Well, it has begun. Caleb leaves for London today. Joe leaves for Westmont on the 26th. Couldn’t be more excited for both of them. Curious about the future, and my emotional response to their leaving. A sort of final departure.
When did it all happen. It wasn’t long ago that I was standing in the third base coaching box yelling at Caleb or skimming with Joe at Oceanside. They grow up, and that is a marvelous thing. Here are some father reflections.
Enjoy your kids at every stage. Like everything else in life moments and events are fleeting. What seemed once interminable (soccer season for instance) I now miss. I remember when we first had kids and I made this commitment to enjoy my kids at every stage. It was all new with Tim (our first-born) and we were involved in a young marrieds Bible study. Some of us had kids, some didn’t. I can still see my friends face as he agreed with his wife’s words:
“I can’t wait till she is out of diapers.”
I had an ah-ha moment. I was not yet tired of diapers, we were brand new and it was all an adventure. But I remember thinking – “that isn’t a good attitude.” Now trust me, I was glad to see dy-dee diapers go, but the stage of life was precious, and you should grab and enjoy the moment…even the diaper years and even more the junior high years.
Challenge your kids to do great things. Parent out of risk and not fear. This is a great confidence booster. In challenging your children to aspire you indirectly communicate that you believe in them and that they can accomplish big things. When you discourage your children from risky behavior you indirectly communicate that they can’t handle life and big things, that they are not trustworthy or skilled, that they are incapable. I tried to replace phrases like “be careful” with “have fun” or “remember to watch out for the little guy” or even “be smart.” Remember at 4 and 5, riding a bike was risky. How did we handle that? We spent time training and teaching how to do that risky behavior. Translate that to every stage in life and the activities that go along with those increased stages.
Say yes. I find that the default response that comes from fear and selfishness is the word “no”. We use it too much. Can friends come over? NO Can we go…? NO Can I stay up late? NO Can we light the cat’s tail on fire? NO Think of all the questions that your children ask you. There are a ton, they ask for everything! Say YES as much as you can. If it isn’t unbiblical, immoral, unethical or illegal – find a way to say yes. This nurtures a sense of adventure in your kids. This tells them that there are good things to do and to want to do. This tells them that you want to help them to enjoy life. When you say no repeatedly, your children become lethargic, lazy and unmotivated. This chases them into adulthood. Trust me, yes is cheaper than no in the long run, see two paragraphs down…
Don’t make your kids do stupid things to learn obvious lessons. Sixteen year olds don’t need cars and they don’t need jobs (unless of course, like our friends the Buchanan’s, cars were part of the “yes of life” – they loved to drive, work, race and destroy cars. I am not picking on cars, just the obsession that owning a car at sixteen is a rite of passage for everyone). Let them use your car, and just suck it up and buy the gas. A sixteen year old doesn’t learn squat working at McDonalds to pay for insurance. Please don’t let me see your kid swinging a sign for KayBee homes on the corner in the scorching sun on a Sunday afternoon for a measlee couple of bucks. Most of you to whom this practice appeals have already taught your children the value of work and money through your everyday life at home. Working at fast food for minimum wage is over-rated as a means of teaching a work ethic, and pales in comparison to the context of the home to teach these lessons. There are so many healthy and wonderful opportunities available to children between 16-18 that to put them to work at Taco Bell sounds like torture, it should be illegal. Don’t sell your kids short.
Don’t punish your kids by restricting them from positive contexts and activities. We have a great youth ministry at the church. Kids find it to be a safe, fun, challenging place. They need that sort of healthy context. Don’t threaten your kids with the loss of healthy activities (like church or a good youth group, other healthy times with significant relationships) when they misbehave. Instead, make your children accomplish something as a result of their misbehavior. Give them an extra job around the house, or fine them. Challenge them to a service project in exchange for time in prison (restriction). The prison system doesn’t work in society, it doesn’t work for your teen. Find a new and creative response to the mistakes and rebellion in your teen. (By the way, much of the rebellion you are experiencing with your teen has to do with the “NO” philosophy that you thought was such a good idea to begin with. Now that they are old enough, they are ignoring your NO and doing what they want, ouch).
Celebrate your children, especially when they grow up. Parenting is about training and releasing. We are preparing our kids to venture out into the wild wild world and to enjoy it. I want my kids to experience the best that life has to offer – so I am excited that as Caleb begins his Junior year at Westmont College he doesn’t go to Santa Barbara but leaves for England Semester today for four months, an off-campus program with 25 other Westmont students and two professors (Dr. Paul Delaney and Dr. Jody Allen Randolph).
I am excited that Joe registered for his first semester at Westmont and and that his Facebook status today reads:
“Tremper Longman III for Old Testament!!! oh yeah baby!!!”
I am anxious to meet his football playing roommate from Idaho and hope they get along. We will tromp him up to Santa Barbara on the 25th to experience Parent’s Orientation for the fourth time.
Believe me, I am nervous at the same time. The same dad jitters I experienced when they were pitching and hitting magnified. I want them to do well, meet good people, be safe, have fun, avoid pain. We push fear aside, smile and bless them on their way.
God bless you boys.