These are my kids. They are each unique, funny in their own quirky ways, and teach me more than they will ever know about life, God, and what matters most (candy & fun of course!). I’m amazed at the gift they are to me, blessings even though they are imperfect, and how easy they are to love despite their rebelliousness sometimes.
Barnabas Piper wrote an article recently titled 7 Things a Pastor’s Kid Needs from a Father on the Gospel Coalition. It was incredibly encouraging to hear him be open about his own experience and also offer wisdom for others. When I first became a parent, I didn’t consider the thought that I would be a pastor eventually and that my kids might be known as “pastor’s kids”. They are just my kids and I am just their dad. As I considered these resolutions, these sentences stuck with me.
A pastor’s children, though, are carried on the current of their parents’ calling. It is often a life of singular struggle and uncommon needs. These struggles often stem from the failures of the father. This isn’t to cast full blame on pastors for their children’s problems. But it is to say that pastors need to work to be good dads…
He also leads off with the number 1 thing our kids need is to just be their dad.
Yes, you are called to pastor your family, but PKs want a dad—someone who plays with them, protects them, makes them laugh, loves their mom, gives hugs, pays attention, teaches them how to build a budget and change the oil and field a ground ball. We want committed love and warmth.
So the third of four resolutions is to just be their dad.
Fascinated by them and aiming for fun with them
For me this starts with being fascinated by them, being curious at the things they enjoy, want to do, and the things that bother them, annoy them, and hurt them. Each of my children have their own personality (and a growing confidence with it). They like different things, some of those are easy for me to like, but others I’m learning to enjoy.
As I’ve walk home each evening this year, I pray for my children and my wife. I’m also asking for grace to enter into my home ready to play, eat dinner, and talk with my kids instead of wanting to rest and disconnect. Frankly, it’s not easy to transition home, but since I’ve been doing this, I find myself more prepared to get beaten up and wrestle with my boys while trying to enjoy the tea and fake cookies my little girl has made on her fake kitchen.
We’ve always tried to Sabbath together as a family on Saturdays, planning a family outing that we enjoy together, to make memories, and most times we come home physically tired. But I’ve found that physically tired can provide an enjoyable “rest” if it’s from delighting in the family. I’ve also found great joy in a Saturday afternoon playing baseball with my boys, just being their dad, where they don’t think of me in light of Sunday responsibilities.
Listening and Sharing
As my sons get older and come home from school, we have some of the most fascinating conversations. From discussing why singing “Hey Sexy Lady” from Gangnam Style (thanks for having only 3 English words) doesn’t honor women to bullies, why we have to read when we can just do math, and which girl my sons are sure they are going to marry.
I’m learning to listen, to ask questions about how it makes them feel or what it makes them think instead of immediately jump to teaching or correcting mode. I’m also learning to remember some stories from my childhood, the things I thought and learned along the way both in failures and success. They love to hear stories about my life that mirror some of their experiences. It’s also helpful for me to remember that I was a knucklehead once with loving parents, and by God’s grace I made it to today.
Discipline and Delight
When I was in Tacoma, Washington last October at Soma School, I picked up a book at my host home that I don’t even remember, but it was about the husband and father’s role entering into a home. The idea that has stuck with me is that a husband/father must be able to enter or leave the home without disrupting or damaging the environment.
I’m reminded about this when my presence sends our kids into hyper-excitement right before dinnertime. I have to be conscious of what I’m walking into, but I also must be a part of setting that environment. This has involved recognizing that our hope is for our family to delight in one another, to love and honor one another, but that doesn’t just happen when a family is in the same room.
We’ve discovered that discipline and delight are linked. We have 5 family ways that we encourage and teach our children to aim for in hopes of loving one another well, but just like me they don’t always love and honor one another. They fight, steal each other’s toys, and whine (yes, just like me). We’ve discovered that discipline, without anger, creates an environment of delight. Confession and forgiveness, from me and them, has been helpful as we hope to create a delightful environment.
This resolution is essentially aiming to be fully present at home for my kids and not for my own benefit. I need to be resolved to remember this often because I am susceptible to selfishness, as we all are, and my selfishness doesn’t aim to enjoy and love them, it’s aims to find that for myself.
These are my kids and I love them. I love being their dad.