Today, my family and I had the privilege of witnessing Fiela participate in the San Diego Countywide Spelling Bee competition. We were all sitting on pins and needles the whole time. I am sure she was stressed, but I must admit, I was a bigger mess than she!
Today’s experience made me reflect on the many opportunities missed by parents who neglect participating in their children’s activities. Of all my 13 years in school in Zimbabwe, my own biological father never attended a single event at my school. I won numerous awards. I played soccer; I sang in the choir, I played in the brass band, and orchestra. My father was never there. Today, I am a father of two girls. I fight to never miss my children’s activities. I am learning to live a balanced life. I am striving to be the best father I can be. I want to share with you the 10 lessons I am learning on my journey of fatherhood.
- Keep your promise. Be reliable. Be a man or woman of your word. Lying and lack of integrity can damage your relationship with your children for a long time. Children can smell phoniness a mile away. It is better to surprise the children, than to shower them with empty promises.
- Be There. Participate in the child’s school, church and/or community activities. Being there does not have to cost money. Being there does not mean you have to speak or do creative games. It means showing up where you need to. Going home to cook and eat dinner with your children. Some of the best conversations I have had with my children are around the dinner table.
- Encourage. Believe in your children. Tell them so. Many adults carry around scars of wounds inflicted their parents inflicted upon them many years ago. The world is full of bullies and naysayers. You need to be your child’s cheerleader. Speak life and hope into your child’s life. If you don’t, who will?
- Discipline. Don’t abuse your children, but set parameters. Don’t be the child’s best friend, instead, be the child’s best parent! You do not have to be give in on everything. Build a relationship of trust. I have seen parents who are inconsistent in their disciplinary plan. You need to stick to your words. Parents should support each other. Children can be conniving. If they get a “No” from one parent, they go ask the other parent. I always say, “What did your mom say?” Whatever she said, is what I will say.
- Lead By Example. Whether you know it or not, your children are watching you. Let them see you treat their parent well. Let them see you fall in love with Jesus. Don’t just send them to church, go to church together.
- Go on Dates. Let the boys know how to treat a woman from you. Let the girls know what a gentleman looks like. On most Saturdays, I take my children on a date. Sometimes we go to the mall, to the beach, or we just drive around town. It is at these times I have gotten to know more about what is happening in their lives. It is at these times that I have answered some theological and life questions I would not trust many people to answer.
- Pray For and With Your Children. Let them see you and hear pray for them. Some people have said, “A family that prays together, stays together.” (Unknown)
- Switch off the TV. Put away the laptop and the phone. Turn off the video games. Go outside and smell the roses. I am often amazed when I see families at restaurants seated at the table while looking at their individual screens. Meaningful conversations are now rare. Children rarely want to play outside, like most of us did growing up.
- Love. All these would mean nothing if the parents do not love their children. It may seem like a no-brainer but many people think gifts and gadgets are substitutes for love. Love is spelt “T-I-M-E!” The size of your heart determines your depth of love.
- Listen. Most days, I get home and my children just download their day on me. When Fiela started Junior High, I would listen to her, and then would want to suggest something. I noticed that she always walked away after telling me how her day went. She was not looking for my input. She wanted me to listen. I have learned to listen, and to ask questions. Keep the communication lines open.
These are a few lessons I have learned as a rookie father. What are your learning? What is your advice?