I love my job. I’m the “Family Guy” at New Life Christian Church in Northern Virginia. I oversee the children and youth ministries with direct involvement with the youth program. I’m also a father of four beautiful young girls ranging from 4 -11 years old. Growing up as a member of a four-boy family, I never had the experience of growing up with girls. So all of this—the princesses, the nail polish and the EMOTIONS…oh, yes, the emotions, is all new for me. But I love it. I absolutely love being their dad.
But being the Family Guy at my job puts extra pressure on me. After all, holding this position implies that I might know something about raising a healthy family. In order for me to have this position, I must have created a very family oriented environment in my own household, and spend as much time as possible with my girls.
But, despite my best efforts, sometimes coming home from a long day at work, being family first and focusing solely on my girls doesn’t always happen. In fact, it’s sometimes the last thing I want to do.
Paul says it right when he says, “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” Now, in that context, Paul is talking about struggling with sin in his life. But I think this verse directly applies to fatherhood as well. So many times I want to come home, get out the toys, and play outside with my girls until it’s dark outside. But that rarely happens. Too often I find myself sitting on the couch being annoyed that I’m attacked by my little ones…sorry, just trying to be honest.
So as I try to be the best dad that I can, I’ve jotted down a few practical ways that I’ve found to get re-energized before I get home:
1. Set your expectations correctly. Expect chaos, because so many times when I get home, chaos is happening. Rare are those days where I walk into my house and my family just ministers to me with a soda, newspaper, and the evening news (were those ever the days, or just drawings from Norman Rockwell?). Usually I get girls telling me about their day and wanting me to do things with them…things that just make me tired thinking about it. So make sure your expectations are right before you walk through your door so that you don’t get frustrated.
2. Be flexible. No matter how many books you read on parenting and children, the bottom line is no one can prepare you for what you’re going to encounter. No one book can tell you exactly how to raise your children. The rules break all the time. That’s why you need to be flexible and roll with the punches. The more we’re flexible and have our expectations set right, the less frustrated we’ll be when things don’t go quite as we had planned, or as the book says. By being flexible we’re able to really learn who our children are and how we can best meet their needs and help them grow to be healthy children and young adults.
3. Inject a little Christ in your life. On your way home, turn on the Christian music station or read some scripture before you walk into your house…scripture on patience. Seriously, I have found the more I listen to Christian music before I go anywhere, the more my mind-set changes and gets focused on the right priorities.
4. “Be here now.” That was a saying a high-adventure camp I went to in high school always said. “Be here now” implied that it doesn’t matter what you could be doing somewhere else or should be doing. What’s most important is that you stay focused on where you’re at. So that means, when you’re at home with your kids, you focus on your kids. That means no cell phone, iPad, or any other work distraction you may have. I know that’s easier said than done, but the reality is we have at least 9-5 M-F to focus on our work and toys (yes, our iPhone is definitely a toy). We need those few hours each day when we get home to be focused on our children and loving our wife.
When you do these things, all things will turn out just right. Well, maybe not, but the reality is doing these four things in my life with my children makes me a better person, which makes me a better dad.