Volodymyr Zelenskyy became Ukraine’s sixth and current president in 2019 at the young age of 41.  A former comedian and actor, Zelenskyy was a true political outsider.  But, with his charisma and positioning as an anti-establishment and anti-corruption figure, he won the election with over 73% of the vote.  During his presidential inaugural address to the people of Ukraine, he asked not to be celebrated or held up as a role model.  “I really do not want my pictures in your offices, for the President is not an icon, an idol or a portrait,” he said.  “Hang you kids’ photos instead, and look at them each time you are making a decision.”  Zelenskyy, a father of a 17 and 9 year old, did the same each time he made a decision on behalf of his country.

Little did he know, just 3 short years later, he’d be front and center of a war thrust upon him by a Tyrant with a bone to pick and an army to carry out his evil plans.  His security team, upon gathering intel about the invasion, came to whisk Volodymyr away to safe hiding.  Upon them arriving, he said, “The fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride.”

These quotes, and this man, inspire us to be better leaders ourselves.  Upon hearing of the invasion and seeing real-time war scenes flash on my TV screen of blood and smoke and tanks and fear, I exhaled a prayer and looked at my family’s picture that sets on my office desk.  I am a father of a 16, 14 and 11 year old.  No one else on the face of his planet can call me ‘dad’.  Just them.  It’s a responsibility I don’t take lightly, yet its one that is so unfamiliar and clunky.  Sure, I read books on parenting and fathering and try my best to be there for them.  I work hard to provide for their needs…and many of their wants.  But is that all that fathering really is?  Surely there’s more.

I remember the moment I was given my firstborn daughter to hold in my arms.  Every emotion possible flowed through that moment.  Mostly that of love and joy.  But then questions began to roll in.  “Can I do this?” “Do I have what it takes?” “How will I balance it all?” “Am I good enough to be her dad?”

Tears flowed as I contemplated these questions.  Innately, I knew one thing…and on that one thing, all questions were answered.  I loved her.  There was nothing that would make me stop loving her.  And I would do anything…anything…to be the best dad I could be.  I would give myself grace for the times I wasn’t perfect, but would also hold myself to a high standard as I helped guide her on her journey.  I knew I would only have about 18 summers with her.  And as I held her in my arms, I knew the clock was on.  I had to be intentional and purposeful about raising her.  And I knew, with God’s help and my wife’s, we would do just fine.

Daughter #2 came in 2008.  Lest you remember what was happening during that timeframe, I’m a Financial Advisor, and my world was crashing down around me along with the economy and stock market swoon better known as the Great Financial Crisis.  What better time to welcome a newborn into the family!  While quite stressful, it was actually a great time to have a newborn.  Holding her distracted me from the crisis unfolding around me.  She made the world seem ok.  She kept me sane.  Coming home to a 2-year-old and newborn was pure joy.

Then, my son arrived in 2011.  For my long-time readers, you’ll remember that my wife was 7 months pregnant with him when Mom took her life.  Her first grandson.  I still wish she would’ve held on to meet him.  A new wave of unqualified feelings washed over me as I held him for the first time.  I was too small to play football, I’ve never filleted a fish, never hunted or gathered, never started a fire with sticks. Heck, I don’t really even like camping!  What manly things would I ever be able to teach?  And yet, I knew that I loved him, and that’s all that I needed to provide me the kindling to try to be a good dad.

In the end, I don’t believe there’s a perfect way to be a parent.  There are many paths.  But this I do know.  You can do your very best.  You can wake up each day and, like Zelenskyy, make decisions with your kids in your mind.  You can show them love, provide for and protect them, and raise them the best you know how.  I believe God will fill in the gaps.

If you’re a mom or a dad, know this.  Only your kids, adopted or otherwise, can call you that title.  It’s a title that’s full of responsibility, and so much fun.  Give it your all, love them the best you know how, and make decisions that will promote them to a better life.

And for those of you who aren’t parents, or who can’t be for some reason or another, the next generation needs you.  Find a younger person to be a mentor to.  They’ll be better for it.

18 summers.  So little time is left for us.  Don’t waste it.  Make good decisions.  And do it with your kids in mind.