Way back in 2013, my wife and I had a great idea. We decided to have a second baby. Our oldest, Mason, was almost a year old at the time and we thought that if we had another baby so soon they would be super close and great playmates. Yes, we actually thought this through and came to the conclusion that having two babies 18 months apart was a smart decision in more ways than one! I mean, two kids close in age…they’ll be best friends for life! They’ll play together and we can get other things done. Best. Decision. Ever.
As you may have noticed (or will notice) in some of our other posts, my wife and I have adopted this saying: We plan, God laughs. Usually, we say that meaning that His plans are different than ours and we end up finding blessings and enrichment in life taking a different path. However, for this one, I think it was more of God saying, “Oh, you think that’ll be fun? HAHAHAHAHAHA! Ok, let’s do this!”
God answered our prayers and just 19 months after Mason was born, Jonah rumbled into our lives. To make a long story short and get to the point of this post, Mason wasn’t exactly pleased with Jonah’s arrival and his subsequent loss of only-child status. Now, Mason has been a pretty good big brother and they do play together some; but they also fight a lot and Mason wants to do things sans-Jonah. Big shocker, right? I’m sure they will be close as they get older, but for now at ages 5 and 3 ½, it’s an hour-by-hour relationship.
Despite our “flawless” plan to build the perfect brother-playmate relationship, Mason has not lost that desire for parental attention. If I am home, I am usually the designated playmate. On most days, I am barely two steps in the door after work when I hear, “Daddy, will you play with me?” Sometimes he specifies a board game or to play in the sand box or sit in the little kiddie pool with him. The requests always boil down to a simple, “Daddy! I need your attention!”
Truly, there is no reason he should be expected to completely forget about Dad and play with his brother nonstop from sun-up to sundown, but as a father of four with dozens of other things in life demanding my time (much like you, I’m sure), it can be easy sometimes to forget that it’s a great thing that my kids want my attention. If you’re a working dad, you understand the need to relax and take a breath once you finally get home from work. You just want to sit and decompress a little bit before jumping back into chaos. You might think that it’d be easier on days off, but then the fact that Dad is home all day means Dad can play all day and all of those chores and projects you’ve been lining up in your head start to get pushed to next weekend again.
If you’re a goal-oriented person like me, it can get very frustrating over time and you may find yourself saying something like, “Go play! It’s not my job to entertain you all the time!” Sure, there’s some truth to that statement. There are things that husbands and fathers need to get done as a part of their duty to take care of and provide for the household and our children need to see us working and doing what is necessary. However, we need to be careful in not letting this become the go-to excuse for why we don’t want to play Candyland or Chutes and Ladders for the umpteenth time.
I have to stop and remind myself how fleeting this period of life is. There will come a time when I won’t be an all-knowing, all-powerful, superhero in my kids eyes and they will find things that are so much more interesting and entertaining than Dad. I absolutely love these years of my kids’ lives when I’m still the most entertaining thing in their world. If we are not careful to live intentionally with our children, there is a real danger that we will look up from our busyness and grown-up leisure and wonder in our own amazement how those precious years passed us by so quickly.
As parents, part of our daily prayer life should be for God’s provision in raising the children that He has entrusted us with. We should be asking for help in raising them with biblical principles and helping them develop a Christ-centered worldview. We should be asking for help in being a godly example for them to follow. These are the bare basics. I have recently added this intentional living to my daily prayer list for my children. “Lord, help me love them through action. Help me say yes to games and play time and one more bedtime story. Help me embrace this time in their lives so they will still look to me in times to come.”
These early years are so in impactful, but they are often the ones we take for granted. It is so much easier for us to sit them down with a smart phone or a tablet or in front of the TV and check off everything on our to-do list than to simply sit on the floor with them and play a game or read a book. If we do that too often, though, we are sending them a loud and clear message that they are less important than anything else. We are telling them that they need to sit and be quiet while we live life. Then a day will come when it’s their turn to live life and we will be told to sit down and watch our shows so they can get things done.
You see, if we want to relate to our children as they grow up and move on; if we want them to come to us for godly wisdom and guidance, that relational foundation is laid with Candyland, sandboxes, tea time with Care Bears, popsicles, super hero capes, legos, Christmas forts, baking cookies, and folding paper airplanes. I’m not saying we need to make their childhood a sugar-coated fantasy land where life revolves around playtime. Rather, we need to always remember that the close relationships we hope to develop with our children begins with our willingness to engage them on their level. If we want to have an influence in raising our children to be faithful followers of Christ, we must be intentional in being a part of their world.