When Edric and I first became parents, we were wet behind the ears. Most of what we knew about raising our kids was theoretical or passed on from our own experiences as children. Eventually, we learned about biblical parenting principles and we applied them. We are still learning…
When we had Elijah, we were thrilled to be parents. But we didn’t quite get what it meant to be intentional and purposeful in raising our son. Edric was often preoccupied with doing his own thing when he got home from work — like turning on the TV or playing computer games, going out in the evenings for basketball with friends. Edric didn’t ignore Elijah, but their interactions with one another were minimal. The baby stage was foreign territory to him and I didn’t blame him for feeling like he couldn’t relate to a bouncing boy who pooped and peed on himself and wanted to be with mommy to breast feed. He would play with Elijah once in a while but father and son bonding occasions were not in his radar.
As Elijah got older and we had more kids, Edric began to change as a father. I remember an evening when we were sitting around the table for dinner and Edric asked Elijah how he could improve as a dad. Elijah must have been about five years old when he made the statement, “You can spend more time with me.” He used his hands to show that he had this imaginary meter for spending time with dad, and he explained that Edric was at the bottom of the meter. We all started laughing out loud because it was very candid and unscripted. He said it just like it was. “Dad your level is at 0.”
Of course, Edric wanted to improve! And I prayed for him, too. One of the things that really changed in his parenting style was the desire to be present and purposefully available to our kids, especially our sons. At a certain point, he recognized that God gave us three sons for a reason and he had to prayerfully consider what kind of father he needed to be. The boys were not going to grow up to be godly men by accident or osmosis. They needed guidance. They needed their dad.
So every year, he would sit down with me and talk about our goals for the kids. He would share about the areas he felt they needed to work on and how he intended to play a big part in mentoring and teaching them. I always appreciated this because it made me feel very secure and confident as a wife that my husband was in charge, that he actually had a plan and direction for the family. (In fact, I often tell him that this is one of his more attractive traits.)
During the second week of January, we had a meeting to talk about goals for the kids. He asked me to prepare my homeschool goals and we aligned on what I would work on and what he had itemized as a priority list for each of our kids. Some of the list covered spiritual and emotional aspects and others were practical skills.
One of the practical skills Edric outlined for our six year old, Edan, was to acquire the ability to swim and bike. Living in the city has put constraints on the amount of time we spend outside and this means we don’t have as many opportunities to expose our children to biking, swimming, climbing trees, playing in parks, etc. Sadly, our kids would be well-content to stay indoors and let their muscles atrophy too if Edric and I did not do anything about it. But since we grew up being outside for most of our childhood, we want our kids to experience the same joys and adventures we had. Plus, they need Vitamin D!
So…swimming and biking it is for now. Edric started Edan’s training program two weekends ago and I must say, it is impressive to watch him “coach” Edan. I am not talking about doggie-paddling stuff. Edric used to be a swimmer so he knows all the drills. His first hurdle was getting Edan to overcome his fear of the water and then putting his head under water and blowing bubbles. Well, I was amazed last Sunday when I saw Edan swimming in the big pool! He touched the bottom of the pool with his hands and he swam a significant distance all by himself. After just two sessions with his dad, Edan was laughing and thrilled that he accomplished so much. I was clapping my hands and cheering everytime time he would pop his head out of the water for recognition. (That’s my role in this swimming and biking training…the over-affirming cheerleader.)
Edric is able to do, in a fraction of the time, what would take me days and days to achieve with the boys. With him, they learn quicker. They develop confidence and masculine traits. They overcome their insecurities. I actually enjoy being on the sidelines spying on them. For one thing, it is fun to check out my husband. (Did I already say I find him so attractive earlier?) My second delight is seeing the expressions on my sons’ faces when they have Edric’s full and undivided attention. I see the way they look at Edric. Admiration, respect, desire to please, assurance, favor, love…it’s all mixed in there.
I get puppy eyes for sympathy when they need a hug or when they want me to say yes to a request. Okay, on occasion, I get sparkly eyes when they are excited about learning. Of course, I get the love look. The point is, I am not perceived as the hero. That sort of adulation is reserved for Edric. And it doesn’t make me envious. I want the boys to gravitate towards him. After all, I have my own little acolyte and her name is Tiana.
When Edric and I got home from “swimming lessons,” we talked about Edan’s progress. I also thanked him for following through with his commitment to teach Edan. He went on to say that Edan didn’t want to get out of the water because he was having so much fun, and then Edric started to get teary-eyed which caught me off-guard. “Are you okay?”, I asked him. Spontaneous tears seemed like a hormonal thing that would have been much more characteristic of me than him.
He answered, “I don’t know. I guess it is because I live for these moments, seeing our kids bloom and mature and being able to be a part of that. I enjoy ministry and I know that it is important, but you guys are my first ministry…you and the kids.”
Who had the love look now?! Me, of course! I fall in love with my husband all over again when he says things like this. I have always appreciated Edric as a husband, but in recent years, I have been so grateful to the Lord that he has embraced being a father. His commitment to family is a blessing that I attribute to the Lord’s work in his life. Many years ago, I really prayed that he would recognize how irreplaceable he is in the lives of our children…that they need him now, not just later, not from a distance, but up close. When Edric developed a burden to disciple, teach and train our kids, I knew that it was God who put that desire in him and continues to do so.
The reality is Edric is still very busy and he is not able to be with the kids 24/7 but he came up with a game-plan for our kids about 4 years ago. He told me we were going to use Luke 2:52 as a reference for how our children should mature. It reads, “And Jesus grew in wisdom, stature, favor with God and men.”
WISDOM: Are they able to discern right from wrong and make wise choices?
STATURE: Are they developing their physical abilities and talents?
FAVOR WITH GOD: Do they have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and do they have the heart to know, love, obey, worship, and serve him?
FAVOR WITH MAN: Are they learning biblical character traits and applying them with family members and others?
These four areas have simplified our parenting to the essentials. It has helped me to think through the goals I set for our homeschooling and Edric can major on the major to maximize his time with the kids. Just the other night, he reminded me again that it boils down to, “passing on a godly legacy.”
Being an intentional father doesn’t mean a dad has to quit his job and spend 14 hours with his child everyday. It’s about setting aside purposeful moments that are devoted to discipleship with resulting big impact.
The statistics on fatherless homes are so compelling, I thought I would include some highlights here to encourage all of us to pray for our husbands. We need them to lead spiritually and by godly example, and we need their effective discipleship in the home.
Children with actively involved fathers display less behavior problems in school.
Amato, P.R., and Rivera, F., 1999, “Paternal Involvement and Children’s Behavior Problems,” Journal of Marriage and the Family, 61, 375–384.
Girls with strong relationships with their fathers do better in mathematics.
Radin, N., and Russell, G., 1983, “Increased Father Participation and Child Development Outcomes,” in Fatherhood and Family Policy, edited by M.E. Lamb and A. Sagi, Hillside, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum, pp. 191–218.
Boys with actively involved fathers tend to get better grades and perform better on achievement tests.
Biller, H.B. 1993, Fathers and Families: Paternal Factors in Child Development, Westport, CT: Auburn House.
Research shows that even very young children who have experienced high father involvement show an increase in curiosity and in problem solving capacity. Fathers’ involvement seems to encourage children’s exploration of the world around them and confidence in their ability to solve problems.
Pruett, Kyle D. 2000. Fatherneed: Why Father Care is as Essential as Mother Care for Your Child. New York: Free Press.
From First Things First
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 18 million U.S. children now live in single-parent homes. Only 3.5 percent of these children live with their fathers.
“….the absence of the father from the home affects significantly the behavior of adolescents and results in greater use of alcohol and marijuana.” Source: Beman, Deane Scott. “Risk Factors Leading to Adolescent Substance Abuse.”
A 15-year-old girl who has lived with her mother only is three times as likely to lose her virginity before her sixteenth birthday than one who has lived in a home with both parents. Lee Smith, “The New Wave of Illegitimacy,” Fortune 18 (April 1994) 81-94.
85% of all children who show behavior disorders come from fatherless homes – 20 times the average. (Center for Disease Control) Fallen Fathers, 2008.
80% of rapists with anger problems come from fatherless homes –14 times the average. Justice & Behavior, Vol 14, p. 403-26
85% of all youths in prison come from fatherless homes – 20 times the average. Fulton Co. Georgia, Texas Dept. of Correction- Fallen Fathers
From The Fatherless Generation
Children with Fathers who are involved are more likely to get A’s in school.
Children with Fathers who are involved are more likely to enjoy school and engage in extracurricular activities.
Children with involved, loving fathers are significantly more likely to do well in school, have healthy self-esteem, exhibit empathy and pro-social behavior, and avoid high-risk behaviors such as drug use, truancy, and criminal activity compared to children who have uninvolved fathers.
Studies on parent-child relationships and child wellbeing show that father love is an important factor in predicting the social, emotional, and cognitive development and functioning of children and young adults.
Fatherlessness is being passed on from one generation to another like a cancer that is killing the families of today and tomorrow. Sadly, the cure is not found within ourselves. We cannot cure this ill without being healed by Jesus Christ first. Why? We have been separated from our own father — God the Father — by sin. But Jesus says, “I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
I think of Edric and my own dad as great fathers but God is still the best father of all. He loves each one of us perfectly and unconditionally, and he desires to have a relationship with us for eternity. If you came from a fatherless home or live in one, you don’t have be a victim of this trend. Come to the Father of All and experience his love through Jesus Christ. He will be father to you. He will love you as you long to be loved.