Being Present

Happy father and son walking together at beachYesterday was Father’s Day here in Australia. A day to celebrate our dad and the dad of our children. Father’s Day can raise some interesting emotions. Excitement, joy, pain, love, comfort, longing, hurt, anger. Depending on your own experience of how well you were fathered, different emotions can be triggered by this day.

I always find it interesting that whenever I have been involved in leading someone in prayer ministry, the issue of a less than perfect relationship with their father has always surfaced. Fathers can cause so much pain and suffering. Even for people whom you think had an ‘ideal’ upbringing and family life, there still seems to be some issues around how they were parented. I must admit, it is not only exclusive to the fathering but also for the mothering. One thing I have noticed however, is that the pain from how they were fathered is usually more intense. Another thing I notice is how they were fathered impacts greatly on how a person usually views God and how close and trusting a relationship with Father God they have.

I have to admit that our expectations can play a huge role in this. I have been guilty of this. I have expected my father to act in a certain way, both as a father and a grandfather. Expectations that I would assume are pretty fair as to how involved or even just interested in my children he is etc. But as soon as we start to have expectations of someone, we set them up to fail. If we can approach our own relationships without expectations, we will experience less hurt and pain. We will also release the other person from being someone they cannot be.

Looking at how hubby and I raise our children, one of my biggest prayers is that we will raise them so that they will be the least ‘damaged’ or negatively impacted by me and hubby. Everyone at some stage seems to benefit from having some prayer ministry, but if my kids can fly without needing too much prayer minsitry, that is fantastic.

A father is so important in a child’s life in giving them a healthy sense of identity, and for protecting and providing for the children. Children need to feel safe in all ways and they look especially to their father for this.

A couple of things we try really hard to do in helping our kids have a healthy sense of identity are:

1. Being present when we are with them. Helping them feel that we are really listening to them. Having regular dates one on one with them. Letting them set the agenda when with them. Turning the phone off whilst with them so as to concentrate on them. Getting to know their interests, their friends, their thoughts. Hubby takes Princess (11) to her morning swimming squad class at 6am on Tuesday mornings. He commented to me recently that she hardly says a word to him on the way there (she is not a morning person) and also on the way home. I found this rather strange as she is usually a chatterbox, especially when Matey (8) isn’t in the car. After asking him what sort of questions he asked her, I suggested a slight change so as to ask her to tell him about her friends that were at swimming training. The next morning hubby bounded inside on the return home so excited. He couldn’t believe the change in her. She chatted non stop and told him all about her friends at swimming and the competition she has with one of the boys over who gets to wear the one pair of flippers that fits them both (they are both waiting for the next order of flippers in October and there is healthy rivalry going on as to who hides them where). Asking the right questions is so important in getting the conversation flowing.

2. Encouraging and affirming them, not because of what they have achieved but for who they are and for character qualities that you see displayed. Children need to hear the words “I love you”, “I am so glad you are my daughter/son”, “I would do anything for you”.

3. Showing appropriate affection. Children love and need to be hugged, kissed, to be shown physical affection. Your son may be at the age when wrestling is a great way for physical touching. Your children need your physical touch.

4. Children need to know that they are important to you and to know that if they desperately need you, then you are there for them.

5. Your relationship with your spouse needs to be a priority. Children feel safe when they can see, hear and feel comfortable that you are not at war with each other, that you are both going to be stable in the family home and the threat of divorce or tension isn’t around.

6. Parenting involves being others centred. There isn’t room for self centredness or selfishness. I tend to find that mothers grasp this concept more easily than fathers do, especially when the footy is on television and the child just wants to play a game with dad and have some of his focussed attention.

7. Praying with them and blessing them nightly. Identifying their strengths and thanking God out loud for them in your children.

I would love to hear your thoughts and some things you proactively do as a father/mother in parenting your children.