It had been a busy week of work and ministry for our family. And while we had some family time, it still felt rushed. As I was heading out the door one morning, my son John expressed: “Dad, I want time with just you.” I knew he was right. Not to mention that my wife was struggling with his behavior.
He is our oldest and could sense the busy schedule more than our younger children. He needed me. So, even though I had a lot to do, I brought him with me to work. He colored and played on the iPad while I worked at my desk. School was approaching and I knew summer days like this would soon be over.
We spent about three hours in each other’s presence before I dropped him home for lunch. His attitude changed and so did his behavior. We had needed that father and son bonding, just the two of us. And it didn’t have to be extravagant, just simple and meaningful.
Then I began to think about what I really desire to give my children for the long haul. My oldest son’s time at home is already a quarter of the way through. It’s as if we just brought him home from the hospital. In the time I have ahead, I want to do it right. And many times, that means being intentional with the time I have right now.
Here are three gifts I have been reflecting on that all of us can give to our children. Gifts that will make a real difference in their lives:
1.) The Gift of the Church & God’s Word.
Our children deserve the privilege of growing up in a Christ-centered church among healthy relationships and a right understanding of Scripture. Sadly, this is something where I have seen my generation fall away. Parents aren’t as committed to a local body of believers as previous generations. This happens for various reasons – hurt, lack of desire, broken relationships, or not seeing the relevance of church in their daily life. But the church is still moving forward, changing lives, and is critical for our children to understand how God desires for them to live. As a child, I’m thankful my parents dragged me to church even when I resisted at times.
The church is also a haven for our children to be encouraged, equipped, and to begin to love God from an early age. It’s our duty to raise them up around people who love and fear God — they need other positive voices around them besides us. The support of the church is where we as a parents who don’t quite have it all figured out, can be encouraged in the difficulties of raising children. In the home, it’s our responsibility to help our children understand God’s word and model His love.
2.) The Gift of Presence.
Jim Elliot famously penned, “Wherever you’re at, be all there.” Children, out of anyone in this world, get this right. They are fully engaged in whatever they are doing. They usually want an adult’s interaction and attention in what they are doing – or at least for an adult to take notice. In their language, love is spelled TIME.
As parents, this might mean getting on their level and engaging with them, playing outside, going on a date, talking about their day, asking if anything is bothering them, and telling them “I love you.” Sometimes, all they need is for you to listen and to just be there. And in our day and age, this really means detaching ourselves from our Smartphone’s and other distractions that keep us from being all in.
3.) The Gift of Family Togetherness.
A meal around the table, playing at the park, an outing to the mall, exploring on a hike, watching a movie, holiday traditions, taking a trip… These create lasting memories with our children and provide a sense of security, acceptance, and togetherness. In a culture where we are defined by what we “do,” there is nothing more satisfying and refreshing than just “being” together.
Making family time a priority might mean saying no to something else so you have a better yes for your family. It might mean slowing down and doing nothing on a Saturday. Your children will remember the memories you created more than the stuff you bought or the hectic schedule you were tied down to.
I am still figuring all this out in my parenting journey, and I know I still have a lot to learn. It is much easier said than done, especially on the more difficult days. When John graduates high school in about 10 years, my prayer is that he will be able to say these gifts were on the top of my list. And that above all, he will see and experience the impact these gifts made on his little life.