What My Dad Gave (Up For) Me

When I say the name Dr. James Dobson . . . what one word comes to mind?

A lot you might say, "family." James Dobson's leadership in family-building is known at least as far as radio waves can transmit or wires can plug in.

For many other people, the Dobson word association is "controversy," or something close, which is fine. To believe in something strongly is to let go of the popularity vote.

When my dad's name comes up these days, for me, however, the single-word response is "gratitude." While he was building other families, he didn't forget his own, and for anyone who's grown up with a busy or famous father, you know what I'm saying.

Dad was hardly perfect, and as it turns out, neither was I. Given that raising children is work, and that kids are trying even when they're not trying to be (and I regularly tried to be) my gratitude grows.

I was eight years old and a frequent reference in my dad's talks when the Focus on the Family video series came out and James Dobson rose into household-name status. Eighty million people watched the seven hour-long films of a man in sideburns, wire-frame glasses and wide lapels (more evidence the content was riveting). Drawing on an impressive education and years of family practice, his studies, common sense -- and hard-won homework with my sister and yours truly--my dad had unwittingly created a classic on child rearing and marriage building.

But how many people know why Dad made those films in the first place?

Answer: He made them for Mom, Danae and me.

James Dobson's books (Dare to Discipline and The Strong-Willed Child) had made him a national figure and in demand as a speaker. But the irony was not lost on him that global travels to help other families increasingly kept him from his own. Now the films could travel and he could stay home.

Today everyone with a smart phone has a film or a video. Not then. Dad was at the cusp of international renown as a speaker and a writer; he genuinely believed that putting his final talk on film in order to stay home was goodbye to his career. As it happens, the films sparked a global conversation on parenting that burns still--but he believed he was choosing us over himself.

Thanks, Dad.

One more thing. Dad was able to turn away from travel and ministry because he'd seen his own father do the same thing. My grandfather was a traveling evangelist and thriving, but a young James Dobson needed a father in his life, and Granddad canceled four years of bookings, took a pastorate and stayed home.

So James Dobson grew up under a legacy that he continues, just as I hope to--and I hope my children will.

Thanks again, Dad.

In the Land of Oz, Dorothy said as the tornado took her, "My, people come and go so quickly here!" Not Dad. Early in life he set up principles our family would live by, and neither he nor they came or went. Life is tough enough. Unpopular stances and a high profile make it tougher--and a man can justify putting the public ahead of his own family. But Dad stood as he stands now: for his own family first.

Thanks, Dad.

This Father's Day, my dad has enough ties (in 1979, Mom should have locked them up). I'm saying thanks to him in a public forum--the thing he was willing to give up for Mom and Danae and me. Thanks for things you did, Dad, and for what you were willing not to do.

I love you, too.

Ryan Dobson is an author, speaker and podcast personality who calls people out of moral relativism and into "the ultimate adventure" of following Christ. He co-hosts Family Talk with his father, Dr. James Dobson, and serves as associate producer of the BUILDING A FAMILY LEGACY series. Dr. Dobson and Ryan help moms and dads with biblical counsel that stands the test of time.

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