Dear Progeny, Forgive me for using such an impersonal salutation. I’ve never written to 3+ generations before. We are indeed blessed with so many of you, 5 children (and spouses), 15 Grandchildren (some with spouses), 23 GreatGrandchildren (and counting). Currently the oldest among you is 59, the youngest is unborn. We might look at the number of you (currently 43) and take that count as the measure of God’s Love and blessings in our lives. But while that’s gratifying, it is not the complete measure of His Love in our story.
Our story really started 74 years ago when my wife and I met as frightened 5-year-old-kids in First Grade . I doubt that either of us really had God in mind back then because we were too busy being scared of school. But God had us in mind: Phyllis and I bonded in our firstgrade way and between us (and God) we survived first grade. In retrospect, God’s Love was already at work; he had big plans for us. But then my family moved out of Freeport in the middle of first grade. No more Phyllis. Approximately 9 years later, God decided that Phyllis and I were ready for the next phase of his plan. He brought us back together and we started dating. We were married on August 30, 1953, at age 18. We celebrated our 60th wedding anniversary last year.
We can’t begin to enumerate the Love and Blessings that God has showered on us over these 74 years since we met in first grade. However, I am guilty of taking God’s blessings for granted. I truly cannot say just when we woke up spiritually and realized the day-to-day significance of His involvement in our life. Now that I am aware of this particular shortcoming in our parenting, I will offer my first advice to you: It is important that you share your awareness of God’s influence and blessings with your children conversationally. Make it a regular item of family conversation, e.g. how has God blessed us today?
Beyond that one bit of advice to you, I am sharing the following as to how/what I would advise myself if I had the opportunity to live my life over in today’s society:
First, I would remind myself: I am a father only because my children have a mother. With respect to fatherhood, there is nothing I can do or take credit for that is not at least partially enhanced or facilitated by my wife who has been my partner in this process. So the reader must understand that nothing I offer herein as advice can ever be construed as “wisdom” solely from a father.
Next, I will say that we both agreed that it was extremely critical that our children have at least ONE fulltime parent. My job(s) provided for the family better than my wife’s would have so she was elected to be the fulltime parent. As such, she has told of countless occasions when one or more of the children would come home from school and follow her around the kitchen like a little puppy. It became obvious that they had something on their mind but it was not ready to come out quite yet. All of a sudden it erupted, joy or sadness. NOW was the time that they were ready and needed to share it with her (us). She has mentioned many times that if she would not have been there for them at that time, that sharing experience might never have happened. We endlessly praise God for making that happen in our lives.
Next, I would tell myself to temper my application of discipline and authority with God’s love and reality. I remember the time when we were herding all five children out the back door and into the car, my oldest son had not responded to my fatherly command in time, and I severely chastised him with “young man, when I say jump, I want you to JUMP."
His tearful response, “but Daddy, I can’t jump THAT HIGH” was not a smart-aleck response but rather words directly from God through my son’s voice telling me, “O.K., tone it down a bit.”
Finally, as much as I realize the difficulty of this next advice, it will be the most critical responsibility of our fatherhood. This advice becomes MORE CRITICAL with each passing day:
Dear younger self:
TAKE YOUR CHILDREN TO CHURCH THIS SUNDAY, EVERY SUNDAY!!!
When they attend church and Sunday School regularly, they learn that Jesus Christ is their Savior from sin. I’ll admit that when each of our children was in the “terrible twos” and seemingly incapable of sitting still, we spent much of our time in the cry room at church. I was so tempted to “just skip church until they learn to sit still.” But if we do this we are SKIPPING some of the most important learning opportunities in their lives.
I have witnessed the results of both parenting approaches. When a child has been brought to church regularly and the parents suffered through the cryroom experience, very soon the child is relaxed and church is an accepted, normal part of their life. Conversely, the child that has not gone thru this experience remains inattentive and disruptive far into later childhood. One does not need to be an educator to see which variation presents a better opportunity for the child to learn about Jesus. If we fail to attend church with our child regularly, WE are setting an example that could ultimately result in our child’s rejection of Jesus.
In addition to bringing your children to church every sunday, make religion a part of their daily education. Spiritual education supersedes worldly education. If possible, avoid public school and either homeschool them or send them to a good parochial or private Christian school. This ensures they will receive spiritual education on a day to day basis. If we choose to send them to school, even a Christian school, we need to stay active and involved in their education and continue it at home and beyond.
Finally, I would remind you that I would not normally insert myself into your life with advice of this nature. But this is the advice that I am giving to myself, remember? Above all, REJOICE in the Love and Blessings of God in your life and in your family. Be sure you are aware of it while it is happening. Share your enthusiasm with your family. It will be one source of true joy in your life. Also, rejoice that God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that we should not perish but have everlasting life. REJOICE!
Thomas is the grandfather of HHH writer, Amber. He has been a father for well over half a century and is delighted at the opportunity to share what he has learned over the years with HHH readers.