I loved watching my boys participate in sports. One of their youngest ventures was t-ball. For the uninitiated, t-ball is baseball without a pitcher. The baseball is placed on a tee for the young boy or girl to hit.

Now the beauty of t-ball is that you can’t strike out. If you happen to miss the ball when you swing, your coach will help you position your bat, and you get to try again. In fact, you keep on trying until you finally hit the ball. My boys called second and third swings “do-overs.”

I wish I had some do-overs as a father. I tend to be a workaholic. And when I put in long and unreasonable hours, I get grouchy. The laughing, joyous father becomes a grouchy bear.

Though I have had many spells of the bah-humbug attitude, it seemed to be especially pervasive when my boys were young. I was a seminary student and pastor of a rural church. I also worked at a bank since the church only provided me fifty dollars per week in income. My schedule was horrendous. Fifteen hours of classroom time each week. Thirty-plus hours at the bank. More than twenty hours a week of studying. And at least forty hours at the church.

During those three years, I often was anything but a joy. I have some painful memories that I don’t particularly like recalling. But those stories are important reminders.

The three preschool boys were still in their pajamas, watching an early-morning cartoon. “Look at Scooby Doo, Daddy!” one of the boys exclaimed in laughter. Those boys were having so much fun. They wanted their daddy to join in on the hilarity.

I was tired and had to leave for an 8:00 a.m. class, but that does not excuse my behavior. I told the boys in an irritable tone that I had to leave and they needed to hug me good-bye, part of our everyday routine.

The boys were into their cartoons and were oblivious to my demands. In a moment of anger, I left the little campus apartment without my daily hugs. I got into the old Ford, made the usual U-turn that brought me right in front of the apartment. And there, standing on the little porch, were Sam and Art crying, motioning for me to return and hug them.

I felt like such a lowlife—because I was.

Even as I write this story more than two decades later, my eyes are filling with tears.

I jumped out of the car, grabbed my two sons with each of my arms, took them back into the apartment, and hugged them repeatedly.

I then threw off my coat and sat on the floor and watched Scooby Doo.

I missed my 8:00 a.m. class, and I don’t even remember what the class was. But I do remember Scooby Doo. And I do remember my boys yelling with delight that Daddy had returned and joined the party of laughter.

But there just aren’t any do-overs as a father.

You can ask for forgiveness. You can make up for a bad moment.

But you can’t undo that which has already been done. 

There are no do-overs.

Adapted from Raising Dad (B&H Publishing Group, 2007)


  1. Will Peppers says

    Wise advice Dr. Rainer. Makes me think about my 2 year old, Charlie. He is getting to the age where he wants to be with me all the time. Whether I am cutting the lawn or cooking dinner, he wants me to hold him so he can watch everything and be with me. My fear is that as he gets older, will I be able to spend those quality moments with him? My work requires at least 60+ hours per week, then there’s my music that takes most of the weekends and free time. I will just have to remember to stop and take the time to spend with him. As you said, there are no do-overs.

  2. Thom Rainer says

    Thanks Will, Walter, Ronny, and Steve.
    Hey Walter -
    I was a mess when I wrote it, and a mess again re-reading it.
    I understand.

  3. says

    I can’t even describe the gyrations of emotions this post evoked. At times I agonize that I’m not giving my beloved kids (son-8, daughter-7) enough time, attention, and love. I can feel overwhelmed with guilt, eventhough I give them lots of all three. What has given me a considerable amount of peace is running full speed back to the gospel and its message of grace. I will screw up…fortunately, Jesus did not. I will slight my kids (or wife or …), Christ bore the ultimate “slight” for me and yet loves me, forgives me, and even declares me a co-heir.
    For dads who may be struggling with the screw ups in the past, Jesus has the only effective way of dealing with guilt of the past. And when we look for the Undo button for our mess ups yet to occur, he will help us deal with those too. Do not let your life become one of discouragement due to carrying a lifetime of guilt. Find your forgiveness in Jesus, only He can heal you!

  4. says

    What a great post. I had to stop at many of the turns and see if you were writing about me. I am 33 years old, father of 3 preschoolers, pastor of a rural church in SW Alabama, and a seminary student. Thanks for the reminder to take advantage of every opportunity.

  5. Randy Hughes says

    Thank you Dr.Rainer for making me cry this morning.I have 3 boys.My son Justin was in a Airplane crash 6 years ago.He was missing for 6 hrs.I had that time to sit with God and think “I wish we had done…..Fill in the blank.A lot guilt of wishing I was a better father.But God forgives and blesses. It is up to me to mess it up again(LOL).Justin is happily married and doing really well.Thank you for another reminder.Take advantage of every opportunity.Even the small ones.It took 2 hrs before i could write this.

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