My kids are grown. They have their own families. We are enjoying a great season of life now… a richness of conversation, time and activity together that is incredibly significant. I heard a quote years ago from former president George H.W. Bush. In an interview with his wife, he was asked what was his most significant accomplishment in life. Now remember, he’s a sitting U.S. President, successful businessman, and decorated war veteran. He could have wowed everyone with some remarkable achievements. His answer surprised me. Frankly, I think it surprised everyone, including the interviewer. He looked at his wife, Barbara, smiled and said, “Our greatest accomplishment is that my kids still want to come home.” Apparently, George and Barbara had fostered their home life in such a way so that when their kids were grown with their own life and career, they still wanted to come home to be with their family. Now that’s a WOW.
I have to say, one of the joys of this time of life for my wife and me is our children are truly our best friends. We love to be with them. I tell people from time to time that I’d want to be best friends with my kids even if they weren’t related to me. That is a phenomenon that we’re are humbled, but not surprised by. Not surprised because we made it a priority as our kids were growing up NOT to be their best friends. Let me explain. This best friends stage in a family can never be rushed. But here’s the crazy thing. Our culture dumbs down parental responsibility so severely that parents of a growing family do all they can to be a pal, a best friend, a buddy to their kids as they grow up. When they do that they automatically loose footing as a responsible parent. Hard conversations become non-existent and are replaced with a back slapping best friend who won’t hold their friend accountable for their actions. That’s not a role we play early in the parenting experience. If we try to, we’ll miss out, our kids will miss out and the result is almost always alienation, distrust, and disrespect.
As my daughter was passing through the passive rebellious stage of her teenage years, we had discussed (together) her summer plans, yet four months away. She agreed… we all agreed… that she would spend much of her summer as a counselor at a Christian camp. How fun, right? But as summer approached, she began to back peddle, saying that she would not go to camp. Keeping a promise is a big deal, so we had “the talk.”
I can’t remember all of the conversation, but the gist of it was, “Sweetheart, I love you and I will always love you, but you need to know, I’m not your pal, I’m not your best buddy. I’m your dad and because of that I’m going to do something that potentially will make you upset and it will hurt me deeply and might even cause you to not like me right now. But, I’m your dad and I want the best for you and your future, sooooo you are going to camp, so start planning for it.”
There was a lot of pain that week and a lot of hurt feelings, including Janet’s and mine, but we held our ground.
The drive to camp at the beginning of summer was a silent ride. When we got there, we found out that she was the youngest of all the counselors. Most in college. One of the bonding activities for the counselors to get to know each other before the campers arrive was for all the leaders to go to a recreational climbing wall. You know, have fun together. Well, as it turns out, all of us in our family were climbers with our own equipment. My daughter bonded quickly with all the counselors and the summer was a great experience and growing experience for her.
Now, here’s the rest of the story. After several weeks, she came back home for a weekend to visit and she brought another counselor with her… a boy. Did you get that? A boy. And the boy had the audacity to ask if he could date my high school daughter. Well, I did the research and found out he was the former student body president of a Bible college in town, leader in missions, great family, etc., etc. I said yes… knowing they were so busy at camp that they wouldn’t really have much extra time together. That turned out to be true, but one thing that did happen was this young man and my daughter began a personal daily Bible study together at 6am. And over time, something amazing happened. Something out of my control. A God thing. Her childhood faith matured. Our God became her God. Our faith became her faith. It became real and it changed the trajectory of her life forever. I think it all happened because I wasn’t her best friend or her pal, I was her dad.