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by Amanda Murray on December 11, 2013
Man. It’s a little word for such a big idea. It is one of those words that if you say it over and over again it stops sounding like a real word anymore. In fact, it starts to sound more like a grunt, a cough, or someone clearing their throat.
Defining it can be complicated. “What is a man?” Is it about simple biology? Is it about interests and hobbies or the ability to change your oil? Do we define manhood in the context of roles in a marriage or by ownership of a certain set of responsibilities? In fact, let’s get to the really hard, important questions.
Can a man like cats, musicals, or even worse, musicals about cats? Can a man openly enjoy cartoons or comic books without his child present? Is crying at anything that doesn’t involve soldiers or championship trophies allowed? If so, what are the limits to said crying beyond a lip quiver, followed by a hard clearing of the throat?
What does it mean to be a man? I won’t attempt to define that for anyone in such a short forum. And I won’t even begin to deal with the much more complicated word “woman”. However, I would offer a word of caution to every father reading this. Your son or daughter is becoming some version of a man or woman with every passing day. As dads, the small daily moments of our life are informing the question every child must answer, “What does it mean to be a man or a woman?” So guard your minutes with them wisely, and be strategic in how you use those precious evenings and weekends. The clock is ticking. Each hour that passes is another brick in the wall.
For twenty years, I worked in an organization that scoured the country recruiting the best of the best young men and women to serve as role models for kids. These men were what we all hope our boys become. These women were whom we hoped they would marry. During that time, I purposefully pursued their parents to ask them this question, “What made the difference? What did you do as a parent that helped your child become the incredible adult they are today?” Then I asked the kids the same question about their parents. It was revealing.
In short, that exercise led me to believe that there are no formulas, no magic potions, and no road map to help a boy become a man or a girl become a woman. However, one principle stood out as 100% true in every case. Time matters. These parents gave their time to their kids. Some had more time to give than others, but all gave it consistently. It turns out, your kids are more concerned with the quality of time you give and the character they experience in it, than they are with the amount given.
Some did it through recreation, some through work, and others through service. They took bike trips, cleared family land, played Pokémon, served meals to the homeless, took their mom’s out on dates together, and built forts. All of the kids had distinct memories of “doing with” mom and dad, not just tagging along for the ride.
Of course some were lucky enough to have the same interests as their kids. However, many of them had to work to find common ground. For those that did, they worked at it as hard as they worked at their jobs. In the end, it paid off with bonuses.
Some of them created very disciplined homes filled with weekly and even daily devotionals and Bible Studies, but many failed miserably at creating that kind of regiment. However, all of them found a way to genuinely love the Lord with all of their heart, mind, and soul in a way that stamped something onto their child’s heart.
All of them made of point of consistently breaking bread together, whether that bread was donuts or on BBQ sandwiches. Some of them cooked the bread while others grabbed it after the game. To my surprise many ate it while watching American Idol. Some of them talked with their mouth full, others were hard-core with their manners, but all of them mixed conversation into the meal.
None of them were babysitting their children. They all found a way to be emotionally present, physically involved, and ever ready to drop an encouraging word to balance out all moments of discipline and correction.
When they failed, they didn’t hide it. They apologized and moved forward. They were not afraid to let their kids see their weaknesses. They seemed to understand that if you spend enough time with anyone, they will eventually see the good, the bad, and the ugly and learn to love them anyway.
Whatever your definition of a man may be, only time will tell if he will embrace the vision you present to him. The same holds true for your daughters on their journey to becoming a woman. There are no guarantees they will turn out as you hoped because every child is a human with the ability to make their own choices. But I guarantee you one thing. Your child is becoming some version of a man or woman over time. If you desire to influence that process, then the phrase, “time management” should take on a whole new meaning for you.
Chris Witt is the Executive Pastor at Grace Community Church in Tyler and Lindale, Texas. He is a long time Sky Dad as the father of two boys and has previously held a number of jobs, including Chief Ministry Officer, at Sky Ranch.
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