I don’t know about you, but it just seems that life is very busy and that Christmas just adds layers to an already-overwhelmed schedule. There have been Christmases for me that, after all was said and done, left me feeling somewhat empty inside.
Perhaps I felt guilty that I had allowed gift-giving (and receiving) to outshine the true meaning of the season — that is, that God who loves us more than we can possibly imagine sent His Son, Jesus, into this world as a baby in a manger to show us the way and to die to pay the penalty of all our sin.
But maybe it was because, deep in my thoughts, I knew that I had allowed the busyness of life to, in some ways, excuse me from cultivating a meaningful relationship with my children. At some point, it was increasingly clear that other things in life had become more important to me than being a great dad to my kids.
There is a video on YouTube this season that drives this message home. It was put together by furniture retailer IKEA and is called “The Other Letter.”
In this video, children are asked to write a letter about what they wanted for Christmas to the “Three Kings” (Spain’s Santa Claus) and also a letter to their parents asking for something from them. Many of the children asked the Three Kings for toys and such (standard Christmas fare), but almost all of them asked Mom and Dad for one thing: time.
They asked for more one-on-one play time, more tickle fights, more time sitting in Mom’s lap reading a book, and so on. As the parents were allowed to read the letters, several became tearful. At the end, when the children were told they could only send one of the two letters, they did something shocking. The kids said they would rather send the letter to their parents. They wanted time with Mom and Dad over toys. Can you believe that?
I began my journey to be a better dad years ago. Here are some lessons I’ve learned:
1) Being a good parent means making choices. Some of my heroes as fathers turned down lucrative promotions at work because they knew it would cost them dearly in time with their kids.
2) Being a good parent means being engaged with your kids. Some studies indicate that the average dad spends about seven minutes per day talking to his kids. That’s not enough. But it’s not just about talking more; it’s about sharing meaningful things. Here’s an example: When I was a kid, we didn’t have 24/7 access to the Internet through computers, smart phones and video gaming consoles. A majority of our kids have this today. Kids need to know about Internet safety — from predators to pornography. Parents must lead the way in talking about this stuff, and it starts by being informed and engaged with struggles your young ones are facing.
3) There are traps. As a parent, you may be tempted to hover over everything your kid does (as a helicopter parent) or try to make life easy for them by removing all obstacles in their way (a snowplow parent). You could err on the side of being overly controlling or harsh, or you might just give up and let them go their own way (a passive parent).
Your kids need you in their lives to shape them and guide them and train them. This Christmas, do your family a favor. Grab your favorite beverage, a pen and a notebook, and sit down and wrestle with some key questions. How would you describe each of your children? What are their struggles? What brings them joy? Where do they need boundaries? Where do they need freedom? How can you get involved in the training and equipping process?
Resolve to give your children your presence for Christmas this year.
Scott Tiede is the senior pastor of Delaware Bible Church at the corner of Belle Avenue and South Sandusky Street. To learn more about him or Delaware Bible Church, visit www.delawarebible.org.