeMoo, began their parenting journey by welcoming not one, but two baby girls into their home in a small village in Thailand. Overwhelmed with joy, Papala lovingly cared for his wife and twin daughters. But only seven weeks into fatherhood, tragedy struck when NoeDeMoo unexpectedly passed away in her sleep. He was left to care for his new daughters by himself.

Prior to his wife’s passing, Papala was able to provide for his family by farming. But after being thrust into the role of single parent, he needed to pivot to daily labor jobs near his home so that he could check on his daughters and feed them during his lunch break. His mother lives with them in order to help take care of her granddaughters, but she is elderly and frail.

Situations like Papala’s are not isolated to one specific village, country or region. Dads all over the globe know what it feels like to have things happen that are outside of their control, and they are unable to fix them.

Even in the United States, a country with tremendous resources, my own path to fatherhood was not immune from the fear of COVID-19. For months, my wife and I grew more and more excited to meet our first child. I thought that I had done everything I could to prepare — read books, taken birth classes — but there was no book or class for bringing your first child into the world during a pandemic. Our excitement began to mix with fear as we realized that the world into which our daughter would be born was changing into something much different than we had expected.

READ: 5 Adorable Babies Born in Quarantine

We Can Trust in the One Father Who Can Fix Everything

Papala is wearing khaki pants and a blue shirt. Phakaporn is wearing dark pink pants with a pattern and a yellow shirt. Phakamon is wearing light pink pants with a blue and white shirt. They are all sitting together in their bamboo home.

While the grief of losing his wife is overwhelming, Papala is not alone in raising his daughters. Compassion’s Survival Program at the local church supports him and his daughters in every way it can, providing food, transportation and much-needed emotional support.

“Without help from [the Compassion center], we would be in great difficulty,” says Papala.

God has been the provider for Papala and his two girls, who are now one and a half. Although Papala can’t fix everything, he continues striving to be the best father he can be. He puts his daughters first and they will never need to doubt their father’s love for them.

As for me, I was afraid that the COVID-19 restrictions would prevent me from being in the room with my wife as she delivered, and I was nervous about the increased risk of exposure for our family going into the hospital. But our heavenly Father was our provider and protector through it all. We knew that we were in God’s hands as we welcomed our beautiful, healthy daughter into the world with open arms.

I’m not sure that Papala, myself, or any dad out there will ever be able to completely shed our desire to fix problems for those we love, but I pray that all of us dads can loosen our grip on the things we think we can control and surrender trust to our heavenly Father.

Whether we’re facing the challenges of poverty, a pandemic or the pains of daily life, we can place our trust in the One who reminds us:

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:26-27)

With Father’s Day near, I want to give a shout out to my fellow dads around the world who wish they could fix everything, but — more importantly — I want to encourage them to trust in the Father who already has.

Thailand reporting and photos by Piyamary Shinoda.

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