By Mike Day
With the celebration of Father’s Day this past Sunday, I reflected back on 30 years ago when I first became a father. While I didn’t panic at the thought of raising this newborn, I did wonder quite often if I was saying and doing the right thing.
I had a similar feeling years earlier when I conducted my first wedding at the age of 22. After it was over, I thought, “Did I say the right words? Is this couple legally married?” Happy to report that after 38 years, their marriage is still going strong.
After 30 years of parenting, the same can be said of our children. Somehow Leigh Anne and I brought three children into this world, and each of them is successfully carving out their adult journey.
The challenge with parenting is that unlike golf, you don’t get a mulligan. Once that baby comes on the scene, you’re flying by the seat of your pants trying to keep her alive and maintain your own sanity.
You would think with the birth of the next child that I could see that as an opportunity to do better, to learn from my previous mistakes. With each child having his or her own unique personality, temperament and quirks, however, every time was like starting from scratch.
Since I am a pastor, I’m sure some folks expected my kids to be born with a Bible in their hand and all the words of Jesus memorized by the time they turned ten. We really tried to lower the religious expectations and instead, desired to provide a home where faith was modeled, questions were allowed, and the love of God was shared with all people.
Recently, I came across the following quote by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, a 19th century German writer: “There are only two lasting bequeaths we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots the other wings.”
Yes, that’s what I hoped to have accomplished as a father of our three children. I wanted them to have roots, to be deeply embedded in a love relationship with us and with one another. For those roots to draw sustenance from a living faith as revealed through Jesus.
I also wanted them to grow wings that enable them to soar to new heights and adventures. The last few years have been fun watching them pursue their professional dreams and marry their life partners.
I know I made a lot of mistakes through those child-raising years, but my kids, like most kids, were very resilient.
Six months ago, I moved to the new role of grandfather. While I don’t see it as receiving a mulligan for the parenting years, I do plan to play it like golf.
Rather than reliving the stress of the parenting years with long fairways and menacing sand traps, I plan to see this role as playing putt-putt where every hole is fun, and you spend much more time laughing than counting the swings.