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Jun
16

Reflections on Father’s Day

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The older I get the more I appreciate Father’s Day. I turned 50 this year, and still have my father. I sent him and card and gave him a call, realizing that even at age 90 he’s still parenting. He’s always affirmed and encouraged me and still does so today. As we got ready to hang up, he told me he was proud of me. I don’t take that for granted because I know plenty of people who have never been blessed by their fathers.

My oldest has graduated from college and is in his first job. My middle child is in college and our youngest is down to her last two years of high school. I used to think that as soon as my kids would graduate from college I’d be finished with parenting. Nothing is further from the truth.

Father’s Day is a bittersweet holiday. Like you, I love my kids and I’m extremely proud of them. I’m humbled by their talents and achievements, wishing I could somehow take credit for teaching them or coaching them toward their accomplishments but I can’t. What they have and what they’ve achieved is of grace. God has blessed them with talents and gifts that I cannot take credit for. It’s all of grace and all a gift from God.

While I marvel at all of the good, I weep for my own failures. I don’t know of any father who can honestly claim to have gotten every single element right. As fathers we’re not bad, but we’re broken. The implications of the fall run deep and are most clearly revealed in our homes. We can fool people at work or church but we can’t fool our spouses and our kids. They know us and love us, often in spite of ourselves.

There are times I’ve over reacted and times I’ve under reacted. There are times when I’ve spoken when I should have been silent and times when I’ve been silent that I should have spoken. There have been times I should have said yes when I said no, and times I said no when I should have said yes. I’ve minored on majors and majored on minors. In short, I’m not planning on writing a book on parenting any time in the near future!

I think most dad’s really love their kids and want the best for them. No, we’re not perfect, and yes, love covers a multitude of sins. For what it’s worth, here are some things I’ve learned about parenting. Like my mentor Gary Taylor used to say, these are not commandments but rather suggestions for fellow weary pilgrims.

1. The best thing I can give my kids is a great marriage.
Americans are pretty good about making kids their priority. We go to ball games, concerts, plays, dramas, performances, dances, recitals and more. We are attentive to our kids needs, sometimes to the neglect of our marital needs. If you want to be a good parent, begin by being a good spouse. When your marriage is healthy, you’re kids benefit in ways that you’ll never expect.

2. Let your kids be who God created them to be.
Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Unfortunately, a lot of parents assume that verse means that if we take our kids to church they will always love the Lord and follow him. That’s not what it means. The verse means that if we teach our kids to follow their natural bent, they will thrive in that bent in adulthood. One thing my wife and I tried to do was to provide our children with as many experiences as possible while they were young so they could figure out what their interests were. That meant we took our kids to piano, karate, soccer, football, gymnastics, upward basketball, art classes and more so they could identify their gifts and talents. We didn’t make them what we wanted them to be. Rather, we let them identify their interests and develop them. Our oldest is an athlete. Our middle is a musician and an artist. Our youngest is an artist, athlete, and musician. If you met our kids you might wonder how they could come from the same parents, but they did. You can’t play favorites or compare them to each other. You have to let them be who God created them to be.

3. Admit your failures.
My wife and I grew up in homes where our parents never admitted their mistakes. Neither one of us heard a parent say, “I was wrong, and I’m sorry.” We determined that we were going to be transparent enough to admit when we blew it. Is it hard? Sure. But I think our kids have appreciated the fact that we have always been willing to admit it when we’ve blown it.

4. Love them unconditionally.
The final word I would offer is to love your kids unconditionally. They may not be champions. They may not be a starter on the team. They may not earn the big scholarship. That’s ok, love them anyway. Performance based love is a terrible scourge on the American family. Sometimes we love conditionally because we’re trying to vicariously live our lives through our kids. Sometimes we enforce demands on our kids that are unfair or unreasonable. Sometimes we tell ourselves that we’re doing our kids a favor. But performance based love places a severe amount of pressure on our kids that most cannot bear. Love your kids because they’re yours. Not because of what they do, but because of who they are.

Categories : Family, Parenting

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