On our way to school one morning, we drove by a set of senior citizen homes. Our foster daughter noticed and started asking questions. In the course of that conversation, she said something I thought was quite profound: “I think life is kind of like trees. A person starts with budding sprouts, then leaves, then all the leaves change colors, then all the leaves fall off.” I was somewhat shocked at her wise yet accurate evaluation of the seasons of life.
Seasons of life pass quickly and require intentionality and evaluation. The older I get, the more apparent this becomes. Seasons change, but we only get one chance at each season. As dads, we can’t afford to get our current season wrong. Here are some ways to get this once-in-a-lifetime season of parenting right.
Recognize your season.
Getting your season right starts by recognizing the different seasons and which one you’re currently in. There are four primary seasons of life for most people: childhood/growth years, family/parenting years, mid-life/empty-nester years, and the senior golden years.
Identifying your season ought to help shape your current goals and aspirations. There are things you can only do in certain seasons (like raising your kids), while there are many things you can always do, regardless of the season (like investing in hobbies or working late nights at the office). Recognizing your season should give clarity to prioritizing what you and others in your life need from you right now.
Maximize your season.
Once you recognize your season, you’re ready to maximize it. The fact that you’re reading this article suggests we are all in the same season of parenting. And of all seasons, this is the one that most men usually have more regrets about than any other. I talk to men in the empty-nester season all the time, and I always ask them the same question: “What would you do differently?” Ninety percent of the time, the answer is something like this: “I wish I’d have invested more time into my kids while they were still at home. The years went by so fast.”A dad needs to care more about his child’s future than he does about his child’s feelings.
Dad, if you’re still in this season, there’s still hope. Here are some practical reminders for how to maximize your season.
Be your child’s parent now so you can be your child’s friend forever. Kids need dads. And a dad needs to care more about his child’s future than he does about his child’s feelings. Feelings are important, but if you are trying to protect your child’s feelings at the expense of his or her future, you’re going to have regrets.
Give up something now that you can always pick up later. Knowing you only get 18 brief years, what can you give up now as a trade-off for something even better that you’ll otherwise never get back? I guarantee you that 10 years from now, you’ll wish you could trade those extra hours at work to have made it to your kid’s ball game, or piano recital, or simply to have been more present at home.
Pay closer attention to your child’s heart than you do to your child’s behavior. Many dads miss this. They get so wrapped up in their kids looking good to others, or in making them look good, that they forget to touch the one and only thing that matters—their kid’s heart. Raise kids who want to have a lifelong relationship with you. Andy Stanley said it best when he shared that one of his parenting goals was to raise kids who wanted to come home even when they no longer had to. What a great goal!
Earn some points: Are you married? If so, share this iMOM article with your wife: How Your Mom Responsibilities Will Change With the Seasons of Life.
Sound off: What is one practical thing you could do differently this week to maximize your current season as a dad?
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “Why is it important to make sacrifices sometimes?”