I miss my dad. Although he went to heaven more than twelve years ago, hardly a day goes by without a memory or thought about him. And that is no wonder, because every morning when I look in the mirror, I see the image of my dad when he was the age I am today and I was a young college student. Today I wish I could ask the reflection of that man I see in the mirror what he was thinking at this stage of life, and ask him more questions about his own father, who died before I was born.
Time has a way of changing our perspective on things. Mark Twain said, “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the Howard Detrick June 8, 1974 old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”
Mark Twain was no child psychologist, but he revealed keen insight into child development and psychology when he said “When a boy becomes a teenager, nail him shut in a barrel and feed him through a knot-hole. When he turns sixteen, seal up the knot hole!” Apparently Mark Twain’s limit on both patience and mercy was reached when he finished The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn! In any event, he pretty well described my own experience as both a teen-ager and young adult.
A number of years ago I was buying a shirt in a department store when a young woman with a two or three year old daughter walked by. As they passed, I heard the little girl ask her mother “Is he my daddy?” Her words were almost a plea, and my heart went out to that child. I wanted to give her a hug and buy her a doll or an ice cream cone – of course those things are not appropriate in this age of scandal and suspicion. Nevertheless, the “daddy” part of me wanted to do something to take away the pain in that little girl’s eyes. I realized the best I could do was pray for her, so I did.
With 4 out of 10 children today being raised in a home without a father, that little girl’s pain is shared by many. I grew up with the advantage of a full time father and mother, who stayed married more than 63 years “for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, until death did them part.” Even with that kind of security, during my turbulent teen years our close proximity did not mean we always had a close relationship. Since I became a father in 1977, I can honestly say that being a father has been at once the most rewarding and most terrifying experience of my life.
If I could raise my children all over again, I would change a lot of things. Mainly myself. Before Jodi and I had children, as a pastor I preached a message titled “Ten Rules for Raising Wonderful Children.” When my children were young, I changed it to “Five Suggestions for Raising Children.” As my children got older I called it to “A Few Helpful Hints for Parents.” When they became teenagers, I stopped preaching it altogether! But through it all, I did learn some lessons. Let me share a couple of them with you:
- Don’t expect children to act like adults.
- Rules are important, but when it comes to your children, relationships are more important than rules. If you don’t have a good relationship with your children, they won’t care about your rules.
- Major on the majors, not on the minors.
- Cut your kids some slack, but not enough to let them hang themselves!
- Choose your battles wisely, otherwise you will certainly run out of strategies and lose the war!
- Never stop loving and praying for your children, whatever age they may be.
- Give your children something to come home to.
- The best gift a father can give his children is to love their mother.
- Believe in your children and encourage their own dreams.
- Everything changes with time – and someday your kids will grow up!
If I could have another conversation with the reflection of that man I see in the mirror every morning, I would say, “Thanks, Dad. You were always there for me. I wish I had appreciated that more at the time. You loved me, believed in me, and invested in me. Happy Father’s Day. I love you!”