Unplanned Fathering

In 2014 the National Fatherhood Initiative (www.fatherhood.org) reported that 26% of American kids grow up without a father in the home. This year that number is reportedly up to as high as 33 %. That means that if my kids were average American kids one of my children would be living somewhere else without my day to day influence and guidance in their life. The absence of a parent of either gender brings great challenges to the overall development of a child in every way. If it takes two people to make a baby it takes at least two to raise that baby to become all she/he can potentially be.  Fathers matter for more than their initial donation. They are needed as providers, protectors, and patient advocates as well as counselors, coaches, and cheerleaders of their children. Fathering matters to children and not just on Father’s Day.

Fathers that are absent from their children’s lives are not only hurting their children, but they are hurting society. A kid without a father in their home are four times more likely to live in poverty. They are seven times more likely to become teenage parents. They are twice as likely to drop out of high school. Kid’s without a father in their home are more likely to have behavior problems, be obese, face abuse/neglect, go to prison, commit a crime, and/or suffer from depression. There is no debate that a father in the home and actively involved in their child’s life makes a significant difference in the family as well as society. (See “The Father Absence Crisis in America on http://www.fatherhood.org)

Some Fathers are absent from their children because of their behavior or bad choices. Some are absent because they have betrayed their partner and their children in a way that shows them unfit and untrustworthy. Some fathers are absent because their father was absent in their life and they just don’t know any better. Yet, some fathers are absent because they were thrown out, shut out, or litigated out of their children’s life. Some dads are not in the home, but provide a great example of father hood in shared agreements and responsibilities. All absent fathers are not equal, but they are all in the same circle. The issue is not one of how to judge absent fathers, but rather how do we rescue and rebuild the lives of children in need.

What can we do? How do American men respond? How does the church react to the need? How will 1 in 3 children get the counsel and the confidence they need from a father figure in their life?

We need men of all shapes, sizes, ages, and experiences to see every fatherless child as a part of their family. No exceptions. Fathering must become our highest and most valued vocational calling or in a few years this statistic will double because momentum is on the side of fathers being absent from the home. The primary action is to call, equip, and support every father to be successful in being a father. No one can do “daddy” better than the “daddy” of a child. Fathering is not restricted by lack of money, lack of education, or lack of need. It is only restricted when their is a lack of commitment, concern, and/or character. Every father needs to expect their sons to be good fathers. Every brother needs to encourage their brother to be active in their kids lives. Every friend needs to hold their bros accountable for how they take care of their children and show themselves present and accounted for. Every church needs to teach men how to not only be Christian men, but be good fathers as both roles honor God and strengthen the family.

But we need a back up plan also. The call must go out to those who are not biological fathers of children in your neighborhood or church. You may not have planned on being a father, but children need you to make an adjustment to your plans and get in the game. Maybe you need to sign up to be their mentor. Maybe you need to coach them in baseball, teach them in Sunday School, take them on a camp out, or help them finish high school. Some will need you to become their foster dad and perhaps their adoptive father as over 400,000 are waiting in the foster care system today. Some will need you to come along side later in their life as an adult youth to help them know how to keep a job, how to manage money, how to be reconciled through forgiveness, how to account for mistakes, and how to start their own family the right way and with the best of intentions to follow through. Every man in every community is the back up plan for fathering the children of our country and we need to see this as a critical pro life cause in our generation.

Unplanned fathering does not require course work or membership dues. It only requires the best of faith, hope, and love that a man can give to a child in need. Expertise is not required in this kind of fathering nor is it necessary to consider yourself a hero for stepping in. Don’t see yourself as a world changer. Just be content to be the change that a child needs to not only avoid crisis, but to acquire the certainty that they can make it and make it successfully. Don’t pursue thanks or tokens of appreciation. Be celebrated by the achievement of the kid that you poured your life into even if your fathering was unplanned. Having kids doesn’t make you a father. Raising them in the right way does.

Everyday is Father’s Day. Not for celebration, but for work because fathering is hard work. But its the best kind of hard work we will never get paid for. Don’t plan on earning anything as a dad. Let the agenda and the slate remain open and clean. The best kind of gain is that which you don’t plan on receiving. It is found money or found freedom. Unplanned fathering will bring great gain into the life of a man, but nothing like it will bring into the life of a child. As children are a gift from the Lord to fathers (Psalm 127:3) so fathers are a gift into the lives of every child in every generation (Exodus 20:12).

Please adjust your plans today. Take time to think about what kid needs you. If it is your child that needs you to step up your game as a father then do it and don’t worry about how you failed in the past. If it is a niece or a nephew, a cousin, or a sibling that needs you to step in and be the father figure then go for it and don’t look back. Perhaps it is a sibling group in your neighborhood or an only child on your baseball team that needs someone to mentor them into maturity. Maybe there is a grown man in the cubicle next to you who never knew his father and needs your mature and balanced voice in their life. Make yourself available to any child/youth/adult that needs your fathering input and then see what God does with your willing spirit.

Regardless of the plans you have for your life it just might be that God has other plans for you to consider. Based on who He is I am certain that He wants us to be all that we can be for kids in crisis. The most God honoring thing we may ever do with our life is to be a father to the fatherless in our generation. Make sure to plan your availability for the redemptive role that God has for you. The plans that you make for yourself are small in comparison to the plans He has for you. Unplan your plans so that God can reroute your work/calling in life to intersect with a kid in need. Could it be that this new role just might be the one that you have been searching for all of your life and that a kid has been waiting and waiting for you to step into it as their unplanned father?  God loves it when that kind of plan comes together.

Mother’s Day Revisited

We all have a mother. There is no getting around it. Having a mother is an intricate part of the procreating process that God dreamed into our earthly reality. While I know that science and social experimentation have tweaked the birthing process since it was first introduced, the genetics of a mother are still required. Without a mother there is no baby. The same is true of a father, but I digress.

What happens following birth though is greatly different from child to child. Some will be placed in their mother’s arms and held tightly until they leave home as grown ups. Others will never be cradled by mom and will long for her touch. Others will find warmth, nurture, and tenderness in the arms of another mother and be forever grateful for her role in their life. Many will reflect on their mother’s touch as hot or cold or as accepting or rejecting. Mothers come in all shapes and sizes as well as perspectives and practices. Hopefully we can all appreciate our mother for who she is rather than what she did for mothers are real people in our life and not just providers of our next meal.

Yesterday across the country millions of people stopped to thank mom. Flowers, cards, gifts, and expensive meals were provided as a gesture of appreciation. Christian congregations ordered their liturgy to reflect on mothers and how they are gifts of God to children and to the family. Sports teams and entertainment venues marketed Mother’s Day as a great time to come out to the ball park or come into the concert hall. Parks and backyards were full of families eating and laughing who get together only two or three times a year to catch up and refocus on the family. Mom was the MVP, MOP, GOAT, and the GDP all in one yesterday and rightfully so. Yesterday was a day for mom to rest, reflect, be revered, and rejoice at the work of her hands. It was her day of reward.

But that was yesterday.

Today is a day for mom to go back to work. You have 364 days until your next free day and every one of them will count. So let’s make the most of the next year. I am writing to every mom on behalf of every kid so read carefully and apply where appropriate.

Mom’s we need you to…

  • Help us to smile, laugh, breathe, and skip. Life takes that away from us at every chance.
  • Remind us of how much you love us, pray for us, and appreciate us. Sometimes you are the only one who does.
  • Teach us to mind our manners, eat right, and behave ourselves. We forget those things that you taught us so long ago.
  • Recount for us the story of our birth and beginnings. That will help orient us time and time again in life when we are lost or confused. Heritage is way more valuable than we sometimes think.
  • Be a person of real faith and certainty that God is at work in all things. No matter what seems to be taking place.
  • Stop worrying about us. Advise us and encourage us, but worry, anxiety, and heart burn only hurts you and us.
  • Show us how to forgive and faithfully love those who hurt us. No one forgives like a mother so teach us please.
  • Stop chasing our childhood and help us navigate adulthood. It is a jungle out here and you know the way. Show us like you showed us how to tie a shoe or wash behind our ears.
  • Take care of yourself. Not with cosmetics and clothes or fads and follies that adorn your outward appearance. Take care of the inside of you – your heart, your mind, your soul. Those are the treasures most important to your children.
  • Tell us that we are smart, we are kind, and we are important. (Thanks Aibileen!) That is all that we ever really need to know as children and you are the greatest source of it on earth.
  • Never give up on us. We are still growing up sometimes even at 44.  🙂

I will likely think of other things for your mom “to do” list, but that is a start. Don’t try and conquer all of it today or this week. Pace yourself as you get back to work. Don’t be overwhelmed by the load. You are a mom and God has made you just a little lower than a super hero (but a much better cook (probably.) You’ve got this and you getting this will make all the difference in us.

We love you. Hopefully it won’t take another year to say that. Let’s talk soon. Now get to work so we can go back to being kids.

You Get What You Pay For

pay

That isn’t a very original thing to say. Everybody has heard it at some point. I didn’t coin the phrase, but I sure believe it to be true. Now that I am looking at buying cars for teenage drivers, new instruments for teenage bandies, and college tuition for soon to be young adults pushed out of the nest, I am realizing that I have choices to make about where and how I spend this money.

Over and over again in life I have gotten what I paid for. At times I have bought something inexpensive hoping to get by or make due. Other times I have broken the bank and splurged for the top of the line and the best in the market. In every purchase or investment I have gotten exactly what I paid for. Sometimes I have been very, very happy with a purchase (new Taylor Made irons) and sometimes devastated by going cheap (upper deck tickets at Minute Maid on opening day 2008.)

The consumer in us has us immediately thinking products or experiences. Getting what we pay for makes us think of blue jeans, boots, cars, haircuts or television sets. It makes us think of vacations to Vegas or cheap hotels at the beach. It reminds us of good food we eat on our anniversary and average food with jacked up prices at the ball park (maybe not an example of getting what you pay for.) What we wear, what we eat, and where we go is directly related to what we have paid for that product or reality.

This saying though applies to many other areas of life if we under “pay for” something in terms other than monetary exchange. Sometimes our payment comes in the form of time or talent. Sometimes it comes in the level of engagement or enthusiasm we have for something or someone. Sometimes we pay by being present and being ready to participate. Our cost in those cases are not measure by a reduction of our bank account, but in the addition or heart, mind, and soul into a scenario.

Think about these “you get what you pay for” realities.

As parents we get what we pay for when we put extra time into the development of our kids character and not just their skill development or athletic progress. Our children understand the value of character better because we have given time and space to the topic with them rather than assuming others will care for that need.

As leaders we get what we pay for when we bring energy to our team and not just work flow charts or new objectives for success. Our team senses that we believe in what we are asking them to do because we are personally involved as we give ourselves all in to the assignment.

As pastors we get what we pay for when we avoid settling conflict in the church, keep doing the same old things all of the time because its easy, and/or refuse to consider how culture is shaping our people more than the gospel is. Our church senses a lack of care and concern for the health of the church and an overall indifference to how lives are being changed.

As friends we get what we pay for when we expect to be the center of attention with every friendship and have the final word on every topic tossed around in conversation. Our friends see us as self absorbed and therefore not trustworthy or approachable with their needs which keeps relationships on the surface and usually on very shakeable grounds.

As married couples we get what we pay for when we make time for each other, listen to what is on each others heart, pray over the big (and small) things in life, and consider our spouses feelings above our own. Our spouse will know they can rely us to be safe, supportive, and so concerned with the relationship that other details of life are always second place.

Of course when we pay very little as parents, as leaders, as pastors, as friends we end up getting exactly what we paid for it. Usually nothing, but rejection, disappointments, failure, discouragement, and/or loneliness. Conversely, by paying big for those things we find that our relationships are healthy, balanced, and usually exactly what we need (or even more.)

How can you get more (or get a better product) by paying more today? Now that is really a pay it forward idea worth pursuing. Don’t delay and don’t keep being cheap. Put your best- your everything – into it. You will be glad you did. You will likely end up getting exactly what you paid for and more.

 

Tell me to what you pay attention and I will tell you who you are.                                                 (Jose Ortega y Gasset)

What Does it Mean When You Stop Following Someone?

social-media

Social media is a great thing. It is helps us keep up with the lives of friends and families that we are separated from by distance. It helps us connect to people that we sort of know, but may not have been formally introduced. It helps us monitor breaking news from around the world and from inside our network. It helps us feel like we are an active part of a global family of more than 6 billion brothers and sisters.

Social media also makes us aware of what people are thinking and what they believe about life, politics, sports, and even intimate relationships. For every 100 people we know that practice good social media manners we know one person that whines, moans and complains about the smallest of things. We know someone that is intent on shouting their agenda to people as loudly as possible. We know someone that has very little empathy for anybody or anything and likely aren’t interested in developing any. We know someone that boils our blood every time they post an arrogant statement, a tasteless picture, an insensitive quote, or even a inflaming emoji.

So we unfriend them or we unfollow them. Problem solved. Or is it?

When we unfollow or unfriend someone in silence we may not be doing them any favors. They likely don’t know that we no longer read their posts and assume that we are closely keeping taps on their every thought and word. People who are so clueless about what they say or post are usually equally clueless about what people think about them. It is a matter of lacking self awareness and it oozes throughout every detail of their life. They just don’t get it and likely don’t care to.

So what does it mean to stop following someone?

It may mean…

That the friendship is not deep enough to confront or counsel someone about how they are perceived. (Maybe we need to work to change that.)

That confrontation is not an option and so a careful separation is necessary. (Maybe this says something about how we value perspectives more than people. Think about that one for a minute.)

That being connected to many people is more important than being real with a few. (Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that someone we have never been in the same room with has a different view on politics or faith than we do.)

That people are who they are and there is little hope in their ability to change or get it together. (Maybe believing that people can become self aware is our first hope and prayer before we do anything.)

That conversation is better kept at a safe distance than brought in for a close encounter. (Maybe we a phone call or cup of coffee would be good ways to discuss tension.)
As a leader who works with a very diverse population of people in my church/organization as well as with public stakeholders I am challenged daily about what to do. Who do I ignore? Who do I confront? Who do I write off? Who do I unfriend?

Every Christian should be careful to consider the matter as well. We are called to live together in brotherly/sisterly love, but love doesn’t mean that we ignore bad behavior nor does it mean that we quietly dismiss the person as an unsalvageable social media soul. We don’t just rebuke someone in the name of love with the first thing we think of and we can’t just unplug any remembrance of the person without thought to our role as a witness in their life. And for heaven’s sakes we aren’t the social media police having to argue, confront, debunk every bad thought or word we read online. Sometimes a deep, cleansing breath is what we need before doing anything. Unfollowing and unfriending after accepting friendship with someone can be viewed as a rejection and if they are a Christian or church connection that can be extremely difficult.

Here is my working strategy on managing social media contacts or connections:

I am careful about who I friend or link up to on social media so that I can be very careful about managing those relationships. My goal is not quantity, but quality with those in my network. I don’t have to like or love every post I see and my emoji isn’t required as an expression of my approval or lack there of. If the issue is one of personal perspective and they communicate it professionally or with some level of composure then it is okay to have a different perspective. If they insult me then forgiveness is first, but conversation comes close as the second response. If they destroy a whole culture, tribe, party, family, church or any other grouping in a public way then rebuke and removal must be considered. Being connected is not more important than being real.

Unfollowing and unfriending is sometimes the right thing to do, but it comes with consequences personally and socially. Choose those options deliberately and wisely. Manage the friendship well and tension will likely manage itself. Be careful with feelings – yours, theirs, others – and direct communication can be helpful and possibly transforming. Don’t be overly sensitive, but don’t fall asleep at the wheel and let your feed get blown up by a loose cannon friend or associate. Be genuine in your faith, your feelings, your feedback and people will likely have respect for where you are coming from.

Friendship is not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.
– Muhammad Ali

Fail. Failing. Failed.

 

fail

I fail everyday at something. And so do you.

It’s true. No one is 100% with every attempt. Even the most capable at many things is not perfect in everything. It is not a matter of when we fail, but how often and where we fail that are the better questions to ask.

Statistics say that more often than not we fail at a much higher percentage than we succeed. That is true of hitting a baseball where 33.3% of the time will get you a sniff at the Hall of Fame. If I had only known that earlier in life! Its seems to be true with grade school grades nowadays as a 60 % is a D which technically passes you onto the next section or subject. In my days a D meant that I had to consider running away from home. When did passing chemistry become so easy?

Failing usually requires more than one mishap or mess up. To fail at something requires we  have a series of “dropped balls” or “oppsy daises.”  When it becomes obvious that failure has arrived it is because one, two, three, or twenty opportunities of success has  passed us by.  Failing ultimately settles in because time and time again we chose not to act in positive, pro active ways to guarantee or garner success.

If you failed at something today it is quite likely that you aren’t a failure. It just means that you messed up. It might mean that you need to revisit the failure and examine what you could do differently. It might mean that you need to apologize and eat a little crow over a relational fail with a spouse or a friend. It might mean that you need to repent and pledge to never act or live in that failed way again. But one fail today does not make you a failure or mean that you are failing in that way. Being able to see that failure is not (usually) a single moment, but a habitual pattern is the most helpful, healthy thing we can remind ourselves of each day.

Cheers!

So, cheers to that dad that failed at keeping his anger suppressed at the site of a poor progress report. Tomorrow is a new chance to succeed by showing love and patience.

Cheers to the mom that had a “knock down drag out” with little Ms over her clothes, hair, or general attitude about life. You’ll win her back tomorrow.

Cheers to the girl/boy that feels like nothing went right today at all and that everybody hates you. It didn’t and they don’t. You are special, unique, and beautiful. Wait and see what tomorrow holds for you.

Cheers to the boy who wrecked his car and almost created a catastrophic event. You are not a bad driver, you are not reckless,  you are not out of control. You made a mistake. Slow down. Life is worth strolling through rather than racing past.

Cheers to the coach who has given their all to a team only to feel unappreciated and discounted by players, parents, and administration. Your investment into one player for one season will make you a success for a lifetime.

Cheers to the pastor/church who had a down Sunday. You didn’t fail because people didn’t show up or the offering plates were light this week. Failing only occurs if the gospel is absent from your preaching, worship, fellowship, and outreach – regardless of the scale you work on.

Cheers to the Christian sister/brother who worked all day to glorify God in the way you live and work only to lose it in frustration and fear. God doesn’t judge you based on your performance. He has embraced you in all your failures so that in Christ you may become the aroma of success living in faith, hope, and love.

Let’s not swim in our failures and we should not fail boldly to prove a point. But we are not the sum total of a days (or a lifetime) worth of failing. We are somebody that God made with purpose and pride. Failing is a part of living. To never fail – or never admit failure – is to not be real. Real things fall, bleed, and break. Real things also are helped, healed, and given hope.

Cheer up. Failure is not only an option, but a reality. And it just may be our way to a better life as we grow up from having fallen down.

We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.  Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.            (2 Corinthians 4:6-10)

Tick-Tock Parenting

melting-clock

On any given day I will make 3 to 5 trips to the schools to pick a kid up, drop a kid off, and sometimes shuttle their friend here or there. To be honest that doesn’t fit all that well with my schedule and being inconvenienced has not been a favorite past time of mine at any point in my life. Most often I see those trips as a “have to do” and not a “get to do.”

Jamie is the opposite. She loves to take a kid here, take a kid there. And the kids like for her to take them although they don’t always like arriving in her minivan. On these trips they sing, talk, laugh, and sometimes get lost or forget where they are going. But they are fun trips that she loves to “get to do.”

Yesterday, after I made 3 trips to the high school after work, I also had to go and watch a homecoming parade. One kid was marching with the band and the other was marching with his football team. The parade was scheduled to go around the high school and end up in the football stadium for a pep rally with all school sports and activities participating. Parents, siblings, and friends were to watch and cheer along the way before assembling in the stadium to again watch and cheer. Seemed like a big pile of “have to” to me.  Jamie rushed home from work, rushed Julia to church, dropped a meal off for a family in need, and rushed back to join me in the gallery. She couldn’t wait to “get to” watch those boys do their thing.

As those two young men passed in all their youthful glory it occurred to me that these are the moments I have been waiting for. This isn’t wasted time at all. This is time spent in the best way possible.  Standing in the grass, fighting the TX heat, missing a replay of Seinfeld on TBS may seem like inconveniences to me, but they are the not. They are small details in moments where my life’s work is on display. Parenting (and friendships for that matter) are about seeing a moment for what it is and enjoying it to its fullest.

Moments invested in the celebration and/or support of others – especially our children – are the moments we have to put into slow motion and capture every frame. Being hurried, inconvenienced, or bored will carry us right past memories that we were born to be forever touched by. While watching what happens we will not capture the exact moment that he/she does the unbelievable.

We don’t waste time when we are available for our kids when they need us.  Time is wasted when we choose to be inconvenienced by their need.

We don’t waste time when we celebrate the work of our kids in band, sports, academics, or just being a good kid. Time is wasted when we ignore their accomplishments and think about “what could be.”

We don’t waste time when we invest in their friendships by being nice and available to those they feel connected with. Time is wasted when we are bothered by how odd or different their friends are and try to isolate them socially.

We don’t waste time when we take the moments to teach, to correct, and to discipline our kids. Time is wasted when we ignore their behavior and hope they get it right next time. (They likely won’t without our input.)

We don’t waste time when we are honest with them about our failures and faults in life embarrassing as they may be. Time is wasted when we let them think they are the only ones in the family to ever mess up or to ever struggle with temptation or trials.

We don’t waste time when we are concerned enough to talk to, pray with, and cry over how they are doing. Time is wasted when we rely primarily on social media for ideas on what to do with a kid in trouble.

We don’t waste time when we try to slow down the growing up time so we can enjoy the moments we have with them. Time is wasted  when we do all we can to speed up time to get them to a place where they can care completely for themselves.

We don’t waste time when we just stop and listen to them, laugh with them, and/or look at them in amazement. Time is wasted when we choose to live in a blur and let our time belong to everybody else but our family.

Time spent well with our kids is time well spent in our hearts. We can never get back those missed moments, but we can plan to miss as few as possible. Better to short ourselves of personal time, choice, and say so than to short our kids of the very real presence of a parent invested in their success and happiness. Those moments should be “get to do” moments as often as possible. In the future, we won’t remember what we “had to do” anyway.  We’ll only remember the moments where we “got to” tell people they were “ours.”

Fathers/Mothers, do not provoke your children to anger [do not exasperate them to the point of resentment with demands that are trivial or unreasonable or humiliating or abusive; nor by showing favoritism or indifference to any of them], but bring them up [tenderly, with lovingkindness] in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4)

Parental Transitions

parental transition

Parenting is a big responsibility and comes with big requirements. From the moment that child first cries until the day you depart with your last breath, you are responsible for the child God blessed your home with. It is likely that only as a parent can your heart be blessed and broken in the same day by one person and sometimes within the same sentence. Parenting is not for the faint at heart or the easily defeated.  Parenting requires skills.

Among those skills is the ability to change with and for the child you are parenting. The status you carry today will change by tomorrow and so will her/his demands of you. The older they get, the more this should become apparent. They are transitioning from one stage of life to the next and you as parent must transition your style and schemes in the same way and timing that they do. Otherwise, you seem and sound like the teacher in Charlie Brown to a kid who is doing exactly what he was born to do – grow up.

That is where I am right now. My three little darlings have become three little daring teenagers just trying to make their way in the world. This is not a fad or a stage. It is life. Their life.

And I want to be a part of their life for the rest of my life. So, I must transition with them or I will be left behind thinking and wishing and regretting and wasted.

We must transition from sheltering them from everything to shielding them from some things. We can not protect them from all harm. We can only help them avoid the trouble that is ahead and perhaps be able to predict it. Help them avoid the biggest threats while walking with them as they face smaller threats or challenges to the worldview we have offered them. A small scrape learned at home will be a benefit when big scrapes come along later in life.

We must transition from choosing everything for them to coaching them to good choices. Everyday a child becomes more and more independent. Everyday a parent either helps them live independently or puts up a road block to their growth. Coaching is a good middle ground as they grow up and feel the need to have their own way, but still need advice and counsel. If they learn to take coaching in the small things at home, they will seek coaching in life when big things pop up.

We must transition from loving our “little person to liking the real person they are striving to become. Always love, love, love your children. Don’t forget to like them, too; whomever they are growing into. Parental acceptance is a primary need for every child. Don’t be blinded by old memories of your children. Look longingly at today’s real life photos. New memories are being made. Don’t miss them.

We must transition from teaching them about bad things/choices to talking with them about right things/choices. Sure there is plenty of things to warn our kids about. Warn them about sex, drugs and rock n roll, but also talk to them about the good, fun and beautiful things in life. Point them toward things that truly satisfy and away from things that seek to rob, kill and destroy. They will quickly recognize the difference.

We must transition from being blessed by their successes to being a blessing in their defeat/agony/failures.  Children are valuable to us. But let’s not value them for what they do for us or for how well they succeed in life, sports and other things. Be there to bless them when they don’t “hit it out of the park.” That might be your most important parental activity. God made us for them; not the other way around.

We must transition from living our dreams through them to believing in them to dream their own dream and chase it successfully. Since they weren’t made to finish the dreams we couldn’t, let them have their own life. They don’t have to be a lawyer, a teacher or a sports figure. They don’t have to be Republican or Methodist or even Texan. Open the door and show them the wide open spaces of life and then free them to roam. They are likely to go anyway, so just go ahead and make it your idea.

Transition is no time to retreat or recoil with fear or hopelessness. Every transition requires our best effort as a parent and our greatest attention to the details of relationship with our kids. Parents lead the way in helping their kids form and foster solid relationships in life. Teaching them to do so during the transitions of life at home is where they first learn.

Parenting is about feeding, clothing, helping, teaching, caring, hugging, disciplining and about 1,000 other daily needs our kids have. But helping them feel safety in the transitions of life may be the most important thing we do for and with them. For if children can’t adjust to transitions at home, they will be lost in the world that constantly is in transition.

Successful parental transitioning requires us to move from one stage of or approach to parenting to the next. Choosing to transition is likely one of the few areas of parenting that a parent has complete control over. A parent cannot make every decision or control every occurrence in their child’s life, but a parent does have complete control over her/his own attitudes, approaches and actions related to interacting with their children. In the end, our success as a parent may very well be measured by how well we transitioned along the way as our kids grew into the people they were born to become.

Get ready. A transition is just around the corner. You don’t want to be left behind. This part of parenting is a lot of fun. Get ready to move.

Parents, don’t exasperate your children by coming down hard on them. Take them by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master. (Ephesians 6:4 – The Message)