Doing Family Right

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Parenting: My 6 Greatest Joys of Being a Parent

The truth is—my primary days of being “Dad” are over. Sure, I still hold the title and always will. But at best, I now only occupy a small place in my children’s hearts. And that’s the way it should be. As hard as it is, that’s the leave and cleave challenge talked about in Genesis 2:24. As adults, our children have new primary relationships—I need to release them to focus on their spouses and their own children. They are shaping the next generation as Donalyn and I once did with them. The cycle of life continues.

What I’ve learned about parenthood might be best reflected in what has brought me my greatest joys. I hope you find reading this as encouraging as I did reminiscing and writing about it.

PLAY TOGETHER: Create the joy of shared time.

Regardless of the activity, you need to be fully engaged and having fun with your children. Whether playing with dolls or stuffed animals, cars or trains, G.I. Joes or mini-sticks, wrestling or singing, Super Mario or go-carts—every activity creates attachment. Lasting closeness is forged in small but frequent installments. Laughter bonds you to your kids. So does time. Remember, love to a child is spelled T-I-M-E. As easy as it is to let TV’s, videos, computers, iPads, cellphones and Xboxes keep them occupied and entertained, and you freer; don’t let gadgets take your place. And play with your cellphone out of reach too. You need undistracted floor time. Get on your knees and engage with them. They love you being involved. Have we not all heard, “come play with me”?

I also learned that as they got older, it was not less time with them, but different time. Sure, with age, they can do more and more things without you. That’s the problem. It’s without you. Find ways to stay connected and involved. For me, coaching their sports allowed me to put far more time into their lives as they got into the school years then when they were younger. Family outings or game nights with even part of the family are good additions. I even created games when we were stuck in settings where they were bored. “Spitballs at McDonalds.” (need I say more). Little did they know—I was bored too.

One of my all-time favorites of playing together when the kids were young was backyard baseball. With numbered plywood bases, a milk crate full of tennis balls, and Maggie, our retriever, chasing balls non stop and bringing them back to me, the pitcher and the game announcer, we’d have fun for hours. I look back at all the great times of playing anything with each kid or as a family and it puts a big smile on my face.

PRESS THE PAUSE BUTTON: Cherish the joy of special moments.

In the last week, four small things with my grandchildren stirred in me a flood of precious memories back to when their parents were little; Ryser cuddling in the morning. Hiking with Averi with her holding my hand and wanting to skip. Kezek saying, “read it again” after the last page of the book was done. Charlotte loving the thrill of running down a ramp over and over again. To fully enjoy parenting, you need to stop and embrace these moments. It’s the myriad of little things that collectively become so significant. Try not to miss one. Look at each activity from your child’s perspective. Experiencing their first words, first steps and first day at school are all essential. But don’t miss the first goal, first bike ride and first solo. Celebrate each one. And whenever possible, capture the moments in photos or movies. Record in a parenting journal your observations, the funny sayings, memories, impressions and more. Then, catalogue the moments in an album, a binder or a video.

Here are some of my favorite moments as Dad: The kids opening the box at Christmas with the puppy Maggie in it. Watching my kids make other children laugh while clowning with them in Stanley Park or the children’s hospital. Playing piano and singing “You’re My Hiding Place” with Keldy. Mitch dressing up as a bumblebee for Halloween. Driving with Jody to Calgary to start university. Giving the Invocation Prayer at 3 of 4 of their High School Grad ceremonies. Brock’s goal in the shootout to win a provincial hockey title. Keldy cutting her bangs off. Running two marathons with Jody. Our family’s mission trip to Africa. Eating cereal and watching Sports Desk with Mitch. Performing all four of their weddings. Big or small – pause – enjoy and fully embrace those wonderful moments!

PRIVATE BOX SEATS: Celebrate the joy of their successes.

You and I are to be our children’s built-in crowd in life’s grandstand. With my presence I was saying, “I want to join you in your world. What matters to you, matters to me.” We have to be their greatest fan. Frankly, I took great pride in this. I wouldn’t let anyone cheer for my kids louder or more than me. Nor should you. Ask anyone about the “horn”. As Dad, I would always try to make them feel significant. Every fear they overcame, every skill they mastered, every creative step they took, and every concept they learned, they received my admiration. “Great job, you nailed it!” They thrived on this affirmation. I delighted in giving it.

I loved seeing them succeed. Even more, they loved me seeing them succeed. They needed my presence so I could hear them say, “I did it, Daddy!” I ate up this part of parenting. So, parents, be at their games, their performances, and their award’s nights. Don’t miss an activity if at all possible. Cancel your life for theirs. That’s parenting – you sacrifice. I loved being there. I’ve known the joy of watching them give their best. It didn’t matter the activity.

It’s equally important that you are there to stabilize your children through the defeats and hard times in life. They take their cues from us. I loved to provide words of perspective and hope during struggles. I loved giving that reassuring hug and saying, “Hang in there. You did your best. You are not always going to win. I am proud of you”.

Still, watching them master any life accomplishment is the joy here. Sharing these moments is sharing their world. Try to enjoy experiencing life with them as much as I did – or as I still do!

PAY OFF: Marvel at the joy of transformation.

Life accomplishments are great and deserve to be affirmed, but for me, my child’s personal growth in character and maturity is a major ticket item. Successfully passing on values and morals to create a quality human being is paramount. Sometimes I wondered in the middle of the busy and hectic years of 24/7 fathering if my hours and efforts at teaching, discussing, instructing, correcting, disciplining… and yes, praying tons… were ever going to make a difference in their lives. This ‘building into stage’ feels like it goes on forever. For a father as intentional but as impatient as me, seeing genuine changes in my kids seemed slower than watching paint dry or grass grow. Face it; parenting is hard work and there’s no instant gratification, especially when your children are ages 9-13 years. Sometimes, you just don’t know what’s going on in their heads and hearts.

But then it happens. Whether gradual or suddenly, you see signs of growth. It could be them telling the truth without prompting even if they know they will be in trouble. You see them looking out for someone being picked on. You hear them encouraging a friend with suicidal thoughts. You hear their words as they speak at a friend’s funeral. You see them taking the lead in their school fundraising for needy families at Christmas. You discover they have been sharing their faith with a friend. It’s like your heart is going to burst with both pride and relief. “They are getting it,” you think and whisper another prayer.

Faithful training pays off. Scripture encourages us to believe that. “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he won’t depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). Many times, I parented by faith and not by sight. But in time, the signs of growth started to surface in each of their lives. You see them doing what is right not what is easiest.

Here is another hard but I believe God-honoring step. This is what I have done at least. When your children get married, you tell them that now they are married, you are done offering your advice to them – period. From the wedding on, they now have to ask for it. I know what you are thinking. It’s hard to believe I have done this. Can Dave Currie keep his mouth shut?

PASS THE BATON: Thank God for the joy of shared faith.

Without question, my greatest joy with my children has been the authentic transfer of what is most important in my life—that’s my personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s the hand off of faith that matters most. I love it when you can clearly see that they have bought in fully to a spiritual commitment for themselves. They arrive into their twenties and haven’t gone totally stupid. They have made their faith their own and are clearly following God’s way.

Faith acquisition is so important to me as a Dad that I tried to simplify the key tenet of faith so they couldn’t miss it. Six words surfaced, “Put God first—Life goes best!” We repeatedly taught it and worked hard to live it. If there is anything that makes me weep with gratitude it’s seeing them have a soft heart toward Jesus. Good steps and Godly steps both melt my heart. The secret of great parenting comes down to taking their hand out of yours (releasing) while knowing that they are fully grasping God’s hand instead.

I join with the Apostle John by saying, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 1:4). It is marvellous to see them serve as youth sponsors, care group leaders, camp counselors, Mission trip leaders, guest speakers, caring and praying friends, and more. Best of all, they are passing their faith on to the next generation.

PAY BACK: Bask in the joy of ongoing involvement.

Finally, we are primary influencers in our children’s lives only for a season. We shape, we steer, we coach, we warn and we pray and then we release them to do life—their life, their way. We stand back, take our hands off and let them go. This is really hard to do but the right thing for sure.

What can I say? The greatest pay back for me, as a Dad, is when my adult kids want me in their lives. When they ask for advice, ask for support or ask for my time, I am overwhelmed. They don’t have to. I see many parents of adult children who have little to no relationship and only rare, necessary contact. Whether it’s input on a project, advice about financing, or the really wild one…asking for tips on child rearing, I am all in. When they ask for me, it feels like validation. I still serve a purpose. It’s a great reward.

And we are still being crazy as a family. We have done the Tough Mudder and Bungee Jumping together. We run, hike, play hockey and golf. It can’t be any better. It may take a while for you to fully appreciate this joy. Your kids have to leave home first.

In closing, I join Father God in being able to say with pride about my offspring (sons and daughters in my case), “This is my son whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11). I am well pleased too.

© Dr. Dave Currie – May 2015