Yesterday my boy turned 3 years old. Caleb is the oldest of our two children (Olivia is 7 weeks old) and is, without a doubt, “Daddy’s Big Boy.” He’s quite a sturdy little boy at approx. 43 pounds, all of which is healthily distributed appropriately on his 37″ frame. He’s my pride and joy and I love being his Dad.
As I seek to manage and develop myself personally (i.e. live deliberately), there is no greater earthly task than for me to do well as a husband and father. (I alluded to this in a previous post related to deliberately living out one’s values.) In so doing, I find the following points surfacing over and over again. The list is not exhaustive but it has helped me as I relate to Caleb, and soon to Olivia.
Quite simply, when Dad’s not home, life just isn’t right for Caleb. I don’t say that to “toot my own horn” but it’s true. My wife tells me there are often days when Caleb hears a car door close on the street in front of our house and runs to the window to greet me, yelling, “Dad’s home!” – even if it’s less than an hour since I’ve left for the office. Then, later in the day when I actually get home, I’d better be ready to be greeted by a 43-pound runaway train because he’s usually a-runnin’ and there’s no stopping until he bowls right into me.
Some well-meaning individuals attempt to argue a distinction between “quality” time and “quantity” time with their kids, saying that quality trumps quantity. To this I say: get over yourself – and fast. The next time you’re spending time with your three year old, ask if he or she considers it “quality” time. Don’t be surprised if you get a momentary puzzled look and then a gleeful response of, “Dad’s home!”
I know, I know – that’s the “not nice” way of saying, “be quiet.” Regardless, this is one area that parents, especially us dads, need to learn to be better at. Most of us are very good at waxing eloquent when correction and discipline are needed, and rightfully so; that’s a good thing.
I’m not at all referring to the things that need to be said in the course of “bringing up a child in the way he should go.” (Proverbs 22:6) Secondary to this is recognizing the immensity of what can be learned by simply listening to your child.
There are few things that bug me more as a man than seeing another man always deferring to his wife for clarification on what their toddler’s chatter means. It is is understandable and expected that your wife is going to know a few more of your toddler’s words if she’s the one who is with them all day, every day but really, fathers — man up and get in the know.
As a kid, I was a sloucher. I remember one teacher in particular when I was in elementary school that said to me over and over again: “Sit up!” He equated my body language with my potential cerebral response. In other words, he wanted to make sure I was going to pay attention to what he was saying. Our kids need the same response from us when they’re attempting to communicate something to us.
Most of the time it can be easy to just mentally “check out” when Caleb chatters on and on. When I recognize I’m doing this (sometimes with the assistance of my gracious wife), I will often literally change my posture to display to Caleb that I’m not just hearing him… but actually listening.
We need to talk to our kids, yes. Primarily, however, this point refers to the communication you must have with your spouse to have any hope at all in achieving the big victories, let alone the day-to-day mini-victories we all covet.
Allow me to pick on us men again for a moment: gentlemen, the axe is over your neck, not your wife’s. We must take the active lead in our homes and families. This means being servant leaders to our wives and children both. For example, changing diapers. Come on, guys… man up; it’s just poop.
Seriously, husbands and wives, talk to each other. Set goals for your child’s development stages and write them down. Then pursue those goals with grace. Do not, however, swing the pendulum so far the other way that you lose sight of what’s at stake. Your children are not projects, they’re people.
My wife and I have been reminded (often vividly) that we’re not perfect. We make mistakes all the time. The difference for us is that we desire to learn from them, not wallow in them. A wise man once told me that parenting is as much about the parent’s sanctification as it is about raising the child.
Bottom line: This list is not exhaustive. What other lessons can be learned from our children?
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