Dads & Grads - A Father Learns from His Son

Blog - Dads & Grads

Dads & Grads: A Father Learns from His Son

Today is a big day. I didn't think it would come so fast. Somehow this day sneaked up on me when I was distracted with the busyness of life. As always, I'm not sure I'm prepared for it. As with every other big day in my life, this big day is making me reflective.

“What big day?” you ask. Well, my oldest child, Stephen, is graduating from High School today. I know it's not a wedding, or birth, or a funeral. But it's still a big day. It's a big day for him and for his parents. He's our oldest, and first to graduate. And in two months he's going to boot camp in the Navy.

I'm so proud of him. He has had to overcome a lot to get to this place. He is a reminder of God's love and faithfulness through many answered prayers.

I'm sitting at Starbucks and I’m in a very reflective mood. I have so many thoughts swirling about in my head. And when I get like this, I like to write. Writing helps me wrangle my thoughts and emotions into some coherence. So as I reflect on this milestone of life, parenthood, and entering my second-halfness, here are some thoughts that popped into my head.

1. The days are long, but the years go by in a blink.

His first day of preschool seemed like yesterday. That memory is so fresh in my mind. We were in Little Rock, Arkansas during my Residency. Then it was off to Kindergarten in Long Beach, California. I remember his cheery face and his little friends. There was Dextin, and Miles, and Shi-On.

Shi-On was a Korean kid who couldn't speak English but they became friends quickly. Shi-On's dad was a flight instructor that worked out of the Long Beach Airport. He asked us if we wanted to go and fly with him. We accepted his offer and the four of us climbed into a Piper Low-Wing 4-seater. Shi-On and I sat in back, with Stephen and Shi-On's dad (I forgot his name) sat in front behind the dual controls of the training airplane.

After take-off, the pilot told Stephen to take the controls. Stephen flew the plane half-way to Catalina Island. It was scary and exhilarating at the same time. How was that 12 years ago? It seemed like yesterday. Where did the time go?

2. It takes a village to raise a child.

As a parent, I often feel inadequate for the job. I'm scared that my son is going to take on my weaknesses and repeat my mistakes. I just hope I haven't scarred and wounded him too much.

Yes, my wife and I were inadequate to raise him on our own. That's why God put so many amazing people in his life. He has the best grandparents in the world. Amazing uncles, aunties, cousins, and friends. He's had great spiritual mentors from church and CRU High School invest in his life.

I'm so thankful that God has put these people in my son's life. We couldn't have raised him on our own, and I'm glad we didn't have to try.

3. Your relationships are more important than your accomplishments.

This is something my son taught me. I had dreams and visions of conquering the world. I wanted to accomplish so many things. Achievement was the most important goal in my life.

That's until he came into my life. When Stephen was born, everything changed. My world was rearranged. I stopped caring as much about goals and achievement.

That little boy ruined me in the best possible way. He was sick when he was born. He spent an extra two weeks in the hospital with tubes stuck in him. Nothing else in the world mattered. I just wanted him to be okay. My greatest goal became getting to know this boy and becoming the best dad I could be.

I've worked on that goal every day since he was born. I'm not the best father. I've failed more times than I can count. But I'm proud to have a good relationship with my son. I've given him a hug or told him I loved him almost every day of his life. That's one of my greatest achievements in life.

4. If you can trust God with your soul, you can trust Him with your children.

This is a lesson that I'm trying to take in and embrace. I'm scared for him. Instead of college, he decided to join the Navy. He's been considering the military since he was a kid. He's known that the traditional college route wasn't for him. I'm so proud of him for making such a mature decision.

But as a dad, I'm protective and a bit scared for him. In the back my mind, I hoped he would live with us a little longer, go to community college, and continue working at his part-time job at the computer repair place.

But in less than two months, he's going to be shipped off to Great Lakes Naval Training Command near Chicago for boot camp. He signed up for a six-year enlistment. At least his first year will be in San Diego, which is only 90 minutes from home.

The fleshly, human side of me is worried about a lot of things. He's never been away from home for more than a week. He's going to be around grown men and women who could be bad influences on him. I'm worried about how he will handle stress and fear. I'm worried that he will feel lonely and discouraged.

Even though I'm worried, I know that God is with him. Stephen has a sweet, genuine faith. He has trusted God as his Lord and Savior. He has been taught the Bible and had faith modeled for him. The only way I can release my worries is because of my trust in God.

The Lord is also Stephen's father, his Heavenly Father. And the Lord loves Stephen so much more than even I do. He has promised that He would never leave nor forsake my son. He will walk with Stephen through the valley of the shadow of death and beyond.

This is faith. I've trusted Jesus with my own eternal soul. Now I will have to trust Him with the care and guidance of my firstborn son. I don't know which is harder to do.

Now, let me end with exhortations to my son (as if he would ever read my blog):


You are loved. You are loved by many people. Never forget that God loves you and has a plan for your life.

Trust Him. Stay on the path. Do not turn to the left or the right. There's nothing outside of God's plan that is worthwhile to pursue.

The road ahead will have its twists and bumps. You will be stretched and tested. That's all part of the plan. When you get down and want to give up, remember the verses that I taught you:

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13)

"Greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world." (1 John 4:4b)

"Let us not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." (Galatians 6:9)

With love,

Dad (the proudest father in the world)


Dr. Thien Doan has currently beta-testing a brand new personal development resource called "The Intentional Life Blueprint: Personal Development from a Biblical Perspective."  The goal of this online coaching community is to help Christians find purpose, overcome obstacles, be inspired, and receive encouragement so they experience the abundant life God has planned for them. If you want to find out more about the Intentional Life Blueprint, go to