The bravest dad in the world asks his kids how well he is doing as a dad.
My kids think I am the bravest dad in the world because I slay all six- and eight-legged monsters who foolishly dare invade our castle. My wife thinks I am the bravest dad in the world because I get up early and work a wacky job so she and the kids can homeschool.
Usually I am smart enough not to disagree with my wife and kids at the same time. Yet, I think the bravest dad in the world is one who has the nerve to ask his kids about how well he is doing his dad job.
Like many of our family escapades, this started when my sweet and wise wife asked an intriguing question, “What did we do before we had all these kids?” It was late, and I had just finished an evening with all those kids coaching bicycle lessons, confronting algebra, picking up toys, refining bad attitudes, reviewing the day’s artwork, resolving disputes, and reading books aloud. It was time to enter into combat with the relentless bills that similarly invade our castle (barbarians!). My own attitude was pretty stinky, and I was not quite as chatty as my wife. However, I figured I should answer the question quickly or the bills might win.
Our era of BK (before kids) was so distant and vague; I had to think for a moment. It seems like we watched more TV. We went to movies that did not star ducks, mice, or bears. We slept through the night. We weighed less, due to fewer McDonald’s trips. We read books that did not rhyme and had more than sixteen pages.
Hesitantly, I asked Belinda why she inquired about “all these kids.” Questions like this usually mean I am about to spend a bunch of money or give up another hobby. She had just read an article from one of the home school pioneers. The pioneer posed the question, “What do your kids think is most important to you? What legacy are you exampling and leaving for your kids?” Uh-oh. The one simple question just sprouted two hard questions, so I had to move fast before Belinda thought of any more.
Truthfully, it does not take much to stop me from paying bills, so I grabbed a pen and notepad and headed off to the kids’ rooms in search of truth. I had no idea what I was going to do with their answers, but God usually speaks to me through my kids even when I do not want to listen.
Story (7) was my first contestant. He had just asked me for a new bike, so I figured he would give me kind answers and not blow his chance for the fresh wheels. “Umm…son…when you watch how Daddy lives, what do you think is most important to Daddy?” Story quickly replied, “God gave us (the kids) to you, your job, God, Mommy, the family.” Well, this was going to be easier than I thought. I was delighted with Story’s answers, though it was a bit shaky to hear my job listed before God, my wife, and my family. Though with my work schedule lately, I could see why he answered that way.
Maybe I should have quit while I was ahead, but I continued with Scout (11). She listed, “Us (the kids), God, and cleanness (picking up her room).” Just like Story, Scout saw the Lord did not hold first place in my life.
Halley (14) replied, “Everyone (the kids) getting along and being friends, feeding the family, paying for clothes, keeping rooms straight, and being friendly to other people.” God was not anywhere in her assessment of my life. Outward behavior was supreme. It seems that that is called “legalism” or being a Pharisee. This exercise was not fun anymore.
True (5) answered, “Obeying you, picking up toys, helping out with my little brother, and taking out the trash.” God’s absence was glaring, as was the lack of anything fun. True’s worldview was service, duty, and obedience. I felt like Scrooge when he was visited by the Ghost of Christmas Future and saw the dismal results of his stodgy behavior.
Thankfully, I had left the easiest interrogation for last. Ever, my bubbly sixteen-month-old son, just giggled and signed for more juice. I interpreted that to mean I am doing just fine, as long as I keep the juice flowing.
God was loud and clear in the kids’ answers. He wanted me to refocus on Him and relationships within my family. It was time to ease up on the room cleaning and go outside to play with the kids.
I have a sister who will not talk to our father anymore, largely because our dad never asked the “how am I doing?” question. When we dads envision ourselves as grandparents, we see our kids walking confidently and fruitfully with the Lord, enjoying our company, and bringing grandkids over to track mud on our carpet. This vision will not happen on its own.
Here is the challenge for you dads: This week, make time to ask each of your kids, “When you watch how Daddy lives, what do you think is most important to Daddy?” Then be quiet and write. Take their answers to the Lord in prayer. Then do what He says. Ask, listen, pray, and act. You will be the bravest dad in the world.
If you would like to share your thoughts on all of this or want some more tips on how to avoid paying bills, please contact me at ImperfectFather@Gmail.com.