My friend Jeff will be sitting in today for most of this column. He’s an engineer and homeschooling dad with a home “laboratory” of eight children and a great co-CEO partner. All ten are measuring and exploring life together in a Christian pressure cooker like few of us could imagine. God bless them, is all I can say. In sticking with Jeff’s theme and before turning to him, I want to mention Pastor Chuck Swindoll’s recent series about how to succeed in turning boys into men. He told of how King Hezekiah’s holy “over-busy-ness for the sake of God” resulted in his son, Manasseh, turning out be an unhappy kid and, as an adult, a real bad dude. The half century of evil consequences during Manasseh’s miserable reign was an unacceptably high price to pay for Hezekiah’s deadly failure to be fully engaged with his son during their twelve years together. He was un-engaged as a father, and more importantly, also as a friend and as a God model. In fact, Hezekiah’s (relatively innocent) paternal insensitivity eventually permeated down to co-infect and corrupt even Manasseh’s son, Amon. Amon, who was just as evil, kept the Hezekiah-triggered cycle of dysfunction going.
So fathers, stay engaged. Put down the paper and turn off the TV. If you play your cards right, your sons (and daughters) will turn out to be the best adult friends you’ll have. And, how good is that? Just be aware you’ll need to start the self-sacrificial process as soon as possible, but, good news! It’s nearly never too late. Swindoll told of a poll indicating that the average American father, aside from time spent at meals or while in the car, only spends 6 minutes a week (what??) directly engaged with his sons. Boys and sons quickly grow up to be men…or not, and there are only a few short years in which to guide and direct them Christ-ward and in biblical worldview directions. The same is obviously true for daughters too. So with a free Friday coming up in two days, it’ll be a good occasion to re-think these things. Here’s Jeff with “Calling All Fathers.”
If you’re like me, your “to do” list is longer than an eight year old’s Christmas wish list. It never seems to end. As soon as you cross off one thing, two or three more magically appear. Do they somehow reproduce? How am I supposed to get all of this stuff done and still be recognized by my family? Well, I’ve discovered there is hope and it doesn’t involve winning the lottery or selling off any of the kids. The answer not only saves time, it also helps build relationships with all the family. And, it doesn’t cost a dime unlike some of those other family bonding ideas. It’s simple and definitely not something new even though it’s regularly neglected. It’s this: Let the kids help you with that to-do list.
I know you’re thinking, “Are you crazy? Those kids don’t know how to do anything, they’re lazy and they’re just going to whine and get in the way. I’m better off doing it myself.” If they are lazy, whiney and don’t know how to do anything, whose fault is that? Maybe it’s time to finally do something about it. Oh, sure, they’re never going to jump for joy at the thought of hanging drywall, for example, but they’ll learn to accept the reality that sometimes there is household work to be done, especially so when you help them see they can be an important of doing it. True, there will be some initial grumbling. (Come on, admit it. Even you are not looking forward to it.) But, persevere and show them you really want them working with you. You also need to make sure you don’t work them too hard. They can’t work as many hours as you can and you don’t want to make things so miserable they’ll never want to do it again. Yes, the task may take a little longer to begin with, but everyone will be better off in the end than you could have imagined.
Including them in your to-do list projects will mean teaching them how to work plus learning basic skills. You’ll teach them how to take care of things (instead of destroying them) plus discovering the hard truth that men get stuck doing the things that no one else wants to do. Most importantly, you’ll be spending time with boys you want to see become men and you’ll learn a lot more about them working side by side than by just sitting down and trying to have an in-depth discussion. Most boys don’t like to sit down and talk; heck, most men don’t like to sit down and talk. But, even without talking you’ll learn whether they’re eager or lazy, inquisitive or laid back, perfectionist or not so much, bold or meek, and much more. Let’s face it; most of us men are out of the house all day at work. So, even if you are homeschooling your children, it’s the mom who’s spending all the time with them, not you. While it’s a wonderful and needy thing to have the mother spending time with the children, it’s also important for you to do the same, especially as they get older.
Once you start working with them you will be surprised by how much they can do and how quickly they learn. When we built our house, the two oldest boys and our oldest daughter painted the entire interior of the house. Please, no comments about slave labor or child abuse. They loved it. They got to climb scaffolds and get as messy as they wanted. Well, almost as messy. We needed to save some paint for the walls. Even the younger ones (5 & 7) wanted to get in on the painting. They made excellent painters of closets, at least up to about 4 feet! Our oldest was around 12 when he started to use a nail gun, although with a lot of serious supervision. Now, at fourteen, I don’t have to worry about him. I can just give him the task knowing he can handle it. It saves me time and builds his confidence. Of course there will always be those tasks that you just need to do yourself, but children want and need to feel useful and you have more stuff then you can possibly do. It’s a perfect match, almost like God planned it.
Thanks, Jeff. I hope you dads, especially since it’s likely you’ll be home this Friday after Thanksgiving, will take advantage of the free day and put some of the principles Jeff reminded us of into practice. Saturday’s also there for you. This weekend could be a great retrenchment point as you begin installing some new family habits. This thought reminds me of the old expression; “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” Dedicate that adage to God and the rewards for the entire family will come piling in. Meanwhile, everybody at American Vision wishes you a great and godly Thanksgiving. We’ll be thinking about you.