Tuesday morning. Dropped the kids off at 7:58 just before the 8:00 buzzer. Whew! I was running late because the printer wasn’t working and my 13 year old son needed his homework printed. Quick lecture on printing it and having it ready the night before all while fixing the printer. Done. 3 kids waiting in the car…my girls 11, 8, 6. Yes, I have 6 kids. 3 boys. 3 girls. Ages 16, 13, 11, 8, 6, 5. Boy. Boy. Girl. Girl. Girl. Boy…who has his mom rapped around his finger.
I love my family, but I don’t think I’ve always appreciated them as much as I should have. I certainly didn’t show it. I married late…one month shy of 28…sometimes you have to wait on quality. 7 months later, my wife was pregnant with our son. The plan was to wait 3 years, but what the heck…time for a child. That was 1999.
Life is hard. Marriage is hard. Parenting is hard. Unfortunately, we don’t do a good job these days equipping our young marriages and young parents. While I grew up in a very loving home, my father wasn’t a great example of a leader in our family which doesn’t surprise me. He came from a broken home where he had to drop out of school in 9th grade to survive. As a young man newly married with a child, it did leave me on my own to figure some things out. After all, I hadn’t seen an example of how to do it right. Unfortunately, that’s not an uncommon story in today’s society.
As you might guess, I stumbled along for years. Neglecting and failing in many areas at home. I spent my time focused on work, my own projects, and distractions.
I guess it was around 2008 when I started to wake up. One day after my 35 minute drive home, I walked through the front door and said “Hi” to my kids who were sitting on the couch watching TV. They essentially ignored me, and I went on to my routine. Eat. Get the kids ready for bed. Go do my thing. A routine. A daily routine. A daily routine for years. However on that day, something was different. This wasn’t how it should be. If I was the father I should be, my kids would be jumping off that couch to meet me at the door. They would greet me with excited smiles and eyes. I needed to change.
So where did I start? Babysteps.
My First Step: Make My Kids My Primary Focus When I Arrive Home From Work On your drive home, stop thinking about what you want to do after your kids are in bed. Think about what you want to do with your kids when you get home. Make your kids your focus.
Some starter ideas… Sit on the couch, watch tv and hold them Tickle them Play hide and seek in the house (it’s so much fun!) Ask them about their day Flip them on the bed
It didn’t take long to accomplished my basic goal. Kids greeted me at the door. They smiled. They screamed. They jumped into my arms. That’s fantastic! Yet as I’ve learned after 6 kids and 18 years of marriage there’s so much more to being a parent…and a husband. Remember. Life is hard. Marriage is hard. Parenting is hard. There’s a secret to making it all work. Want to know what it is? It’s really very simple.
You have to be intentional. Kids don’t just turn into good kids. Kids don’t just turn into good adults. Marriages don’t just turn into good marriages and last. You have to be intentional. Ridiculously intentional.
So that was 8 years ago and here I sit, just 7 short months after separating from my job of 15 years. This life halftime has afforded me a much needed time to reflect on my life. During that time, I’ve come to know my wife, my kids and my family in a whole new way…a deeper way. And I want to leave you with a few tips on loving your kids, your spouse and your family well.
My girls (11, 8, 6)
Put them to bed every night
Pray with them. Take Turns letting them pray. Pray over them: “God, I thank you for my daughters and how beautiful and smart they are. Please watch over them and keep them safe. Always remind them of how much you love them and I pray that they always tell you how much they love you and that they will never let anyone trick them into believing you aren’t real. We love you so much Jesus. Amen.”
Kiss and hug them goodnight. Tell them “I love you. You are so beautiful and smart.”
Play games…in house hide and seek, ball tag outside.
My boys (16, 13)
Go to their rooms. Hang out with them in their room.
Tell them goodnight…every night. Hug them. Ask them if they prayed. Make sure I pray with them at least occasionally.
Tell them how proud I am of them.
Tell them how much I respect them.
Wrestle them. Tell them how strong they are and how they can get stronger. Challenge them. They need to be strong to protect their family some day.
Encourage and challenge them to be their best.
Give them a book to read. (Recently gave my 13 year old a leadership book on Bear Bryant)
Play games…in house hide and seek, ball tag outside.
My boy (5)
Don’t let him get lost in the family.
Tell him how much you love him.
Hug him. Tickle him…a lot. Chase him…a lot. Swing him with a family member…a lot.
Play with him even when you don’t have time.
He’s not a morning person. Wake him up in a fun way (The woodpecker. They tickle worm. The spider with a pinching bite. The scratching, licking dog.)
Confession. I have not loved my wife well over the years. 2015 was a rebuilding year for us after 17 years of marriage. What began as trying 1 marriage counseling session turned into weekly marriage counseling for 6 months. It was worth it. It helped me to wake up and make some much needed changes. Everybody needs a marriage tune up once a year. I learned that from one of the greatest leaders in my life, Dave Ramsey.
Hold her…a lot. Kiss her…a lot.
Tell her and show her you love her…a lot. Tell her she’s beautiful…a lot. (Unfortunately, many women grow up not hearing this from their fathers. Men, this is a must. If you’re not doing it. Fix it. Your marriage will exceed your wildest expectations.)
Come up with amazing romantic nicknames…not the same stuff everyone uses.
Watch romantic stuff.
Establish a regular date night. We’ve done weekly date nights for 11 years. Although we’re not always able to stay on track, we’ve been faithful to our date night 80% of the time. Our budget is tight now, so we spend more time at the coffee shop together writing or reading.
Discover her love language and fulfill it every day.
A well run and lead family is the most amazing and fulfilling things I have experienced in my lifetime of 45 years. Why did I wait so long to get it together? It’s not easy, but it is oh so worth it. Get it together. Be Intentional.