Before my children were good swimmers, I remember the days of taking them to the pool and them spending more time standing on the side of the pool nervously looking at the deep water, than they would actually spend in the water. As much as people would try to coerce them to jump the water, it just wasn’t happening. Teaching my kids to be the great swimmers they are today was a long and expensive process. One particular day in this process opened my eyes to some valuable parenting truths that I wish I got right more of the time.
One day I was lounging on the pool deck as my little girl was on the side of the pool refusing the pleas of many others to jump. But everything changed when daddy got in the pool. I jumped in the deep end, looked her in the eyes, stretched out my arms and asked her to jump to me. As she saw my eyes locked on her, my arms reaching out to her, hearing me asking her to trust me, she uncrossed her arms… reached them out… and jumped. What happened after that was a wonderful reminder to me about my unique position as a parent. It also serves as a reminder of how I can love my kids well everyday.
It reminds me that, as a parent, I have to get in the water.
I can’t attempt to outsource my unique role as a parent. Sure, it’s ok to have coaches, Pastors, teachers, etc. to be a part of the team, but as soon as I allow any of them to replace my voice and my presence in my child’s life…I lose. And most of all, my child loses. Yes, it’s easier (much easier) to parent from the pool deck, but there is absolutely no one or nothing that can take my place in the water with my children.
My presence with my children is where it all begins. (And one thing I’ve discovered, it’s not all about quantity of time as much as it is QUALITY of time with them.) It’s about when I’m present, being PRESENT. It’s about those moments when I lock my eyes on them and let them know they have me and all of me. How do I love my kids well?
1) I love my kids well by being present. (Being “in the water.”)
2) I love my kids well by developing trust.
This is done through consistency, honesty, & authenticity. My daughter knew I was not going to drop her because of the consistency with which I caught her jumping off of the bed and the couch. She also knew that I was not going to lie to her. Courtney and I made the decision when our kids were born that we would never lie to them. Now this has led to some interesting conversations. Sometimes we just have to say, “We are not going to answer that question right now.” But we want them to know that they can trust the words of their parents. If they can’t trust my words, they can’t trust me.
I’ve learned that if I’m committed to such honesty, I have to be committed to authenticity. Some of the best parenting moments I’ve ever had were in times of asking my kids for their forgiveness. When they heard their dad say, “I’m sorry I reacted that way.” Or “Your mom deserved better from me in that moment.” Authenticity and honesty paves the way for trust and communicates love in a deep, deep sense.
3) I love my kids well by allowing struggle.
I know this sounds weird, but it’s so true. It’s pretty obvious in the pool that struggle is a part of learning to swim. Sometimes we forget this out of the pool though. Of course, we want to protect our kids, because we love them. But I love my children enough to want them to learn to swim so they don’t drown in the deep waters of life.
We have to remember the goal of parenting is not to simply protect our kids. Our job is to prepare them to responsibly and ably live God’s best for their lives as adults. And this preparation involves struggle, discipline, and sometimes even pain. The older my children get, the more I have to be willing to wisely allow them to experience the discomforts of growth.
4) I love my kids well by investing the right things in them.
By giving them what they need, not simply what they want. As my daughter learned how to swim, I constantly reminded her WHY it was important to me that she could swim. I reminded her how precious she was to me and that I would do whatever it took for her to properly handle the dangers of being in & around water. Of course she didn’t always want to go to swim practice, but it was something she needed. Having our kids learn to be great swimmers was so important to us, that Courtney & I made it priority…with our time, finances, & presence.
How much more important is it that we make the spiritual growth and development of our children a priority…with our time, finances & presence.
Deuteronomy 11:18-21 talks about the spiritual investment of parents in their children,
“So commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these words of mine… Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, so that as long as the sky remains above the earth, you and your children may flourish in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors.”
What is the result of such an investment?? I think Jeremiah 17:7-8 gives a pretty good picture,
“…blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.”
This begins by a right understanding of what my kids need, and a commitment to give them that at all costs.
The last thing I learned in the pool that day it that,
5) I love my kids well when we have fun!
What made jumping in the pool that day so special for my daughter was not the swim lesson. It certainly wasn’t the struggle. It was the moments between lessons where she laughed, splashed, and was thrown high in the air by her daddy. She couldn’t fully grasp her need to be a proficient swimmer or the significance of the lessons I was trying to teach. But she did know that she was loved by her daddy that day…and that was fun!
Trust me, I feel like I get parenting wrong a lot more than I get it right. But that one day at the pool serves as a reminder that God has equipped me (just like he has equipped you) to love our kids well.
How can we be better equipped to love our kids well? Easy answer…by investing in our own spiritual growth. As we grow closer to God, we better demonstrate his love. 2 Timothy 3:17 reminds us of the benefits of being in God’s Word,
“…God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.”
And I don’t know of a better work than daily modeling for our kids the love of an ever-present, trustworthy, loving God who wants the very best for his children. Be encouraged today, and go show your kids this kind of love!
From the Sugar Hill Church Weekday Podcast: Click HERE to check out podcast.