photo by Eighteen Sixty Four Photography 

Seasons of Fatherhood

June 2023

by eric karls

Have you ever pondered your current role as a dad or how it will change as your kids get older? Most dads rarely have the time to stop and think about the future. Often, it’s easy to get caught up in all the busyness; the good and the difficult, and forget that kids only stay in their current stage for a brief moment. 

At the beginning of the parenting journey, parents teach the basics. Things like, why you shouldn’t run into the street, which direction pants are worn, the importance of brushing your teeth and not just eating the toothpaste, and why you can’t scream at mommy when she continues to serve sweet potatoes for dinner. But eventually, there is a transition into a new season with kids. A father must let go of some control and become more of an advisor and, eventually, a friend. Thankfully, many dads have already walked the fatherhood journey and can share valuable insight with those just starting out.  

Steve Strutz is one of those fathers. He and his wife Janice parented four amazing kids, now in their 30s and 40s. He also has seven grandchildren and has been a pastor in Billings for over 40 years. With his impressive beard, Steve not only resembles Gandalf from Lord of the Rings, but his calm and strong presence also matches that essence. Steve had much advice to offer about the different seasons of fatherhood.  


Young kids at this stage experience lots of exciting growth but also give their parents endless opportunities to practice patience. Steve remembers his kids being totally dependent on him at these early ages. Their personality is starting to develop; you are uniquely building connections with each kid and getting lots of snuggle time. There is also a lot of directing at this stage. This could be telling the kids when to go to bed, whether they can have a snack, what they should wear, and overall, just keeping them alive. This stage can feel exhausting and requires a lot of energy, but Steve recalled that it goes by quickly. 


In this season, you feel more like a manager providing opportunities for your kids to make decisions for themselves in age-appropriate ways. Steve enjoyed being the hero in his kids’ life at this stage. He remembers his kids naturally trying new things, making mistakes, and needing help solving problems or conquering their fear. This is also when they start to challenge your thinking and authority, and Steve advised that communication and relational connection are vital. Family dinners, walks around the block, and praying before bed are all ways to ensure your child’s voice is heard and that you are instilling the values you desire. Steve easily recalled the moment that marked this shift for his daughter. One morning, as he walked her to school, she stopped him ahead of arrival and said, “Dad, that’s good enough; I can walk from here!”   


Steve compared this stage to flying an airplane with your child but releasing the controls to them. You are still there to give direction and keep them from crashing, but you let them fly the plane. Steve recalled, “I had to listen to them and stay relational while staying committed to the standards we had set up as a family. I had to really remind myself often that they were not to the end goal yet, that they were in the process of becoming what they should be, and as a dad, I had to stay the course, stay connected with them, and be patient.”  


This is when a father completely gives up control of their kids and enters a new but rewarding season. Steve recalled his daughters’ weddings as some of the most emotional times in his life. All the hard work you invested while they were younger starts to pay off, but it is hard to experience letting them go. Grown children are making decisions about marriage, careers, and buying a first house. At this point in his life, Steve often gets phone calls from his kids asking him for advice as they raise their families. At times, he has also seen the script flip, when they are taking care of him, which feels much more like a friendship. “Some of my best friends now in life are my kids!” 

Two pieces of advice stood out the most from Steve. “Begin with the end in mind” and “know that you matter.” Steve stressed the importance of teaching and guiding your kids towards values, work ethic, faith, and integrity, and living out those values in your own life. He also emphasized the importance for dads to take the responsibility of fatherhood seriously and know that your relationship with them is one of the most critical things they need in life.  

Reflecting on Steve’s words about the different seasons of fatherhood helps keep things in perspective and is a good reminder to be present in the stage of life your kids are in. For dads with young kids, there is only a short amount of time to enjoy the sweet moments of growth and be the hero in their lives. It's also good to look forward from time to time and determine if you are guiding your kids along the right path for their future selves. You won’t always be the director and you'll get to see the fruits of your labor as your kids grow up and navigate life in adulthood. It is easy to want to hold on tight and never let them grow older, but it is exciting to think about their future and the new role you will play with them in the different seasons of fatherhood. 

One final thought, if you are a dad, don’t be afraid to reach out to other dads and ask them for advice or have a good laugh around the shared experiences of fatherhood. Learning from the successes and mistakes of those who have gone before you is good. Plenty of wise Gandalfs would be happy to get a cup of coffee with you if you take the time to ask. Remember that you matter and you are not alone on this journey. 

Originally printed in the June 2023 issue of Simply Local Magazine

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