I love being a dad. I’ve written that exact sentence more than once in my life. I’m not 100% sure about many things in life, but that’s one of them. More specifically, I love my three boys. They are wonderful kids: funny, caring, energetic, weird, and loving. I enjoy spending time with them. They make me laugh and help keep my spirit young.
Some time back, I wrote an article titled, “Present Tense Parenting.” In it, I discussed the temptation to miss the current stage of parenting due to our nostalgia for the “good ole days” or anticipation about the future. You can click the link above if you want to read it. Today’s article is sort of along those lines though I hope it’s not simply a rehash.
I am currently watching the TV show “Chuck” with my wife and two oldest boys – they are 16 and 15 years old. We are only four episodes in and our pace has been less than fast. The other morning I was in the car with my oldest son as he was driving to school, and he made the comment that he is worried we will not finish the series before he graduates high school. He is a Junior and will graduate in the spring of 2021.
His comment bounced around in my head all day. He will be finished with school in less than 17 months. Potentially, he could move out of our home and head to college in less than 20 months.
How in the world did that happen? In some ways, it feels like I closed my eyes for a few seconds and he grew from a skinny, shy kid to nearly a man overnight. It blows my mind and humbles me all at once.
That’s not to say I’ve been disconnected or not paying attention. Like I said, my kids mean the world to me. I have very much been paying attention but life happens fast. Sometimes, it feels way too fast. He is turning into an amazing young man: witty, self-deprecating, humble, and hard-working – when it’s something he truly cares about. I can’t complain about any of it because raising him to become a man is what my wife and I have been working towards as parents.
“Where oh where can my baby be?”
My ten-year-old is the baby of the family. Up until about 3 months ago, he was incredibly affectionate. He gave hugs all the time and he wanted to sit right next to me on the couch or even on my lap. I soaked it all up because I knew this was the last one of my kids who would do this sort of stuff.
Then he stopped. Not completely, but he very clearly went from being a little kid to a fourth-grader and it felt like it happened all at once. He’s still affectionate but there has been a definite change. Part of me is happy to see him growing up and part of me is sad. I’ll never get my snuggle buddy back and unless God performs some miracle I won’t be procreating another one again.
My middle son has his little group of friends. Occasionally they will want to hang out – usually to play war games, poker, or Risk. More than once, he has chosen to spend time with them over us, his family. A few years ago, that would have never happened. It’s all part of the growing up process and I relish it because it shows he is maturing, becoming more independent, and developing his own interests, but it also means he has less time for us. There is a melancholy joy to it all.
Preparing them to leave
If you are a parent, you know exactly what I am talking about. Watching your children grow, mature, and become adults is humbling, exciting, and just a little bit sad. Not an “I don’t like this!” sort of sadness. It’s a holy sadness – a sadness that we know in our hearts is right and good. The ultimate goal of parents is to raise our children in a way that prepares them for life on their own. Of course, for believers the goal is more profound and important than that. We are exhorted to “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” The way spoken of here is the path of righteousness; The way is a life surrendered to Jesus. It’s our mission as parents to do all we can to ensure our children know the way and that they do not depart from it.
The natural order of things is that children will one day grow beyond their parents. They outgrow us in a manner of speaking. And it’s a day we should eagerly anticipate, even though it is mingled with a sense of loss. That sense of loss should never be an excuse for us to hold on too tightly. Our children are gifts to us from our Father above and while they are in our care for a short time, they are ultimately His.
So, what’s the plan?
So, my advice is simple: Don’t blink. Keep your eyes open. Enjoy every stage, every moment, every phase. Mold them. Shape them. Guide them. Pray for them. Teach them. Laugh with them. Avoid dwelling on the past or the future. Embrace the time you have right now. Things change quickly. One day your little princess will hang onto your every word and the next she will be mortified to be seen in public with you. One day your adorable son will see you as the biggest and strongest man alive and the next he will realize what a giant nerd you actually are.
Shed your tears, parents. They are inevitable. Yet, if you have trained your children in the way they should go, your tears will be a beautiful and holy union of sadness and joy.
Now, I need to get back to watching “Chuck” with my boys.