Sometimes, I hate how I am. Literally, I can look at myself and see my own shortcomings and failures that others don’t even have to point out to me. Often this has been the case in my parenting. Whether it is impatience, being too harsh with my children, or just not showing them the attention that I should, I know my failures as a father. But one thing I continue to notice in myself is that I am not fully engaged with my children. Sometimes when they talk, I simply don’t hear them. Or worse, when they do talk, I can appear to be listening to them as I am thinking about something else, or worse, checking my email.
As I thought through how I can improve on this, I came up with the following short list for now (yes I work best with lists)
1. Know that I am a forgiven dad by Jesus Christ: There was only one perfect human being, my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I know that I will sin daily as a man, husband, father and pastor. All of this though is no need for me to despair, rather it serves to remind me of the gospel and reinforces my need for Christ. So even my failures as a father humbles me before Christ. Even if I were the best father I could be, I still desperately need Christ. This does not mean that I do not try harder to be a better dad; It just reminds me that past sins are forgiven because of Jesus.
2. When I am home, be fully home: This means that I need to shut off the phone, be done with checking email (there has not been one email that was a life or death matter for me to respond to yet) and social media. It also means that I only respond to church calls in the evening that are genuine emergencies. It means that I guard my days off. I did not check Facebook for a week between Christmas and New Years and the world continued on somehow! A lot of the time can be wasted in front of the TV or looking at the smartphone. I don’t think I’ll look back on my life and wish I’d spent more time in front of the TV or using my smartphone or doing “ministry” in the evenings or my day off.
3. Play with my kids one hour a day at minimum: This means getting on the floor and playing cars with Elijah, or having tea with Leah, or chasing Abbey and making her laugh. I believe that these memories will stick with my kids. It is amazing: I can easily spend three hours watching an NFL game and think nothing of it. I should be able to spend an hour a day playing with my kids and think nothing of it.
4. Pray specifically and at length for my children: I pray for my children, but often it is for their salvation or just a general blessing. I want to engage my children and be involved in their lives and one way I can do this is by praying for them more specifically. This is especially true as they get older into the teenage years. But why not start the habit now while they are 2, 3 and 5 years old.
Again, I confess my shortcomings as a father but thankful for God’s grace and hoping to be less of a disengaged dad in the years ahead.