(A guest post by my husband Glenn)
Over the last few years, fatherhood has taken on a new meaning for me. During the early years of a family, many of the parental responsibilities involve manual labor (changing, feeding, rocking, burping, etc…). These acts of love towards my children were authentic and meaningful, and I still think fondly about when my older boys were just babies and how they have grown. And as they have grown, I have recognized the need to mature as a father, into one that plays with those who play.
Romans 12:15 exhorts us to “rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” This verse is contained in a passage full of illustrations of love in action. To me, it exemplifies togetherness, connection and comraderie. When I think about my childhood growing up, some of the most special memories that I have deal with time spent with my father hiking, playing baseball in the front yard, climbing up the “dusty mountain”, and riding (and falling off of) bikes. As a father myself, I am beginning to learn how to build this sort of relationship with my sons.
One of the things that I have found through this process is that you can’t always bestow your personal interests on your child, thus making it easier to find that common bond. For example, as hard as I tried to encourage Samuel to play Legos a few years ago, he was much more interested in Thomas the Tank Engine. Consequently, Ruth and I must have learned not only the names of every single obscure locomotive in the franchise, but also their personality traits and whether or not they were “really useful engines.” More recently, I have been presented with the challenge of understanding Pokemon, with all of the nuances inherent within a line of toys that must continually reinvent itself to maintain commercial appeal (sorry – still an adult brain playing here). Every day on the way to school, it seems that the conversation returns to Pokemon – “Dad, which Pokemon would you have if you could have one in real life? Which Pokemon would win the battle – Charizard or Wailord? Why are ‘Black and White’ Pokemon not really ‘Black and White’?” While I am not always able to answer the questions correctly (or even logically), I do my best to maintain this connection with my son, because this is his own way of being vulnerable to love and relationship. If I were to ignore his efforts to engage with me in this way, I would risk damaging our relationship and his perspective on his own importance.
We have been taught to live together with those around us in love. And whether that means rejoicing, mourning, or discussing the intricacies of Japanese comic book characters, it is our calling to love our children in a way that makes sense to them. Let’s just hope I don’t have to learn Bakugan…