The last few weeks have been a special time for my family. Our oldest son has graduated from high school and is enrolled in college at Ole Miss. The last month may be the best month we have ever had as a family. We have gone to parent/student meals, had a baccalaureate service at the church I pastor, had family and friends in for a weekend of celebrating and then the graduation service itself. Micah, my son, was successful as a high school student and was recognized for his accomplishments. He is a good person who has demonstrated he loves Jesus. Not wanting to sound like a proud Papa, but the truth is everyone looking from the outside would say to Cheryl and me, “Job well done.” Cheryl is an incredible mother and has done a remarkable job. She deserves the credit for being the parent that has produced good boys. However, as I look at pictures of Micah as a young boy and then see the man he is today I must confess my heart is filled with regret. In this blog I want to share with you how I failed as a father.
I DID NOT ENCOURAGE ENOUGH
This is tough to type. I feel I have the gift of encouragement. All along my ministry people have thanked me for encouraging them. I especially love to encourage other pastors. I thank people for any service they do unto the Lord and our church and lavish them with sincere praise. Something happened when I came home. The encourager disappeared. I have never been an absentee Dad. I have always been involved in every aspect of my kids’ lives. I was not only at ballgames, I was at practice, I helped their teams anyway I could. I attended all the award ceremonies, helped with camping trips and took my sons fishing. I made time for my family. However, I did not encourage my oldest son enough. I look back now and I see how foolish I have been. Pay attention to little boys, they flex muscles, they wear superman capes, and dress like warriors, soldiers and heroes. James Dobson says boys have a “will to power and that is why they fight, climb, wrestle, strut and showoff.” As Micah participated, contributed or even excelled in sports, school, or whatever, I was always there but I always found something that was wrong. I am afraid maybe in my own insecurities I always found something that could be better because I wanted to be the alpha male in the Stewart house. Colossians 3:21 says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart.” “Exasperate” gives the idea of stirring up your children to anger. If someone feels nothing they do is good enough they will lose heart. I have been a hands on dad but I failed in this area because I did not encourage enough.
I MADE UNIMPORTANT THINGS IMPORTANT
I don’t want to give the impression that I am a tyrant. My home has been peaceful through 25 years of marriage and 19 years with children in the house. We all have thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company. We have countless memories of playing games, cooking and eating, traveling, and just sitting outside with one another and laughing like hounds. However, I was a strong disciplinarian. I do not apologize. Now that my son is moving out some things I thought were important really were not. Does it really matter if the house gets cluttered? Those that know me know I am kind of OCD. I want things to be in their place. I can tolerate a few things out of place but not for long. I remember Micah looking at me in confusion as I gathered up the scattered toys into a pile in the living room and declared my intention to crush them all if they were not put up immediately. As a five year old he gave me a look like, “This fool is crazy.” Through the years I have made neatness a hill worth dying on. He is moving out soon and I can tell you it was not worth it. He did not have to volunteer for everything. As a pastor I constantly ask for volunteer help. It is a requirement to be a pastor. I expected my boys to volunteer. They have picked up garbage, limbs, folded bulletins, washed church buses, washed cars, helped serve meals, helped in vacation Bible school, helped with the homeless, gone to nursing homes and hospitals. A few times Micah did not want to help with church or school functions. My goodness you should have heard the sermons I gave to him about how good God and the church has been to us and you are not going to volunteer to escort senior adults at the nursing home just because it is prom night? What kind of person are you? It didn’t take him long to learn to let my shame roll off his back. Through the years I made volunteering for good causes so important I felt my boys needed to volunteer every time. He is a man now and will soon be gone and I can assure it was not that important. Wanting to be the dominant male, I made demonstrations of respect too important. My sons have always been respectful to every adult they come in contact with. Cheryl and I have had complete strangers stop us and tell us how refreshing it is to hear respectful kids. They are respectful. However, I demanded respect be demonstrated to me always. When I am talking I always demand they look at me and not a phone or cpu. I took it as an offense against humanity and wrath usually fell if they turned away while I was speaking. When asked to do something if it was not done instantly I felt they were being disrespectful and corrected them sternly. Micah is moving out and I can assure you today it really doesn’t matter if he looked at his phone while we were talking.
A thousand words are about all my readers are going to put up with from me so let me summarize this blog by just reminding you all that the baby you have on your lap today will be on your heart tomorrow. Make every second with your kids count because you will never get that second again. Oh yeah, I don’t know a thing about flim flam or bim bam but as long as Ole Miss is paying for his school, “HOTTY TODDY.”