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What I Wish I Could Tell My Younger Self About Being a Father

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Once, long ago, I was the perfect parent. Then I had children. What a difference 20 years makes. To say I am a different person than I was when I started this journey as a father would be an understatement. So much has happened since those early days of parenting. There were so many things I was sure of, so many things I thought were important, but now do not seem to hold the place they once did.

As I sat and thought about this article, I realized there were things I wish I had known or realized during those early days of parenting. Things I wish I would have handled differently or focused less on. They say hindsight is 20/20, and while that is true, I just wish that I had seen these things then.

If I ever had the chance to talk to 25-year-old Charles, I would simply share a few things:

  • Don’t sweat the small stuff (it really is not as important as you think)
  • Don’t be embarrassed by things your children do (because when they are a teenager, you can embarrass them, plus, who cares what others think.)
  • Don’t be afraid to humble yourself – when my father humbled himself and apologized to me, it showed me his heart, and how to truly be a man – it will impact them more than you know, and much more than trying to show you are right in every circumstance.
  • Be mindful of the things you focus on – don’t magnify things that do not need to be.
  • Don’t be too busy for the important things – I can promise you that work or opportunity will always be there – but they will not. This is something I promised myself I would never let happen, but somehow did, and even now am trying to correct.
  • Take more time to listen and hear your children. Sometimes we charge into a situation, and fail to listen. Almost always that blows things up and makes a much bigger mess.
  • Treasure the stage they are in. It is easy to wish for what is coming next, but take time and treasure each moment. These times won’t come again.
  • Never lose sight of what is really important. Many of the things we focus on are not, even if they seem like it at the time.
  • Prioritize your family. You will never regret the time you give them, but I do regret the time I did not.
  • Be their greatest cheerleader, and believe in them, even when they do not believe in themselves.
  • Help them see a future for themselves and cast a vision (for them, not you) of their future.
  • No everything needs to be a battle – decide if this is a hill you need to die on – it may surprise you how often it is not.
  • See and encourage their uniqueness – and if you’re religious, help them see God’s special plan for their life.
  • Walk with them through the trials, and help them keep the correct perspective, for it will change their path through life.
  • When walking through those trials that life will inevitably throw at them, encourage and strengthen them, and help them see that there is always hope.
  • Don’t let the little things annoy you; if anything, let them be things you laugh at.
  • It is OK to laugh at them and yourself – with some of the mistakes we all make, there is usually a lot to laugh about.
  • It’s OK if things are not perfect – especially your house. Don’t stress if things don’t look perfect, in reality, you don’t need to impress “whoever” it is that is causing you to worry.
  • You will miss the things that annoy you the most, for often, they are part of the sweet music that makes up your family.
  • Maybe that frustration really isn’t as big as your think – most of the time, you won’t remember it in a few years anyway.
  • Take time to give them one more hug, for those moments really do never come again.

Years ago, my children had done something and I was correcting them (it was obviously very serious because now I cannot even remember what it was). I looked behind my kids and there sat my mother and grandmother, trying desperately not to laugh as I tried to keep a straight face while correcting them.

After I was done, I fussed at these two amazing women and asked why in the world this was funny – they did not laugh when I broke the rules as a child. My mom simply looked at me and said, “I am older and wiser now. Some things just aren’t as important as I thought they were.”

She was right. Some things I once thought were so critical, really are not. Looking back now, the things I chose to focus on then, really did not hold the place of importance I once thought they did. I guess my children had to suffer with the younger, less intelligent/experienced version, but still managed to make it through.

Maybe if we took time to talk to those who came before, those further along the path, we would see some of these things when our children were still young.

As parents, we all need wisdom. I believe wisdom is available, from His Word and from those who have walked these paths. Scripture reminds us that it is good to seek wise counsel, and to honor those with “grey hair.” I imagine many of my decisions would have been different if I had chosen this course.

The best reminder I can share, as I finish one part of this journey, and transition to that next stage is simply this: “Don’t lose sight of what is truly important.” When you focus on that, the rest will come together. “Don’t take today for granted, for it will never come again, and these sacred moments are special.” Finally, “Bless your children, not just in word, but in example, so they see how a parent should be – for they will be, in many ways, who you are.”

Getty image by evgenyatamanenko.

Originally published: September 1, 2021
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