Okay, so I saw in my news feed that NBA basketball star Blake Griffin has reached a settlement on child support for his two children with ex-fiancee Brynn Cameron. Griffin apparently separated from Brynn about a year ago to chase Kendall Jenner, sister to the Kardashians, and now the bill has come due.
This story caught my eye not because I necessarily follow celebrity gossip or even know much about Blake Griffin. I don’t. I saw him play some for the University of Oklahoma and always thought he’d be a good pro player. Then he was drafted by the Clippers and I lost track.
What struck me was the number. Originally believed to be $258,000 monthly, a staggering amount, the couple has subsequently released a statement saying their agreement was for far less—perhaps as low as $32,000 a month, or $384,000 a year.
That’s still a lot of money. More annually than the average parent will pay for their child’s entire childhood from 0-18 years old, according to a recent USDA report!
When I saw it my first thought was, “Dang, I wish I could give my kids that much money! Wouldn’t that be nice?”
And then my next thought was, “But those kids will want their daddy more than the money.” And that made me sad for them, and for Blake.
Those kids will intuitively know what massive amounts of sociological research data has confirmed—that fatherlessness negatively affects children across a wide spectrum of important metrics, including incarceration and suicide rates, depression and anxiety, educational drop out rates and joblessness, substance abuse, identity confusion, loneliness, a lack of belonging, etc. That is some scary, societal-crushing stuff.
Now to be fair, Griffin and Cameron do appear to have agreed on joint legal and physical custody of the kids. For all we know he could become a loving and dedicated father. So I’m not here to judge him or even coach him. But I do want to coach my own heart and overcome my own self-centered frailties.
Perhaps most sobering to many of us is data showing that emotionally distant fathers often cause virtually the same damage as absent fathers. In other words, even if I’m home every night, refusing to intentionally connect with my kids may push them toward the same tragic pain as if I were gone. Again, scary stuff.
Nor can I let myself off the hook with the idea that “quality time” is most important. Read here about how I learned that quantity time might actually be more vital. Not that I have quantity time to give, either. I’m as busy as you.
So where does that leave us?
Well, the Bible offers some good news.
1 Thessalonians 2:8 tells us, “Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us.”
Here the word “lives” is interesting and relevant. It conveys more than physical being. It actually involves a deep, emotional and relational connection between Paul and his readers. He is basically saying to them, “I loved you so much that I gave you the best I had to offer—the message of the gospel. But because you mean so much to me, I want to do more. So I am opening myself up to you. I’m giving you access to the innermost part of my life, my core, the real me.”
Dads can learn from this. Whether we’re financially rich or poor, or somewhere in between, God has already given every single one of us a vast amount of riches to offer our kids, deep within our own hearts, if only we’ll give them access.
I’ve learned for myself how powerful this is for my kids. They love it when I am emotionally accessible and connected. They love it when I open myself up and pour out my heart. When I laugh from deep within. When I cry about something sad. When I ponder something deeply, or express something I’m struggling to grasp. When I admit a fault and ask for their forgiveness.
It’s hard to explain, but somehow opening the door to my imperfect heart gives them a security and a sense of well being that nothing else can ever replace. Not even their mom, as critical and wonderful as she is.
And guess what? Every dad can do it. Some are more natural. Some have made past mistakes that make it more difficult. But every dad can do it. Blake Griffin can do it, and I hope he does. In the long run it will mean more to those kids than all the money he can ever give them.
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