This last month has served to remind me of the importance of being willing to transition to different roles as a dad. My identity as a father remains the same, but I have a different role as my daughters and son move into new stages of life. I recognize that most of the conflict that we might experience in our relationship is due to my unwillingness to change my role to fit their stage of life.
On the Tuesday before my oldest daughter’s wedding, I was watching my youngest daughter play in her final season of college soccer. I was streaming the game online since she goes to school in Kansas. She was playing great until that moment when she went down in a heap and instantly waved for the trainers to come on the field. Terasue is with her in Kansas as she gets ready for surgery this Friday.
Watching in real time as your baby girl goes down in a game, and knowing instantly what the injury is, can be brutal for a father. Then, four days later, to watch your eldest daughter get into a car with a young man and drive away with him carrying his name, his honor, and his identity – that can also be brutal for a father. No matter how happy I am for her, to know that she no longer carries the honor of my name is a new struggle.
We should adapt to the changes in our children as they grow up, mature, and move into adulthood. Our parenting style and our role must change, or we risk driving a wedge between our children and ourselves, a wedge that is greater than the distance between us.
Age of Obedience
When your children are young and dependent upon you for food and shelter, you must embrace the authority you have as the king in your home. You must rule your home with consistency and benevolence. Your children look to you to be the provider, protector, judge, and even executioner. They may ask why during these days, but the child’s only real responsibility is to obey their parents as citizens of their parents’ kingdom.
Age of Truth
During the adolescent years, most of the conflict between parents and children arises when the parent is unwilling to let go of the authority as a king and embrace their role as a prophet. Prophets proclaim truth, they do not command, rule, or demand obedience. Obviously, this doesn’t happen on a specific birthday! We must gradually transition our children during this season into a place of being able to make their own decisions – with our influence as the primary truth-tellers in their life. It is important to warn, inspire, and challenge our children during this stage and answer the question, “Why?” I personally found the prophets of scripture helpful during this season – especially when my children behaved badly!
Age of Wisdom
The transition to being a sage has been the most difficult and yet the most rewarding. As a man of many words, learning to keep my mouth shut has been incredibly hard! Waiting on a hill for my children to come to me is brutal. I am a chaser. I am a leader. I am a preacher. I am an initiator. I am not a very good sage. However, when I am truly a “silent partner” in the business of life and only speak when spoken to, it is in those moments that I have seen my children reveal the fingerprint of God upon their lives and worldview. I must choose not to manipulate or direct – not natural for me at all!
My children are spread out over six years – not much really. However, there was one point in my life that I had one daughter expecting me to be a king, my son expected me to solely be a prophet, and my eldest daughter wanted me to just sit on a hill waiting for her to come to me. That was a difficult season of our lives as parents – I can’t imagine being a single parent in. If you are navigating these stages by yourself, I suggest surrounding yourself with community – I suggest transformational community for all of us. Interestingly, scripture demonstrates these characteristics of God as our Father as He deals with humanity – you will probably gain some great insights there as well as you engage your own children!