When I was 22 years old, I received a call from my wife, (Heather), informing me that I was going to be a dad. Instantly, I was overtaken by emotions of doubt, excitement, fear, and joy. In just 9 short months, I would be blessed with a child that would look to me to help shape their life. How would I do this? What would I teach them? What experiences, what lessons could I, a 22-year old man, give them? I did not have the answers that day. However, as time went on and he grew, I grew too. As I look back on this last 20 years, three areas have become my way of raising my children. I wish I could tell you that the principles of HITOP were there day one, but they were not. Humility, Integrity, Truth, Obedience, and Prayer was sprinkled throughout my life due to God’s grace. What I did learn and what I wish to share with you today is that, for me, being a dad has been about: Caring, Correcting, and Coaching. These are the three C’s of Fatherhood.
Caring – Setting the Course
Within the arms of a man lies the preciousness of life. Just a few pounds and less than 2 feet in length the eyes of joy look into yours with dependency, hope, and love. We each exchange thoughts of wonder. “Who will this person become to me?” “Will they take care of me, be involved in my life, love me, forgive me, and offer me grace?” I decided it started with me. I must sacrifice and be intentional for these questions to be answered in a way we both desired. Over the next year or so, this little one would rely on my wife and I for care. Feedings, diaper changes, baths, and protection done right would allow us to move from Caring to Correcting and all parents know, this transition happens quickly. It’s the first time you look into the rebellious little eyes as to say “don’t do that” and they respond “O’ I’m going to”. This stage can feel overwhelming in many ways, but the rewards overshadow. My fondest memories come from the evenings rocking our sons to sleep. I recall one night after we moved into our first home in Grimes and I was in the front room trying to get our oldest son to sleep, once I did I just continued to rock and hold him. I did not want this moment to end. My wife eventually came and checked on us and asked, “Are you going to lie him down?” I responded, “Not tonight, I am enjoying this.” Around 5am, I laid him in the crib and headed to bed. Caring comes best when we refuse to allow selfishness in. Sure I needed sleep, but I needed that moment more.
Correcting – Adjusting the Course
These next 16 years are filled with opportunities, if you choose to see them as such, to correct. Some welcome and others not so much. “Choke up on the bat” “For the third time, do the dishes” “Please put gas in the car so I don’t get it on empty”. But the importance of this phase is not merely about them being corrected. It’s equally important about you. As we extend grace, love, forgiveness, and self-control we get it. I recall a time when my youngest son was learning to drive. In the state Iowa, students begin driving at 14. One morning, while working at home, my son came into my office, said goodbye and headed out the door. The next thing I heard was a large crunching sound from our garage. Beings I park next to him, I believed he just hit my truck. Now, it’s important to note here, my temperament was not always one of calm. I have been known to react immediately, with anger, and frustration. This day however, God’s grace was on me. I heard the Spirit of God tell me, pray. Wait and pray. Moments later I walked to the garage and by then my son was standing outside his car, clearly upset and perhaps scared. Scared of my reaction I would guess. I placed my hands on his shoulders and looked him in the eyes. “Are you OK?” These were my first words, critically important as the first thing I said would likely be all he heard, especially if I choose wrong. As I spoke grace and truth into him, I watched him relax and calm before my eyes. He had hit the garage track and busted off his drive side mirror. The damage could have been much greater if it weren’t for what happened next. I told him he needed to get in the car and drive to school. He was scared, but I insisted as I know seeds of doubt and fear would root had he not. Later that day I took a note to his car explaining how much I loved him, how mistakes help us grow and learn, and how everything would be ok. He responded to me after school by explaining that my initial response meant a lot to him. It calmed him and gave him encouragement. Correcting does not have to hurt, it can be incredibly uplifting, the choice is ours.
Coaching – I'm Here for You, of Course
Today my boys are 17 and 20 and we are in the coaching phase. While new to this phase I have already learned some valuable lessons. Most notably coaching is much different than counseling or consulting. Coaching is welcomed, consulting not so much. Consulting is you “telling”, coaching is you waiting for them to seek your guidance and offering it in a way that you “help” them get to the answer on their own, and doing so invokes ownership. I will always cherish the times I rocked my boys to sleep at night, but the conversations I have been blessed with recently have made this phase my favorite yet. Watching my sons become Mighty Men of God, men of Humility, Integrity, Truth, Obedience, and Prayer has been the greatest gift as a father. I will always desire their health, wealth, and happiness to be there in their life, yet it is there holiness I pray they never lose.
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Until Next Time…
Chris Hewitt, HITOP Ministries WOE Writer