children

My daughter’s request

The other day my eight-year-old daughter literally sat me down to have a Daddy/Daughter heart-to-heart.  Understand that I am very close with my sweet Bella.  Also understand that at eight, she often has the insight and conviction of a passionate college graduate.

“Dad, you work all day, get home, eat some food, then go back on your phone and computer and work some more.  That is not fair.  You need to play more with us kids.  Sometimes I want to pour hot coffee over your phone and computer.”

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Wow.  Ouch.

Bella is the truth teller in our family and the truth hurt.  I looked into the sweet brown eyes of my precious daughter and offered the only response that made sense.

“You’re right Bella.  That is not fair.  Thank you for caring enough to speak up and share your heart.  I will try harder to protect our family time.”

That was not good enough though.  “Try”, was not going to cut it.

“I need you to put your phone in the cradle when you get home and leave it there until after we are in bed.  And I don’t want to see you open your computer while we are still up.”

I know what you are thinking, if only she felt free to speak her mind?  Right?

She is an incredibly intelligent and insightful little girl, and I have learned that my children are a terrific barometer of our family’s health.  She was not being disrespectful or unreasonable.  She was being honest.

My guess is many of our children can relate to Bella.  None of us set out to ignore or minimize our children.  We (usually) don’t plan to remain plugged in to our jobs.  It just sort of happens.  As one of my mentors says, “Too many of us try to squeeze 36 into 24.”  The westernized pressure for “faster, bigger, more, more, more” pushes many of us to tear down healthy boundaries around our families.  We all suffer for it.

Here are some practical steps my wife and I have begun to implement in light of Bella’s reprimand.

1.  Phones and computers stay off until after the kids are in bed.

2.  Phones and computers only come on again if my wife and I both agree.

  • Sometimes there may be a deadline that must be addressed (be careful though how often you allow deadlines to dictate actions within your home.
  • Don’t get sucked into the social media black hole after the kids do go to bed.
  • Set an overall limit to all your gaming, Facebooking, texting, emailing, etc., otherwise you will end up with your spouse telling you the same thing Bella told me.  Not good.

3.  Play with your kids!

  • Throw the football, frisbee, baseball
  • Pull out some board games
  • Play cards
  • Wrestle

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None of this is rocket science.  Ultimately it comes down to intentional choices we make as fathers.

Do we want the image of our faces lit by the artificial light of an electronic device to be the primary image our kids have of their dad during childhood?  Of course not.  My prayer is that this resonates with you and that you will join me in making course corrections that will pay dividends for years to come.

Teach us to make the most of our time, so that we may grow in wisdom.  Psalm 90:12

The Big Three

Julie and I recently purchased a new bunk bed for our oldest two boys.  In the interest of full disclosure…it is the first new bed that they have ever had.  Also, their previous “hand-me-down” bed had broken several months ago and our oldest has been sleeping with his mattress on the floor since.  Needless to say, it was time for a new one.

If you were to spend much time in my house, you would learn that:

  1. I’m not terribly handy.
  2. I want desperately to appear handy around my children.
  3. Missing pieces from “assembly required” items gives me brain damage (see points A and B).

Therefore it was with extreme frustration that I discovered that a crucial screw was missing from the new bunk bed.  I had torn through all the packaging, retraced my steps and exhaled mightily over and over again.  Yet, no screw was presenting itself.  I was beginning to spiral down toward guttural incoherent growling when my sweet eight-year-old daughter grabbed my attention and said in the simplest and sweetest of voices, “Well, I guess we need to pray and ask Jesus to find it for us.”

I would like to say that I immediately pulled myself out of the funk I was descending into, that I recognized a wonderful moment of spiritual intergenerational modeling and that I gleefully dropped to one knee and prayed fervently for Jesus to provide.  That was not the case.  It took great intestinal fortitude to refrain from openly growling at my innocent daughter.  Yet, more to her credit than mine, I managed to squeeze out, “Sure Bella.  Lets do that.”  My prayer was not powerful.  It was not passionate.  Nor was it expectant.  It was obligatory.  In all honesty, it was done mostly to placate my daughter.

Then we found the screw.

Not more than two minutes later did the solution present itself.  I found the screw buried under papers I was certain I had checked under previously.  Within minutes after that, we had the bed completed and my wife was busily arranging blankets on the boy’s new beds.

Later that night, as I tucked Bella in, we talked about how great it was that God answered our prayer.

Here is the thing—Bella’s prayer was powerful.  It was passionate.  And most importantly, it was expectant.  It is the only way Bella knows how to pray.  Luckily, she has not learned otherwise.  She is quickly becoming the prayer warrior of our family.  Whatever the issue or need, she takes it to Jesus; assuming He will answer and provide.  She does not get held up by the esoteric arguments about Free Will versus Determinism.  There are no existential wrestling’s with the sovereignty of God.  It is simple for her.

She loves Jesus.

She knows Jesus loves her.

Therefore, she expects Him to answer.

I smile big and broad as I write this.  My kids teach me so much more than I teach them some days.  How different might my prayer life be if I condensed things down to Bella’s three points?

I love Jesus.

He loves me.

Therefore I expect Him to answer.

God is not a cosmic vending machine.  He is not waiting to pump out blessings if we pump in prayers.  Yet it is clear to me that He will most often go where He is expected.

Are you praying expecting God to answer?  Or have your prayers turned into unrighteous obligation?  If so, revisit Bella’s big three:

You love Jesus.

He loves you.

Therefore you can expect Him to answer.

Joel Thomas