Many of us who were parented by absent biological fathers, but now fathers ourselves sometimes feel unprepared for the enormous role of parenting. I am personally a father of two boys and I can say that I have felt more than once like I am lost in this responsibility of raising them up in the way they should go. While having hesitant role models myself when growing up is bad enough, the intrusive popular culture of our day only make things worse.
In an attempt to learn how to be a good father, I have come across lots of material in the form of books and programs most of which I have found overwhelming or too complicated to apply practically. That said and given the fact that these ‘little’ people are challenging that label daily, I have accepted that I cannot wait, but learn on the job. I am still learning, and so far I have two basic lessons that I have picked and practicing to live out:
By authentic I mean living what I believe. Way before I became a parent I thought that when I become one, I’d hate to be telling my children to do something that I myself cannot do or not to do something I myself do even if in private. An example would be parents who smoked and they would tell their children smoking is not good for them, or fathers who’d drop their children and wife in church and spend Sunday morning at home reading the Sunday paper.
Now that I am a parent myself, I have realized that such parents wished a better life for their children than their own. It is also possible that they had surrendered to their bondage with no ability of their own to be free.
I have on countless instances found myself telling my children that shouting at somebody is not polite, only to shout at them when they do not seem to be paying attention. One of the boys is particularly keen to not only notice, but also let me know when I do something that should not be done, “Dad, you are interrupting my conversation with mummy, remember you should excuse yourself before interjecting when two people are having a conversation.” While the African man in me says “children should be seen and not heard”, there’s another higher voice of conscience that tells me, “that child is observing to see whether you practice what you say.”.
This principle of leading our children by example is I believe the pattern set out by our heavenly Father;
“..you shall be holy, for I am holy..” (Lev 11:45)
The true modeling for our children will be authentic to the extent we are true in our relationship to our Father. He has made it possible for us to know Him and in this knowing Him, we live true to the stewardship role accorded to us;
“Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.…” (Psalm 127:3)
To the extent we know our Father, to the same extent shall we be able to parent our children accurately,
“10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness..” (Heb 12)
A parent who is authentic and real about life is more likely to raise an authentic child than one that shields their children from the realities of life. May we learn from our heavenly Father, with who there are no gray areas;
“…Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning…” (Js 1:17)
Up to around two years ago, I was very busy with the business of earning a living, and although I was coming home every day, I used to have limited interaction with my children. The little interaction was almost always strained because I was tired and unable to give them full attention. This has since changed and I am able to now have more quality time with them which has really changed my perception of parenting. As we sit at table to have a meal, I notice that the children want to do what I am doing, even if table manners have been taught different. When they are given ugali (maize meal) to eat with spoons and I want to eat with my hands Kenyan style, they want to eat with their bare hands as well. They do not want to sleep in their pajamas when I sleep in a short.
The biggest learning does not take place by telling, but by demonstration. Close to the previous point of authenticity, presence is not just for giving instruction, but much more so for demonstrating a lifestyle that can be observed. While it is not practically possible to be with our children 24/7, the more time they are present as we go about our daily business and interaction with other people, the more practical their learning will be.
How does God demo this in raising us?
While in most of our training in walking with the Lord has been where we meet at designated times and places, there are promises in the word of God that should challenge and encourage every parent;
“I will never leave you or abandon you.….”(Heb 13:5 CEB.)
“… Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord…” (Rom 8:39).
In conclusion, I want to reiterate the highlight of my parental learning; 1. Be authentic, and 2. Be present. It’d be nice to hear some addition to the list from your learning.