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The other day, my wife said something in passing that struck me and I have not been able to get away from it. In a moment at the end of a long and hard day with the kids, she said, “What if I treated my daughter like I do my best friend?”
At first, my reaction was probably a lot like yours is right now.
“You cannot try to be your child’s best friend!”
“They do not need you to be their friend, but their parent.”
“Sometimes being a good parent means not being a friend to your child, because it means disciplining or guiding them against what they want at that time, but what is best for them later.”
Those reactions are completely true, that we cannot appease our children in order to be their friends, but when I fought past those initial reactions, I started to think about it and it hit me, she’s right. With my best friends, I spend my energies to get into their world and meet them. I try to listen to them, hear their heart and be there for them. I love being with them, one-on-one, and doing what they love to do. If they recommend I try something, I usually will do it because I trust and respect them. I value their input and listen to them. In short, I value who they are, not just what they bring to my life.
But, do I do the same with the most valuable gifts that God has given to me, my children? I don’t know about you, but I tend to listen to my children with one ear, while keeping the other ear focused on whatever I am interested in. I do not pursue my daughter’s interests like mine. I do not stop my schedule to listen to my son and truly hear what he has to say and what he is passionate about at that moment. I allow their constant noise to dull my hearing of them and soon I tune them out like neighboring conversations at a Panera or Starbucks. I do things with my kids if they sound like I would enjoy them, but come up with excuses if their desires would be time consuming or boring to me. In other words, I parent on MY terms and in MY world, not theirs.
In high school, my best friend Jason & I did almost everything together and spent virtually every waking moment outside of school together. We talked, we laughed, we were “stupid” together and we had numerous moments where we were “drunk on life”, loving life together. We were different personalities and we did not agree on everything, but we enjoyed spending time together. I want that kind of passion and thrill when I spend time with my kiddos. I want to be moved when my daughter gives me the honor of having tea with her and her imaginary friends. I want to be thrilled and giggle when my son grabs my hand to show me his newest discovery. I want to jump at every opportunity to play Candyland or Shoots & Ladders with them, no matter if the Giants or Tigers are on TV. More importantly, I do not want my children to lose that same passion and joy in their father, because he did not delight in spending time with them.
If you have children, how do you fight past the exhaustion of everyday life and get into your children’s lives? How do you delight in them and find joy in who they are and what they love?
Brian Kuiper is a contributing writer for Dad Matters and the Assistant Manager of Audio Visual Services at Focus on the Family.
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