Last year, we managed to get all our kids and grandkids together in the same location, dressed just right for the perfect portrait. But you know how kids are …
Most of our grandkids are toddlers and preschoolers, so if I said it was chaos, that might be putting it mildly. What I remember was kids melting down, running off in the wrong direction, or just about falling asleep. Then, a diaper change and a mess on a sweater.
I mean, is it even worth the hassle for a photo?
Those thoughts did go through my mind that day. And I might be overstating it a bit, but for a while it was not fun. And as a granddad, I wasn’t even involved in most of it.
But when I saw the photo, I never would have known there were all those challenges. Everyone looked great! And 10 or 20 years from now when I look at that photo, I’m sure I won’t even remember what that day was like. I’ll just be thinking about my amazing grandkids and how they’ve grown and changed, and I’ll be wondering where those precious years went.
If your family is anything like mine, there are a lot of holiday events and activities like that. You anticipate the “perfect” meal or evening or outing, but things go wrong. The kids argue and fight. Or there’s a blizzard. Or you can’t get in to see the Christmas play. One thing builds on the last, and pretty soon you wonder if it’s even worth it.
Well, I’m here to tell you, it is.
In many ways, I think our kids’ memories are like that photo. What they remember in the years ahead is going to be better than what you may feel at the time as the dad. It might be hard for you to get past today’s challenges, but I urge you to “see the bigger picture” … so to speak.
So expect a little chaos. But also expect a great family time this Christmas. Invest yourself 100 percent in connecting with family members and bringing home genuine joy for them.
When things go wrong—and they will—you don’t have to worry so much or get stressed out. Just smile, keep rolling with it, and look forward to the next thing on your schedule.
When my kids were younger, they thought there wasn’t anything I couldn’t do and that I never made mistakes. Not because it was true, but because I told them so.
Eventually they realized it wasn’t true and it was all a joke. They learned I did have limitations and I did make mistakes.
Some mistakes we make as dads are easy to let our kids see. But there are other mistakes you and I probably wish they never knew about. But I’ve come to learn that our kids need to see our mistakes, and not just the little ones with little consequences. They should also see the big mistakes with big consequences.
When we let our kids see our mistakes, it shows them mistakes can have good results in the end. It gives them opportunities to learn from our mistakes, which may prevent them from making the same mistakes in the future. If you want to give your kids these opportunities, then here are seven mistakes you should let them see you make:
1. Mistakes in your finances. Maybe you have bounced a check, have paid a bill late or have mismanaged money that prevented you from taking care of a financial obligation or opportunity. Use this opportunity to teach your kids about financial responsibility.
2. Mistakes in your marriage. Your kids may see you and your wife not on the best terms in a disagreement. Don’t let them see you in a heated argument, but don’t hide the fact that you disagree either. Let them see it based on their level of maturity and understanding. And let them see the resolution.
3. Mistakes in your word. Have you ever said you’d do something and didn’t do it? Then had negative consequences? Allow your kids to see that so they know the importance of keeping your word.
4. Mistakes in your work. Have you made a mistake that made you and your company look bad? Or have you been fired from a job? As hard as it may be to tell your wife, letting your kids know why you are home during the day is even tougher. But you should let them see it. It’ll help them see not only the consequences, but also the hard work it takes to recover.
5. Mistakes in your relationship with them. When you make mistakes with your kids when they are young, not too much will be made of it. But when your kids get older, your mistakes will not be glanced over. They’ll be the first to tell you. These are great opportunities to show humility by apologizing.
6. Mistakes in your punctuality. This is our family’s Achilles’ heel. Our kids can learn a lot of what not to do in this area. Maybe you aren’t as bad, but on occasion you do run late. Let them see it so they can appreciate when a person is timely.
7. Mistakes in your health. Perhaps you’ve not taken care of your body like you desire. Let your kids see the mistakes. This just might encourage you to do better with your eating, exercise and even sleep. There would be nothing greater than them seeing you complete a personal makeover to improve your health and quality of living in front of their eyes.
I’m a mom of three boys and three girls. It’s easy to show my girls that I love them. I sit and ask them questions. I listen to them talk and talk and talk. I buy them pink nail polish with sparkles. I “get” girls.
It was harder to figure out my boys. When I asked them questions about their day, I could feel their frustration. Once, when I was asking my young adult son about his first day of college, my husband turned to me and said, “Why are you grilling him?”
What? I was just trying to show I was interested. My daughter would have loved to share every detail!
If you’re a mom of older sons, it can sometimes be hard to show your love. Here are 15 ideas to do just that.
15 Ways to Show Your Teen Son Your Love
1. Go on a long drive and just sit side by side. Don’t ask any questions; just enjoy the view and wait for him to talk. (It will feel awkward, but I guarantee your son will love the side-by-side time.)
2. Ask your son about his most recent video game … and then just listen.
3. Make your son’s favorite dinner and let him know you were thinking of him.
4. Tell your son how proud you are of a good character trait you see in him.
5. Visit him at his work. Don’t make it a big deal, but just smile and wave.
6. Invite him to lunch, your treat, at his favorite restaurant.
7. When you’re at the grocery store, text your son and ask if there’s anything he needs.
8. Offer to play his favorite board game with him … even if you know there’s no chance of your winning, even if you try.
9. Do his laundry without making a big deal about it.
10. Stop what you’re doing and really listen the next time he wants to tell you something.
11. Let your son overhear you talking to someone else and praising one of his accomplishments.
12. Make snacks for your son and his friends when they’re hanging out at your house.
13. Buy a book he’s interested in and leave it on his bed with a note.
14. Show up the next time he invites you to do something with him.
15. Take his problems seriously, even when they don’t seem like a big deal to you.
These seem like simple things, but you know you’re making a difference when you see your son’s smile!
Now, how about you? What are ways you show your teen son that you love him?.
Tricia Goyerhas written more than 35 books, including both novels that delight and entertain readers and nonfiction titles that offer encouragement and hope. She has also published more than 500 articles in national publications such as Guideposts, Thriving Family, Proverbs 31, and HomeLife Magazine.
So I thought I’d go to the well again and share these 10 more things wives want to hear from their husbands.
1. “I’m your biggest fan.” Everyone wants someone to celebrate their wins and encourage them in their struggles. Be sure your wife knows that you will always be there to cheer her on.
2. “I’m thankful for the little things you do.” If your wife makes you coffee every morning, appreciate this small act of kindness with thankfulness. Don’t fail to notice the small ways she shows her love to you each day.
3. “Let’s take a walk together.” Show your wife that she’s important by prioritizing your day to set aside time to be with her.
4. “I miss you when we’re apart.” Remind your wife that she is constantly on your mind whether you are at work, in the car or anywhere else. Never take her presence for granted.
5. “I’m here for you.” You won’t always understand everything that your wife is going through. But youcan listen and sympathize with her by letting her cry on your shoulder when life gets tough.
6. “You’ll always have me by your side.” No matter what life throws at you— parenting challenges, hard financial decisions or family tragedies—let your wife know that you’re walking with her and will carry her if you need to.
7. “I want to be the man you deserve.” Realize that there will be times when you fail your wife. When you do, apologize, learn from those mistakes, and let her know that you want to be a better husband.
8.“You love others so well.” Be sure she knows that you see the way she interacts with her friends and family. Then be a voice of encouragement to her in these relationships.
9. “I love you more every day.” Never let your wife forget that she is lovely, beautiful and breathtaking. Show her that you will continue to romance her for the rest of your life.
10. “How can I serve you today?” Your wife needs to know that you want to support and serve her in everything she does. Just asking this question will convey to her how much you care.
What are some other things wives want to hear from their husbands? Please share with me below.
Sometimes it’s easier to apply God’s truths to my life than to the lives of my children. I don’t know why that is. Maybe I feel like I should be able to fix things for them because I’m their mom.
If I just love them enough, they won’t feel the void their Dad’s departure left. Nope—not possible. Only God can.
If I just spend enough time with them, they won’t miss their father so much. Nope—not possible. Only God can.
If I just do enough for them, they’ll know that they are valuable and loved. Nope—not possible. Only God can.
If I make life easier for them, the pain won’t be as acute. Nope—not possible. Only God can.
What I’ve done in my feverish attempt to fill the hole left by their father is become completely exhausted and a bit ineffective as a parent. It might have served a purpose to a degree at the beginning, but now I have children who are selfish about my time, demanding of my resources, thoughtless of the dynamics of our family and a bit entitled in their mentality.
Lest it sound like I have the rottenest kids on the East Coast, let me say they are all wonderful. They all have lovely, sweet moments and kind words often. My teenage daughter still calls me “Mommy” sometimes, which absolutely melts my heart. My tweenage son still enjoys reading with me each night while we snuggle. My 6-year-old loves to draw pictures to encourage me. And at the most surprising and sweetest times, my 5-year-old will flash me the sign for “I love you.” They all bless me; they just don’t really help me!
I’ve noticed recently that they don’t seem to be getting some pretty obvious house rules. You know, the knock-before-entering thing. The don’t-help-yourself-to-mom’s-things-without-asking thing. The pick-up-after-yourself thing. The whole obey thing.
I’ve made myself entirely too available for them, so now they expect me to always be available for them. I’ve allowed them to enter my space freely and, boy, am I paying for that now! There are always people in my room messing with my stuff, making a mess.
During two years of an overly distracted life, I communicated more to a screen than to the people in my family. My schedule was so tightly packed that I constantly found myself saying, “We don’t have time for that.” And because there wasn’t a minute to spare, that meant no time to relax, be silly or marvel at interesting wonders along our path. I was so focused on my agenda that I lost sight of what really mattered.
Calling all the shots was a mean voice in my head. My internal drill sergeant was continually pushing me to make everything sound better, look better and taste better. My body, my house and my achievements were never good enough. Holding myself to such unattainable standards weighed heavily on my soul, and my inner turmoil eventually spilled out at people I loved the most.
Sadly, there was one person in particular who bore the brunt of my discontent: my firstborn daughter.
She could not make mess without me shaking my head in disappointment.
She could not forget her homework, her jacket or her lunchbox without me making a big deal about it.
She could not spill, stain, break or misplace without being made to feel like she’d made the worst mistake in the world.
Although it pains me to write this, I remember sighing heavily in annoyance when she fell down and hurt herself because it threw me off my “master schedule.” My daughter was not allowed to be a child who learned by trying and, yes, sometimes failing.
The truth hurts, but the truth heals … and brings me closer to the person and parent I want to be.
Every time I came down hard on my daughter, I justified my behavior by telling myself I was doing it to help her—help her become more responsible, capable and efficient and preparing her for the real world. I told myself I was building her up. But in reality, I was tearing her down.
I vividly remember the day my mother was visiting from out of town. The children were playing alone in the basement. My younger daughter began crying hysterically. I ran downstairs, fearing she was seriously hurt.
The first question out of my mouth was directed at my older daughter. “What did you do?” I asked angrily.
My child didn’t bother to explain that her little sister had slipped on the library book that was sitting on the bottom step. There really was no point. My beautiful child with humongous brown eyes that once held so much optimism looked defeated. Silent tears of a broken spirit slid down her face. My daughter knew it didn’t matter what she said, she’d still be wrong; it would still be her fault.
And there was my mother standing beside her, a silent witness to the whole ugly scene.
As my older daughter ran off to the sanctity of her bedroom, an unexpected question came out of my mouth. “You think I am too hard on her, don’t you?” I snapped.
My mom, who’d experienced her own difficult parenting moments and struggles, held no judgment in her eyes, only sadness. Her simple response of “yes” only confirmed what I knew in my heart.
I mustered up the courage to find the words that needed to be said. Apologizing didn’t come easily for someone who strived to make everything look perfect all the time, but I knew what needed to be said.
I found my child crumpled up like a dejected rag doll on top of her bed—her face puffy and red from crying.
“I’m sorry,” I mumbled.
My daughter didn’t move.
I sat down on the edge of her bed and began saying things I’d never said to another human being—not even myself. “I feel mad inside a lot. I often speak badly about myself in my head. I bully myself. And when I bully myself, it makes me unhappy, and then I treat others badly—especially you. It is not right, and I am going to stop. I am not sure how, but I will stop. I am so very sorry,” I vowed, trying not to cry.
My daughter looked unsure as to what to do with this confession, this unusual offering from her mother who rarely admitted any wrongdoing. I didn’t blame her for the skeptical look she gave me. I understood why she didn’t say anything back, but somewhere in those eyes I saw hope—hope that things could be different.
I desperately wanted things to be different too. It was time to stop being so hard on my child; it was time to stop being so hard on myself. I prayed I could stand up to the inner bully. I knew I needed an easy first step. I decided to use one simple word: Stop.
Within the hour, I had a chance to try it. The first critical thought that popped into my head arose as I was preparing to leave the house: I looked at my reflection and thought, “You look fat. You can’t go out looking like that.”
“Stop!” I assertively thought to myself, shutting down any further criticisms. Then I quickly turned away from the mirror and recited these words: “Only love today. Only love today.”
I used the same strategy when interacting with my child a few minutes later. Before any harsh words came out of my mouth about the way she was sloppily packing her bag of things, I cut off my inner critic by saying, “Stop! Only love today.” Then I swallowed the hurtful words and relaxed my disapproving face.
Within mere days of using the “stop” technique, I noticed a change. With a more positive thought process, it was easier to let go of the need to control, dictate and criticize. In response, my daughter began taking more chances and began revealing her true passions.
She started movie-making and website design on the computer. She made doll furniture and clothing to sell in the neighborhood. She began baking new recipes without any help.
Nothing she did was perfect. Nor was it mess-free or mistake-free, but the moment I said something positive, I saw her blossom a little more. That is when I began to clearly see beyond the mistakes and messes to what was truly important.
I began noticing my child’s inner beauty rather than looking for perfection on the outside.
I began paying more attention to the person she was rather than the successes she achieved.
I began letting her be who she was meant to be instead of some idealistic version I had in my head.
When I stopped being a bully to my child and myself, opportunities for growth and connection opened up. Over time, significant progress was made. In a little less than two years on my journey to let go of perfection and distraction, I received the confirmation I never thought I would receive.
My daughter was outside before school, tending to a garden she created smack dab in the middle of the yard. I watched from the kitchen window as she lovingly tended to her miniature plot. I was captivated by the utter joy on her face. She was clearly at peace.
Since my dad loves to garden and had taught my daughter a few things, I took a picture and sent it to my parents. Nothing could have prepared me for the gift I would receive in return.
My parents wrote, “Thank for this precious picture of our beautiful granddaughter. Over the last two years, we have seen a tremendous change in her. We no longer see a scared look in her eyes; she is less fearful about you being upset or impatient with her. She is much happier and more relaxed. She is thriving and growing into a content, creative and nurturing person. We know for a fact the changes we see in her coincide with the changes we have also seen in you.”
My friends, I have the following message to offer anyone who wants to believe today can be different than yesterday:
If you think that criticizing, belittling or critiquing yourself will make you smarter, fitter or more valuable, please reconsider.
If you think badgering, bullying or constantly correcting your child will make him or her more likable, more confident or more successful, please reconsider.
Because the truth is this:
It’s hard to love yourself with a bully breathing down your neck.
It’s hard to love yourself when the one person who’s supposed to love you unconditionally doesn’t.
It’s hard to become the person you’re supposed to be when you aren’t allowed to fall down and get back up.
Jason Bradshaw grew up in a middle-class home. He was the oldest of three kids and was the only son. His parents loved each other. But when Jason was 12, tragedy struck their family. Jason’s father was killed in a car accident. The family was devastated, and Jason’s mother grieved for several years.
As Jason got older, his mother poured her life into him. He was the apple of her eye, and she often saw her husband in him as he got older. “He looks much like his father,” she thought to herself. His mother doted on Jason, and sometimes Jason reacted to what felt smothering to him.
Jason’s mother often prevented Jason from doing things that normal boys of his age do, for fear of him getting hurt or even losing Jason. Gradually, Jason began to feel controlled and manipulated by his mother. This developed into a love-hate relationship with his mom. On the one hand, he knew he was now the male head of the family and wanted to care for his mom, but he hated the control he felt.
Jason began to date girls as he got older and found that he sometimes masturbated to relieve the stress and pent-up desires he felt inside. He also found himself on the internet checking out pornographic pictures. He didn’t know why he did this. He just thought it was normal for boys his age.
Jason went on to college and kept a distant relationship between him and his mom. He wanted to respect and care for her, but he wanted to keep his distance and gain his independence. Jason got engaged after college and things were great with his new wife. However, over the next several years he found that there was conflict in his relationship with his wife.
Sometimes he felt the same feelings he felt when he was growing up with his mother. That feeling of control gave him a sick stomach. He often reacted to his wife when those feelings swelled up inside, “Stop trying to control me,” he would say. His wife was surprised at these reactions as she was only trying to connect emotionally with Jason. She wanted to be a part of his life. Jason pulled away each time he felt these feelings.
When Jason and his wife visited his mom, his wife noticed that Jason’s personality often changed when the three of them were together. Jason’s wife felt like a third wheel. It almost felt like Jason was married to his mother instead of her. This caused arguments among them and Jason often demonstrated a very unloving spirit to his wife. Jason would always defend his treatment of his mother, often at the expense of his wife.
This pattern continued for many years into their marriage. Finally Jason’s wife decided they needed professional help. Jason reacted negatively to the idea and felt the only problem they had was his wife kept trying to control him and she needed to stop. However, reluctantly, Jason agreed to go to counseling.
Jason, to his surprise, discovered in the counseling that the reason he reacted to his wife’s “control and manipulation” as he perceived it, was due to something that happened in his childhood that related to his mother. The feelings he was feeling were the same feelings he felt when he was a teenager growing up. In essence, Jason was shocked to discover he was subconsciously viewing his wife as his mother. As the truth of his situation unfolded, Jason was able to recognize why he reacted to his wife this way.
Today Jason and his wife are happily married. However, many couples who have the same symptoms often result in divorce. This same scenario happens when a father divorces a wife. The mother is often left emotionally bankrupt and she seeks to meet her emotional needs from her son. However, a son is not made to emotionally bond with his mother and the pain that is caused within him must be released through some form of sexual expression. That is one reason Jason turned to sex to relieve his emotional pain.
Compounded with this is the legitimate need for Jason to have an emotional connection with a female, but because of his negative perception of his wife, he often sought that emotional connection through women at his workplace or in other social settings. He was often seen as a flirt with women but Jason denied such behavior. This too is rooted in the mother-son bonding relationship.
There is a crisis in marriage today. Research reveals the Christian divorce rate is higher than non-believers. There are many reasons for this, but one of those reasons is rarely spoken about. It has to do with the inappropriate bonding between a mother and her son during his adolescent years.
Many men never emotionally bond to their wives because of the impact of being emotionally bonded to their mothers during their adolescent years. The reason many men are not able to bond with their wives is often due to mother-son bonding that takes place during adolescence.
Dr Paul Hegstrom explains in his book, Broken Children, Grown Up Pain, that “a husband without an emotional bond to his wife sees her as someone who sleeps with him, cleans the house, takes care of the children, and works—he doesn’t see her as a real, living, emotional person.” As a result, the husband is often distant emotionally to his wife, but he does not recognize this in himself. However, his wife definitely knows it. She tries to connect on an emotional level only to be perceived as trying to control him. This leads to conflicts in the relationship.
If the father and mother are not bonded to one another, the mother will often bond to the oldest son. This can happen as a result of an absent father, either physically or emotionally. If a wife is not getting her emotional needs met through her husband, she may attempt to draw this from her son. If the parenting style is weak in emotional validation, giving words of love, or shaming of the child, these combinations will eventually surface through problems in the marital relationship in adulthood.
Resolving an Inner Conflict
When mothers bond with sons during adolescence, the son rebels against this bonding because he is not wired to bond with any female once they get into adolescence without some form of sexual expression. When they should be growing independent from their mother during this time, they find themselves in bondage to their mother’s emotional control. This all happens subconsciously.
Gordon Dalbey, author of Healing the Masculine Soul, explains that “beyond the basic fact of initial physical dependence upon the mother, the quality of that bonding experience also influences the son’s later relationships with women. If the boy’s maternal bond was painful (perhaps his mother didn’t want to conceive and thus rejected him) or inappropriate (perhaps she was seductive toward him), the boy may later associate physical bonding to a woman with pain and anxiety.
He then may become compulsive about sex—either as the freewheeling playboy who is incapable of commitment, or the demanding husband who fears being emotionally vulnerable to his wife. Given the biological and emotional intensity of the mother-son bond, only someone whose intrinsic identity with the boy exceeds that of the mother can draw him away into individuality and adult responsibility. Clearly, only the father meets such a requirement.”
If unresolved, the young male will seek to rebel against this bonding and control they feel subconsciously. They will have a love-hate relationship toward their mothers during late adolescence. This can lead young males to masturbate or get into pornography or have premarital sex in their adolescent years as a means of dealing with the emotional pain of that bonding from the mother. The male will eventually pull away from the mother as a result of seeking to become independent from her. This can be traumatic for the mother.
These feelings are often felt subconsciously as the son grows into adulthood. Often an unconscious vow is made to themselves: “I will never be controlled by a woman again.” This personal vow can go with them into future dating and marital relationships. The wife will often feel like their legitimate input is being viewed as criticism by the husband and he is resistant to talking with her at an emotional level. The husband will often shut down or rebel against his wife’s input.
Dalbey explains that “when a boy reaches puberty, filled with the powerful physical stirrings of his emerging manhood, the father’s role becomes critical. If at this point Dad doesn’t call the boy out and away from the mother to bond with his masculine roots among men, those stirrings are overtaken by his natural bond with the mother, becoming bound up in her and thus unavailable later to the woman he loves.
“Without the earthly father to call the son out into manhood, the boy grows up seeking manly identity in women—whose voices seem to call him to manhood through sexual conquest. Masculinity grows not out of conquering the woman, but only out of conquering the man—and not another man, as in war, but oneself.”
Dalbey explains how this can further affect the man’s identity: “Enmeshed with his mother, he may find that his heart is unavailable to another woman to walk with him later as a wife in his life calling (Gen. 2:24). Unable to bond with either a woman in marriage or a man in healthy friendship, he then may fall prey to homosexual impulses.”
This is why moral failure can happen even among the most mature Christian men. Despite a commitment to a disciplined Christian life, they have never resolved their inner toil rooted in mother-son bonding and he eventually loses the battle. This is actually God’s grace designed to take the male back to the source of his pain to become healed.
Fear of Dependency
Paul Olsen, declares in his book, Sons and Mothers, “What a man is frightened of, more than anything else in the vast possibilities of living experience, is dependency, regression to a state in which he becomes an infant in the care of his mother—a mother later unconsciously symbolized by almost all women with whom he comes in contact.”
If the son has had any male to male sexual exposure in his childhood, this issue is compounded. Subconsciously he will seek to prove his heterosexuality by bonding to other women outside the marriage. When a dad abandons a son emotionally and physically, he is left to gain that validation elsewhere, often through a female or even another man. If the boy has any male-to-male sexual exposure he will grow into adulthood leaning toward homosexuality or he will have to prove his heterosexuality to himself by getting his validation from women.
The popular comedy TV sitcom series Everybody Loves Raymond is a classic portrayal of two sons who have been doted on by their mother and conflict consistently arises between the loyalty of the sons at the expense of their wives. The father is emotionally bankrupt and emotionally abuses the mother. The mother seeks to get her emotional needs met from Raymond, the favored son. Many of the situations are quite humorous, but sadly, are portrayed very accurately as to the depth of the problem.
Ken Nair, author of Discovering the Mind of a Woman, cited a perfect example of this when counseling a couple and the husband was reacting to his wife’s treatment of his wife. “I’m thinking of a situation where a wife said, ‘On Mother’s Day, you made sure that your mother got to sit at the head of the table and was waited on first.’ He retaliated, ‘Well, it was Mother’s Day!’ His wife defensively said, ‘I’m a mother! In fact, I’m the mother of your children. But that doesn’t seem to carry any weight with you!’ He illustrated his deafness to her spirit by saying, ‘I’m not going to stop loving my mother just to make you happy!’”
This man always gave deference to his mother’s needs at the expense of his wife’s. The husband was never emotionally bonded to his, but was still bonded to his mother. When this happens the husband will pull away from his wife because he subconsciously views her as his mother who he believes is trying to control him. Whenever a son’s behavior changes in the presence of the mother and the wife feels like a third wheel, you can be confident there is a mother-son bonding issue that exists.
This usually results in the son bonding to other women outside the marriage in a subconscious attempt to deal with the pain of the mother-son bonding. He is often a flirt with other women usually unknowingly. Subconsciously he is meeting an emotional need in himself to prove his manhood through other women.
John Eldredge shares a very personal account of his discovery of similar deep rooted issues he described in his book, Wild at Heart. He discovered what happens when a man cannot offer himself emotionally to his wife. “If the man refuses to offer himself, then his wife will remain empty and barren. A violent man destroys with his words; a silent man starves his wife. ‘She’s wilting,’ a friend confessed to me about his new bride. ‘If she’s wilting then you’re withholding something,’ I said. Actually, it was several things—his words, his touch, but mostly his delight. There are so many other ways this plays out in life. A man who leaves his wife with the children and the bills to go and find another, easier life has denied them his strength. He has sacrificed them when he should have sacrificed his strength for them.”
Joshua is an active Watch DOGS (Dads of Great Students) dad at his child’s school who came up with a great idea for the holiday season.
Like in many other families—especially those that put emphasis on their faith during the holidays—he and his wife use an Advent calendar to help them and their young sons count down the days in anticipation of Christmas. Maybe you do something similar—and there are all kinds of great resources to help if you wanted to start this.
Well, a few years back, Joshua was working long hours and couldn’t always be there with his wife and his boys to go through the daily Advent readings and activities. So he started his own special calendar for the holidays. And you know what he called it?
His DADvent calendar was all about simply having fun with his sons, holiday style. He used it as a reminder to do something special for his sons every day leading up to Christmas.
With his schedule, many times that meant doing things while the boys slept. One night he decorated their rooms with paper snowflakes that they saw first thing in the morning. Another night he strung lights from corner to corner. Then there was the night he put up a Christmas tree in each bedroom without waking them up.
Joshua knew it was worth all the late nights and lack of sleep when he heard his 11-year-old say that DADvent activities were a “great memory” and a tradition he looks forward to every year.
And Joshua found that once he was in the habit, these special things spread into other parts of the year. And he started doing similar things for his bride as well.
If you wanted to really follow the Advent calendar, we’ve already missed the first couple of weeks or so. But there’s no reason you can’t start right now. Joshua doesn’t mind if you use his idea. Go ahead and call it “DADvent.”
But whatever you call it, the important part is your attitude and your commitment to make the holidays fun for your kids this year. How cool would it be for them if every day between now and December 25th, you came up with some kind of surprise or small gift or even just spent a few minutes doing something they enjoy?
Maybe you can bake cookies, do a crazy craft project, make some paper angels or whatever. You can find all kinds of ideas online. And the cost would likely be almost nothing.
Here’s an idea: On the way home from work today or sometime tomorrow, pick up four boxes of candy canes and hang them on every hook, ledge or doorknob in your home. Announce the official beginning of DADvent, and watch the expressions on your kids’ faces.
So, dad, how do you make the holidays special for your children? Share your ideas with other dads either below or on our Facebook page.
Tell your kids about a holiday tradition that was special for you as a child. Maybe surprise them by doing something similar this year.
Be purposeful this year about finding ways to have fun as a family—and avoid the common holiday stressors. Consider relaxing a household rule for a few weeks to give your kids the impression that it’s a “special” time.
Lead your family in spreading the true spirit of the holidays this season by helping someone else who has a need. And prepare to learn something! Often kids can be more sensitive to people’s needs than we are.
Buy a gift for the whole family that everyone can enjoy together, or invest in an activity you can all do together.
As you decide on gifts for your kids, start thinking about gifts of time that you can also give—like redeemable coupons or a commitment to enjoy a new toy or game with him or her.
Carey Casey is the CEO of the National Center for Fathering, a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the culture of fathering in America by enlisting 6.5 million fathers to make the Championship Fathering Commitment. NCF believes that every child needs a dad they can count on, and uses its resources to inspire and equip men to be the involved fathers, grandfathers and father figures their children need. Subscribe to his weekly email tip by clicking here: “Yes! I want tips on how to be a great dad who lives out loving, coaching and modeling for my children.”
Being the father of about 412 teenagers (OK, only 5, but it sometimes seems like 412!), I occasionally get blindsided by stuff, and often after the fact. You dads know what I’m talking about:
“I can’t go check the mail, Dad. I forgot to tell you that I backed over the mailbox this morning,” or “I spent the entire day with [insert the name of the person you can barely stand here] watching [insert the title of your choice of inappropriate movies here].”
You would think that after enough years and enough kids, I would have heard it all. But this one just really set me off. As a disclaimer, I wasn’t upset at one of the kids. I was inflamed by the entire circumstance, and I guess you get to read my tirade. And if you aren’t just as twisted over this as I am after you read it, then you may want to read it again.
Apparently it was a wedding day, and a friend of a friend of one of our girls was taking her vows. It struck me as a little odd that the wedding was at 5 p.m. on a Wednesday, but maybe it was the only time the church was free—who knows? Our daughter got dressed up and headed out the door, and not in what I would classify as typical wedding attire. But times have changed, right?
I guess I had no idea just how much times have changed until I found out more details about the wedding—again, after the fact. First, the girl was pregnant, making this a “shotgun wedding.” And she was 16, as in “I can officially get my license now” 16. Or even “Four years ago, I was 12.”
For a while, I have been slowly coming to a rolling boil over the garbage that has become popular television for the aforementioned age demographic. Shows like Pretty Little Liars and Liars Club program our youth to think it’s OK to lie. Period. There’s no overarching theme other than “Speaking mistruth is OK.” My parents wouldn’t let me watch the Brady Bunch if Bobby stole a cookie from Jan, for crying out loud.
The shows that really illustrate how failed we are as a society are 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom. These shows glamorize being pregnant or being a mother while in high school, and they are just the worst kind of garbage. Both pregnancy and motherhood are reserved for women at least five or 10 years older, and only as an integrated part of marriage to a husband. The shows depict young ladies living at home, gleefully preparing baby bedrooms under the roof of their respective parents. And it’s just plain wrong.
You know what else is missing, in large part, from the expecting teenagers homes? One word: Dad.
Here’s the deal, men. We are morally, financially, spiritually and legally responsible for our girls. When they turn 18, the government says they can vote, die for our country and even pay their own consequences for bad decisions as an adult. But guess what? Even when they turn 18, we are stillmorally, spiritually and (usually) financially responsible for them.
I don’t know about you, but I am all for averting disaster. We must do our job as dads to ensure the greatest odds of success for our girls. By “doing our job,” I am not talking about providing for them. That’s just part of the deal when you have a kid. Providing would be the minimum acceptable standard of being their father.
Here are a few guidelines to follow if you are bringing up girls (and yeah, it’s a lot different than raising boys):
1. Tell her how beautiful she is. There is a strong probability that she feels ugly today. I’m just sayin’ …
2. Tell her that you love her—a lot!
3. Hug her—a lot!
4. Take her out on a date every few weeks, or every week if you can. Show her what a “normal” evening date should look like.
5. Model love, respect and service toward your wife. Remember, more is caught than taught. She is going to look for someone just like you, like it or not.
Here’s a thought to remember, guys. If we aren’t loving on our daughters, somebody else will be. Some guys prey on girls, and every girl needs to feel loved, appreciated and beautiful. That’s your job!
David Dusek is the founder and director of Rough Cut Men Ministries and author of Rough Cut Men: A Man’s Battle to Engaging Men With Each Other and With Jesus. Rough Cut Men has been presented to NASCAR teams, at West Point and the U.S. Naval Academy, at military bases around the world and at hundreds of churches and men’s conferences of every denomination. To find out more about the Rough Cut Men, or to book David for an upcoming men’s event, please check out roughcutmen.org.