Ah fatherhood, for a man, there’s nothing quite like it. It will take to new heights and bring you to your knees–sometimes all in the same day. I am blessed to be the father to three children who all made it to adulthood. I suppose they learned something from me. I know I learned a lot from them. Here’s my top ten.
10. Don’t send your teenage to debate camp. It’s throwing gasoline on fire, spitting into the wind, poking your eye out and all of those other things your mother told you not to do. Teenagers do not need instructions on how to argue. This idea has “bad” written all over it. Stay away from it.
9. Don’t send your teenage back to debate camp. Stop laughing—this is more subtle than you think! I was talked into it. It was only after the fact that it occurred to me that talking your parents into a second year of debate camp was the assignment given at the close of first year camp.
8. Under no circumstances should you send your teenage daughter to the store with your credit card under the supervision of the 2nd grader and 5th grader she is watching during the summer. It doesn’t work—even though I gave the 2nd and 5th graders explicit instructions for supervising the teen.
7. Try to use the phrase, grounded for life, sparingly. This goes to credibility. Since you’re not going to do this, you really need to save it for those moments serious enough that your child thinks there is a chance you might actually mean it.
6. When teaching your teenage how to drive, under no circumstances should you sarcastically tell them, “That’s right, the skinny pedal is the brake and the fat one is the gas.” Even though they’ve already had a few driving lessons or have been to debate camp for two years, this is not a good idea—especially if you’re in the car at the time.
5. Speaking of cars, don’t do for your child (read: buy them a car), what they can do for themselves. Don’t rob them of the valuable sense of achievement that comes from accomplishing something difficult. Dads, it’s a real temptation to show our kids that we’re the man by arranging for something spectacular to show up in the driveway but I’m convinced that doing so just postpones adulthood. (Stop reading this for a moment and picture your child as a thirty-year-old adult lying on your couch). Pretty scary, huh? It’s the “Give a person a fish, they eat for a day; teach a person to fish, they eat for a lifetime” thing. If they’re old enough to own it, they are old enough to earn it. Save your money for college. If this bar is too high for you or them (and I recognize there are some circumstances where it could be), set up some kind of matching fund arrangement (70/30, 60/40, etc.). But let them do whatever they are able to–don’t set the bar too low!
4. Freely admit your mistakes. This goes to credibility as well, because our children sometimes see our mistakes before we do. Admitting we’re wrong gives them confidence and assurance that even thought we mess up from time to time, we’re committed to doing what is right. It will also help them to admit their mistakes which is important because people spend way too much time in denial.
3. Freely forgive. In our family, if someone asks for forgiveness you have to forgive them. That’s just the way it is. You don’t have to like it, or feel like it, or whatever—you just have to forgive them and move on. We learned this from God because He freely forgives us when we seek it from Him.
2. Count your blessings. Three of my greatest blessings are named Amy, Nathan and Laura. Really, is there anything you’re going to do that’s more important than your children? Is there any legacy you’re going to leave that outshines them? If you could choose your legacy, could you come up with something better than having children made in the image of you and your spouse?
1. Celebrate God’s goodness. Being an earthly father has helped me to better understand, not just my parents, but my Heavenly Father. I’ve learned what it is like to love unconditionally someone created in your image. I’ve learned what it is like to watch them stumble, struggle, succeed, fail, grow and love. I’ve watched God take my feeble parenting efforts and make something wonderful out of them. I’ve learned (again) how good God is.