A parent with shared custody continues to be influential in his daughter’s life.
There was something beautiful about Tristan that captivated me from the first moment I saw her. It was more than her silky auburn hair and turquoise eyes that made her stunning. Not long after our first meeting, I became aware of the precious gift Tristan possessed—she was a young girl basking in the love of her father.
I met her father, Dan, a few months earlier. He is a single dad, and his love for his two children and Christ is a passionate one. Fathers like Dan are a powerful influence in the lives of their children, regardless of the unenviable circumstances of single fatherhood.
They invited me to their home to celebrate Tristan’s 16th birthday. At her young age, Tristan possesses a balance of maturity and innocence. She giggles with girlfriends while eating ice cream and makes decisions that I, at twice her age, might not be able to make with such wisdom.
On her birthday she presented her dad with a video she made titled “Sixteen and Still Your Girl.” She did it to thank him and let him know that all he has done for her has not gone unnoticed. Pictures from the time Tristan was a baby to sweet 16 graced the screen. Each picture included a caption thanking Dan for the things he has taught her and for the choices he has made as a father. One picture was of Dan, Tristan and her younger brother, Taylor, sitting by the roots of a large tree. The caption read, “Thank you for rooting our family in God’s hands.”
Dan carries a deep sadness over the loss of his marriage. He wanted an intact family so they could serve the Lord together. “It was supposed to be different,” he says. Dan has felt out of place at times as a single father. It is a challenge to stay connected to his children and be aware of their needs, especially when their daily time together is limited.
The night Tristan presented the video to her dad, his face said it all—he was so proud of his daughter. The qualities in Dan and his commitment as a father inspire me. He does not take credit but thanks God for giving him the strength to make right choices.
Not long ago Dan faced a health crisis that brought another burden to their family. “I rehearsed how I would tell my children I had cancer, but, of course, it didn’t go as planned.” Dan and his children experienced tremendous anxiety during this time. His cancer is rare for someone Dan’s age, and he was given a bleak prognosis. But Dan trusts God for his health. Despite the diagnosis, Dan is in remission. Now, every moment with his children counts more than ever.
One of Dan’s most compelling traits is his ability to seize the moment. He is in awe of God’s creation. For instance, when he’s driving and sees a sunset, he pulls over to enjoy the scenery. Dan teaches his children to be thankfully aware of the special moments God provides.
“He is a rock and has a strong faith in God like I have never seen before,” Tristan says. She remembers him doing devotions with her as a child and seeing him read his Bible in the mornings. “Every time I talk to him about something important or small, I know that I will get advice from someone who not only cares about me but will point me in a direction that is godly and wise,” Tristan says.
As Tristan’s video played on the computer screen, I turned to see father and daughter standing arm in arm across from me. Tristan is a young woman who recognizes the irreplaceable role her father plays in her life. It was a peaceful moment in a home that has experienced heavy burdens and seen many tears.
Tristan is the mature young woman she is because her dad exemplifies Christ. She is secure in the love of both of her fathers—earthly and heavenly. A father who shares the love and wonder of Christ with his children gives an invaluable gift to them, and the result is beautiful.
Sandra Ring lives with her family in Ingersoll, Ont.