Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Daddy Guilt: Not Spending Enough Time with the Kids?

Of course, a kid is the child of a goat, but we call our progeny kids because who knows?  Perhaps it's a carryover from WWII Brooklyn dudes in movies with the only tough guy accent ever known among mankind, or here's lookin' at you, kid, and so on.

Dads get an excessive earful in many evangelical churches today, especially from the Young, Restless and Reformed dudes out there.  They have a point though: dad's haven't, in the past generations, poured themselves into their children as members of God's covenant (something absolutely foreign to Baptists), and even if they did have good Reformed theology to guide them, they put the spiritual formation of their children off to the pastor, the Christian school, or well...neither one.  For many sons and daughters today, whether churched or no, Dad is too busy working, or playing with his buddies, or doing something else.  

The pendulum is swinging in the right direction, as dads are waking up and smelling the burnt toast: someone's not been keeping watch in the kitchen and the punk kid down the street is offering Daughter something tempting and savory not found in the pantry.  One needn't read the sociological journals to know that sons and daughters in America are hurting for fathers (this is because the sociologists have done an excellent job in showing the awful stats).  The symptoms, though not always caused by the lack of a father-figure, are nevertheless in part correlative to it: drugs, gangs, violence, mental disorders and depression, sexual immorality, and all-around neediness that is a by-product of not being nurtured by a loving, gracious father.  

I understand my role as a father.  I'm to nurture my children in the Lord by reading them the Scriptures, doing my best to answer their questions along the way, teach them spiritual songs, psalms and hymns, instruct them in catechism (Heidelberg and Westminster Shorter), and to teach them how to behave with one another, as well as teach them about life in general.  Dad, you're supposed to help your child understand God and life--that's your job.  You're not alone, as the Church is supposed to do that too.  

But all this preaching from the pastors who are sounding the alarm about the lack of fathers needs to be balanced with Daddy-time.  Dads need to have a place where they can unwind.  When he comes home from work, he should be able to help with dinner and cleanup, play with the children, and put them to bed after Bible and catechism (unless that's done in the morning).  That can't be a hard and fast rule, however.  Sometimes, Dad hasn't had a workout in a while, and it's helpful after dinner if he can go for a run, or better--pommel a punching bag in the basement.  

Even as I'm writing this, my daughter asks, "Daddy, can we play now?"  With patience (that I've learned from my wife and also my mentor), I turned to her and as pleasant as peach jam, I told her I would like to finish this article and then we could play.  Then I also asked her, "What would you like to play?"  "How about 'Monster,' she says (this is when I roar with raised up arms and catch them and throw them on the bed, after spinning them around by the arms, legs, or torso).  "Mmm," says, I.  "Are you too hot from your workout?"  (Punching the bag).  "Yeah.  How about hide-and-seek?"  "Okay."  Deal.

If you've ever felt guilty about not being with your children throughout the entire evening after dinner, don't sweat it.  I've recently decided that when I'm working out, I don't want the children in the workout room (a small room in the basement).  It's better for safety, and I just need to be alone when I'm working out.  Call it a weakness, and I'll boast in my weakness, dude.  I'm still present, as the kiddos are playing just outside the door in the carpeted area, but I'm not involved.  And that's okay.  Daddy needs his workout time, and the healthier Dad is, the higher quality of time he can spend with the children he wishes to love and nurture.

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