The following article appears in today's edition of The Clinton Chronicle.
When my oldest son Hendrix turned nine, a sad realization shocked me. One-half of the time I had with him between birth and age eighteen was behind us. We sat at the crest of the hill. For every day ahead, we’d be moving downhill with more days behind us than before us.
As a naturally nostalgic person, that hit me hard. I didn’t like it. My wife and I loved the preschool and early-elementary school years. Jim Croce wrote, “If I could save time in a bottle . . . .” Well, if I could have frozen our family in the preschool and early-elementary years, it would have been worth a million dollars to me.
But time waits for no person, and Hendrix was not going to stay young forever for me. Shortly after his birthday while just the two of us drove in my car, I said, “Son, do you know something? You have just turned nine years old. That means that between your birth and when you turn eighteen and finish high school, we are at the halfway point. We have nine years behind us and nine ahead.”
“The first nine years my goal was to help you be a healthy and happy boy. I tried to be a good dad to help you have a good, healthy childhood. But do you know what my goal has to be the next nine years?”
He said no.
“The next nine years, my goal is to help you become a man. I have nine years left to help you become a godly, wise, and responsible young man. ”
He smiled again, excited with the challenge.
That means my goal is not that he just have fun, or get everything he wants, or have little responsibility, or receive endless cash and perks from Dad. It may mean I say, “No, I can’t buy you that, son–but you can work for it, save your own money, and one day purchase it yourself.”
It means that I am not primarily his buddy, but his father. It means at times I say, “I know you don’t understand why I won’t let you do that even though some of your friends do. But I don’t think it is best for you.” It means the end result is worth the years of preparation, discipline, and duty.
Last year he turned fourteen. Preschool toys have been traded for guitars, drums, and Itune gift cards. Though I do miss the days of Smurfs, tea parties, and good-night kisses, I enjoy the slow transformation of the boy becoming a man. What a privilege to walk with him, intentionally helping him make that transition.
What a joy when another man comes to me and says, “I just had a wonderful conversation with your oldest son. He was so polite, courteous, and is such a responsible young man. I want my daughters to be around young men like him.”
Sadly, we live in a generation when many men in their twenties and thirties are still little boys in men’s bodies. With the video-game generation has come a tendency toward immaturity and self-centered living.
Fathers, we have a responsibility to be intentional in our parenting.
Let’s see the goal, discern the importance of the task, and step up to the plate and engage our children, helping them to become the adults God intends them to be.