Today is my son's 17th birthday. What a joy it has been to see him grow in our home.
However, this post is probably more about me than him, and I guess I should begin by stating that. You can read on if you want, however as parents we do self reflection on our kids' important days at times.
I had a dad who was emotionally distant and didn't connect well with me or my brother. He was an atheist and had been a B-52 pilot in the Airforce. He was physically abused as a kid and I think in light of that he did a good job. However, he never missed our birthdays (except when he did a tour in Vietnam). He was at least present. Of course, as usuall I took my toys and went off to play with my friends. Didn't interact with him much. I always wondered if he felt it was a waste of his time to sacrifice a day to see me maybe 1 hour.
I guess I figured in my attempts to be a better dad and as a Christian, that was the least I could do.
I've so far been able to maintain that tradition. I think over the years that it wasn't hard. It is the right thing to do but I've met a lot of men who admit to not being consistent in their families.
Nathan's birthday comes in August when there are opportunities to speak at Family conferences. I remember last year backing out of a conference because they scheduled me to speak on his birthday, when I specifically said I would return home the night before. The secretary said, "Sorry, you'll have to miss," the director said, "No, we will change the date for you." It worked out. I actually met men at the conference who shared that they had missed their kid's birthday for a conference in the past. When I was working on my doctorate I missed the first day of a couple classes because I wanted to be there for his birthday. It really was a sacrifice and I had to work my tail off to catch up. Well--no more of a sacrifice than my dad was willing to make for me.
Hunter's birthday comes during one of the biggest national Biblical Scholar's conferences in the country. I make it 4 out of 8 years. I enjoy the conference. I also have many men tell me that they miss their kid's birthdays for the conference.
Caleb's comes one week after Lori's birthday, so there's never been a problem. Course, he's only four. I wonder what is coming down the pike.
It may seem like I am bragging and I don't mean to. I guess blogs are the place to talk about ourselves. I think how easy it is to say yes to speaking engagements. How easy it is to manipulate our kids and spouses by telling them "this is important," or by saying, "I'll make it up to you by doing..."
However, I wonder if it is ever really worth the sacrifice. Jesus said, "What good will it be for a someone if they gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can a one give in exchange for their soul?" (Matt. 16:26) I wonder what would happen if we substituted family for sour (maybe made it plural instead of singular)?
Would it ever be worth the sacrifice?
Its not been that hard to say no the more I have done it. In actuality, I am fine and the opportunity to speak has always come around at a better and more convenient time. Even more, I have not ever wrestled with guilt when I have been gone and am preparing to speak or listen.
While this is self reflection I am hoping that some of you will at least take this to heart. Maybe your dad or parents weren't there for your special days. It doesn't matter that you understood (or were expected to understand). How did you feel? How would you have felt if they would have been there?
Maybe you have been there and are struggling to "be there." I hope this helps you. I hope you ask yourself and your families if it has been worth it. I hope you see what you have been missing.
You can change the future. You can be there. You can start a new tradition. Your kids will never criticize you for being there.
No one has left this life regretting being there for their families!