When I was young, there was a shelf in our living room that had a bunch of random stuff on it. Among the odd items was a smooth rock with a simple phrase painted on it: “When giving your children the things you never had, don’t forget to give them the things you did have.” I think it has been 30 years since I last saw that knickknack, so I may have the quote slightly wrong, but I remember the message as clear as day. I have no idea where that rock came from, where it went, or why I remembered it all these years, but it speaks to me more today when I have bumpy days with my older children.
I was supremely blessed with an incredible childhood and wonderful parents, but like most every boy in similar circumstances, there were always things that I wished were different. Even now, I wish my parents had done certain things differently, but I recognize their love and know that they always tried to do what they believed to be best for me, even when those decisions did not make days more agreeable for me or them. While still seeking perfection and struggling with my flaws, I am comfortable with the man I am and certainly I owe much to my parents and “the things” they gave to me that helped me become the man I am.
I don’t know too much about my parents’ childhoods, but I do know that they were much different from my own. I suspect they each wish many things were different about their early years and tried to provide those things to me and my brothers and sisters, but I don’t doubt that they recognize the important “things” they received in those years and passed those on as well. I am so thankful that they didn’t neglect the important pieces of their own maturation and I hope that I am doing the same for my children.
Our responsibilities as fathers would be so much easier if we just needed to keep children alive until they are 18, but we know that we are called for much more than that. Our children are not ours to keep, so we owe it to them to make sure they are ready for their own lives. We always love them and along the way we have a lot of fun, but we are not friends. Friends give and take from one another, but parents give and give. Sometimes we must give what our children don’t want and those times are not fun for parents or children, but we must trust in the wisdom we have received from our own parents, from our experiences, and through prayerful consideration of circumstances and decisions. We are not expected to be perfect fathers, but God has called us to be great fathers and offers us the grace necessary to be just that.