Fathers are given the lead charge to bring the children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Eph 6:4). For a short, precious season, together with their wives, they get to be the first to “write on a blank sheet” and influence who their children will grow up to be. But if they are not present sufficiently, that page will still be filled but by someone or something else (like the internet). Therefore, this calls for great intentionality.
When our three kids were in their pre-school to primary ages, we often brought them to the beach. The night before, we would pack our beach pack (sand toys, ball, kite, mats, goggles, etc). In the morning, we would wake everyone up by 8am, have breakfast, sunblock everyone, put on their swim wear, pack them into the car, swing by a market or hawker centre to buy packet lunch, and then head to the beach. We would swim, build sandcastles, tunnels, bury someone in the sand, play ball or fly a kite. After lunch, we would shower everyone and wash up the toys, before returning home.
Once our neighbour passed by and remarked, “Both of you are very energetic, yeah?”. Till today, my wife and I cannot stop laughing when recalling that remark. Yes, parenting is tiring. Many might say that it is too much trouble. But we had never felt that way. On the contrary, we found it enjoyable and even necessary. Apart from the beach, we also did other outdoor activities together like cycling, swimming, walks in MacRitchie, participation in running races and many visits to the zoo. Till today, we recall the many memorable moments we had built up together with much joy and fondness.
But on top of building memorable moments, the more crucial point is that it opens up many opportunities for us to observe and know them better (e.g., their temperament, likes/ dislikes, strengths/ weaknesses, listening in to their hearts, and monitoring any stress points from school or even home). Likewise, they too get to observe and know us better. There are no short cuts to these. Without intentional moments outside of school routine together, deeper discoveries and connections cannot happen.
During their young formative years, if you find your personal time / energy crunched on most days, it is imperative to review and reprioritize your task list. Putting the children as priority (after God and spouse) may mean putting on hold other priorities for a season (e.g., career advancement, personal ambition, shortening time spent with extended family and friends or even how many ministries to serve in).
This will be very worthwhile because the scary truth is that with the children, there is no PAUSE button to let you do other things first and return to the point where you had left off. Also, no U-TURNs if for example you had not spent sufficient time instilling basic discipline in them during their toddler to primary ages, it might be too late to discipline them when they have reached their teens. During their young formative years, you just need to overcompensate and be there a lot.
Today, I celebrate and affirm many fathers I see in our midst who are very involved in their children, especially those with infants and toddlers. Good job and Happy Father’s Day!
By brother Sam Tan