My wife and I left the hospital with our first son on a warm, sunny day in July. I drove 10 miles under the speed limit all the way home. All I remember is feeling acutely aware that I had no idea what we were supposed to do with this little baby once we got home.
I wanted to be a great dad, but I knew more about what I didn’t want to do than what I I was supposed to do. Now, as I prepare for that same son’s impending high school graduation, I find myself reflecting back on my parenting.
I’m painfully aware that I was not the perfect parent I set out to be — but I’m actually okay with that. Parenting is not about perfection, it’s about transformation.
Our job as parents is to raise up children through countless transformations. We lovingly guide them from diapers to pull-ups, from crib to bed, from bottle to sippy cup, from preschool to grade school, grade school to middle school, middle school to high school, and now, from high school to college. I once heard a parenting quote that stated, “The days are long, but the years are short.” As I look back this month, I couldn’t agree more.
Some of my biggest reflections are on what mattered most during the last 18 years. Like many parents, we signed our son up for soccer, t-ball, karate, band, VBS, summer camp, driving school, and so forth. There were so many activities. But did that stuff really matter?
My son probably won’t play in the World Cup. He won’t be drafted by a major league baseball team. And I’m certain he won’t be performing in the Chicago Symphony.
As a matter of fact, looking back, the best parenting moments happened in the slower parts of our days. They happened during sincere conversations. And they happened in the times when someone had to say they were sorry — and sometimes that someone was me.
So perhaps successful parenting is more about creating environments in which transformation can take place, and less about activities. And the truth is, this transformation is necessary, both for my children and for me. Raising a son has made me realize that our children learn from our examples. In order to raise godly children, I need God to change me. And he has. God is a master at transforming people. I believe that is the very reason he created families in the first place.
I’m excited for the church to spend more time and energy focusing on creating environments for our children to encounter and be transformed by God. I’m confident that in the process, we too will be transformed. Paul’s advice to the church in Ephesians 5:15-17 is very appropriate for us today: “So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do” (NLT).
Every parenting moment counts. But for now, I have a graduation party to plan…
Children’s Pastor, The Chapel