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A father’s love helps define a child

Recently we took our son to see Kung  Fu Panda 2. In addition to having some amazing actors and a storyline that my three-year-old son and me and my wife could relate to, there was a very important message in the movie that inspired this post.

There was more than just the typical good vs. evil battle between Po, the main character, and the antagonist in the film, Lord Shen. The colorful animated drama provided life lessons that I pray my son and many other children will carry with them for life.

As the story unfolded, you realize that both characters, Po and Lord Shen, had to deal with issues from their childhood that had shaped who they became as adults.

Lord Shen, the evil peacock, had a harden heart because he couldn’t forgive or forget the past. He felt that he had been wronged and decided to take his pain and anger out on the world by destroying Kung Fu.

The one to stop him was Po. He was the Panda who had just become the legendary Dragon Warrior and discovered that Mr. Ping, the noodle shop owner, that raised the panda was not his father.

In fact, this revelation led Po to set out on a unpredictable journey to find out what happened to his parents and ultimately, who he was.

For sure, Po was confused about his past. It was a pretty painful time for him and could have easily hardened his heart too. And his pain could have been an excuse to hurt others. Instead he used his strengths to accept who he was and make a difference in the lives of friends and strangers alike.

At the end of his quest, Po comes home to Mr. Ping, who was worried that he had lost Po forever. Po proceeds to tell Mr. Ping that he now knows what happened to his parents. He then continues to make a bold admission to Mr. Ping. He tells him, “I now know who I am… I’m your son.”

Many of us spend our lifetime on a quest to discover who we are. This very natural, human quest is only magnified with the absence of a father in childhood.

Little boys want to know what it means to be a man, a father and how to treat a woman. Little girls look for a father’s love for validation and for an example of a husband and a father for their children. Even when a child grows up and discovers his or her purpose in life, they still have a strong desire to connect to the past and any missing parts.

Over the years, I have come to know my dad, not as the man that left me when I was only nine-months-old, but as my best friend and confidant. I can truly say that at this point in my life, he is one of a few people that understands me and supports me in all that I try to accomplish.

His unconditional love for me and my development as a man have sustained me during some of my toughest challenges in marriage, in business and in fatherhood.

He has also shown me what it takes to be a good father. I watched how he loved and nurtured my brother and sister. Also, I’ve seen how he treats his children by marriage as if they were his own. He’s like Dr. Huxtable to his step-children and their friends. He is definitely considered to be one of the coolest dads.

Imagine all that I would have missed if my mom didn’t allow my dad to have a relationship with me or if my dad didn’t make any attempts to get to know me. Consider the jealousy and resentment I would have had knowing that he was such a great father to my sisters and brothers, if I never had the opportunity to develop a relationship with him myself.

I am so thankful for the relationship I have with my dad and the positive impact he has had on me and my life. Now, as I try to be the best dad I can be for my own son, I am proud to say that I know who I am… I’m my father’s son.

Like the gallant cartoon character Po, I’ve had to do a little searching to be able to know and embrace that fact. And, even though life isn’t like the movies, there’s not always a happy ending, I’m thankful that in family life, if you work hard enough for it – there can be.

As we approach Father’s Day, I encourage those reading this to seek healing in broken relationships with fathers and cherish those relationships that are already strong!

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