I had the great pleasure of having my eldest son, his wife and their children stay with me for five days over the Easter weekend. My wife is in LA visiting her family, so it was wonderful having my end of our clan with me in our empty house. Let’s face it, any holiday without family is really not a holiday at all. When they come and fill the air with that glorious chaos, it’s always a reason to pour on the love, celebrate the joy of life together and enjoy one another while that fleeting time lasts.
We see many of our kids through the year but our eldest is closest so we see his family the most. They only live about 3 ½ hours west of us, but even that short distance, and the time we spend apart, has been quite a change. Several of our kids and grandkids have always lived just down the street, a block or two away or just over in the next community. However, due to job promotions, military careers or job losses in the past two years they are all now scattered across the nation. My eldest lives in New York, another is in Georgia, another in South Dakota and the rest are in California. The family has been hit like seeds scattered in the wind and we really don’t like it, but that’s the way it is.
When we do get together with any of them it’s always a time to reconnect, get caught up and reinforce the bonds every family has to have, if they are healthy. We praise the grandkids for how they have grown. We learn about the new job and discover how the new house is going. We watch our kids and look to see how their lives and marriages are developing. Are they finding that place of peace and stable maturity? Will the lessons we taught them and the ones they learned since leaving our care last a life time? Most of all, are they happy, are they plugged into a good church and are they settled in their relationship with God?
These are profoundly important questions. They are the bedrock of solid, productive, happy families. So, when our kids are at such great distances the answers to these questions may not always be clear. Thus, when they come home, or we go there, we want to…. we have to… we need to know they are on track and moving in the right direction. How that knowledge is uncovered may come as a surprise, but however it comes, it is essential to the well-being of dad and mom’s mental health, and the focus of our prayer life until the next visit.
During this visit my son touched me deeply in a way I had never experienced before. We had several quiet times alone together when his wife took their children to visit friends on play dates. One of those days we had breakfast at my favorite out of the way family-run diner. I then revealed the location of one of my “secret” trout streams, and then we sat in the sun and just connected on a heart to heart basis. It was an amazing time orchestrated by God that built a memory we both will hold for a lifetime.
What impacted me deepest was the genuine wisdom my son wanted to share with me, once he discovered I was willing to listen. I stepped out of the “you’re the son and I’m the father and I have the answer” frame of reference, and allowed him as a man, to share with me what he had learned about life. He started hesitantly and with an uncertainty as to whether I would even listen. However, when I realized what he was doing, I sat back quietly and out came a flood of insight, concern and instruction that made me proud.
In all honestly, I had to fight back tears several times as he spoke. For 37 years I had seen him as a son who needed to be taught. But, in that moment I realized, though he was still my son who had made his mistakes, he had grown into a fine man who could now teach others what he had learned, and that included me. Because I decided to listen and embrace my son as a man, we were both forever changed, but I found something more, I found my place of honor!
Fathers, do your best and then let your sons (and daughters) grow up as best they can. Believe in them, and in what you have put in them. When the time is right, sit back and let them talk. Listen with an open heart and keep an attentive ear to their voice. Once they trust you enough to share what is living within them it’s amazing what can happen. As they being to speak, you will be shocked and deeply touched, as I was, at just how much they really did learn and have to offer. Why is that so important? Because, when you know your sons have become men, then you as a father find your place of honor. Trust me when I tell you that there is no better place to be!