It was one of those terrible fights, that starts about nothing and very quickly gets very ugly. I know that you know nothing about those but let’s just pretend anyway. It started just as we both got in the car to make the less than ten minute journey to drop the boys off at school and in that short time we were shouting, gesticulating and finally steaming in silence. Not pretty. Not our finest moment.
When we reached the school, I sprung up, wrenched the door open, and offered a terse “Come boys”
But my four-year old had other ideas, he got out of his car seat, put his head between the seats, looked at my wife and rebuking us said “You guys mustn’t fight.” Then he turned his head to look at me and said, “You must love Jesus.”
To my shame it was not well received at that moment. I mean, who honestly wants to hear the truth you taught your four-year old when you really want to be angry!
Later we apologised to the boys for not trusting Jesus or listening to them when they reminded us. It was a simple but deeply profound conversation.
On a similar vein: Is Following Jesus Really That Simple?
Today we celebrated “Nathan Day”! Four years ago today we adopted our “first-youngest” child, Nathan. ”First youngest” is the way I like to confuse people, in the same way that Domingo is my “second oldest” child. Nathan was adopted four years ago when he was only two months old, hence he is the first. We knew at the time that he had a biological brother, who we later adopted just before his third birthday. Hence Nathan became our “first youngest” child. Apparently the done thing in adoption is to adopt in birth order. We found this out about a year after we adopted Domingo. Sometimes it feels like we always have to do thing differently in our family… even without trying…
We asked Nathan what we wanted to do for “Nathan Day”. The predictably boy answer was of course, to go see scorpions and spiders! So we did! Throw in a few monkeys, iguanas, snakes, birds, butterflies, and a blue duiker for good measure and a good time was had by all.
Four years into parenting and two boys later (now 5 and 4 years old) what pearls of wisdom do I have to share. Honestly not many, but here are a couple of thoughts:
1) Relax – nobody else knows what they are doing either. Not matter what they say.
2) Have fun. Nothing means more to my boys than taking time to play fight, chase them around the house, play cricket or read a book.
3) Eat supper together. Around the table if you can. This is where we hear the stories of the day. Or the ones Nathan makes up out of his head. We can pray together. Laugh together. Talk about the day together. Share knowledge. Prepare the boys for upcoming events. And because our table at least 2-3 times a week includes others we are able to model gospel inclusivity, hospitality, fellowship and mission to the boys in a very practical and simple way.
4) Include them in your life and in your ministry. Take them visiting. Tell them why all these people are in your house. When you pray with them pray for those who do and don’t love Jesus. Domingo regularly prays, on his initiative, for people he knows who don’t love Jesus. We often eat together before we do a study or have a discussion and mostly the boys are a part of that eating together.
5) Keep it simple. Your kids don’t need all the gadgets, all the newest experiences or to go to all the “must do” places around the city. What they need is you. They need your time. And they need time to dream, make up games, let their imaginations run wild, to play, to draw and to explore. And they need relationships with others outside your family. Our boys are blessed to have a relational circle which includes many adults not related to us who love them and they love, both Christian and non-Christians.
6) Resist the urge to make them into cold-hearted legalists. Don’t simply get them to do the right thing. That can be easier and more immediately rewarding for a tired parent. But don’t give in to the temptation. Work hard to gospel their hearts. Instead of simply teaching them, for example, to share (result) teach them why we share. We share because we have a good and kind king who laid down his life to give us life. Teach them to do things with a “happy heart” – we are not merely after obedience but joy in obedience. Because it is good to follow Jesus. He is a good King and his way are good. His ways bring joy and freedom.