Don’t step right up
Today’s reading is drawn from Proverbs 22:1-6.
For the most part, my years of undergraduate education were truly enjoyable. I enjoyed the freedom and the autonomy. I loved the camaraderie of new friends.
The only truly significant frustration of college was trying to decide what I was going to be “when I grew up.” I had some classmates who, the day they hit the campus, knew beyond a shadow of a doubt. Jim Hall was going to be a doctor. Steve Oldham was going to be a coach. Herb Shaw was going to be a CPA. Dan Alley was going to eat pepperoni and extra-cheese pizza.
But I had no idea.
Suspecting this career ambivalence, my college professors were like carnival hawkers . . . “Step right up! . . . Be this. Be that.” Dr. Heath thought I should research ancient languages. Dr. Harrison thought I’d make a decent doctor. Dr. Wilson thought parish ministry would be perfect for me.
As a dad, you sometimes find yourself tempted to encourage your children to “step right up” — to sell them on your dreams for them. Sometimes they feel the pressure to become what you want them to become. Because you want the best for your kids, it’s tough to avoid this temptation, but it’s even tougher to grow up under it.
Today’s verse speaks directly to this problem. It’s one you should plant deeply into your conscious mind. . . .
Being an effective dad has nothing to do with creating a clone of yourself. This is not an exercise in aiming your child at your target. Being successful as a father means helping your children to go in the direction they should go. To follow their own calling. To listen to God’s voice in their own lives. To shape and encourage them to identify their own gifts and strengths, then to give them the courage to aggressively pursue those gifts.
Several years ago, I was having lunch with one of my closest friends. Often when we get together we joke and laugh, making a public nuisance of ourselves. But this time the conversation was gravely serious. At one point in the conversation my friend said something I’ll never forget: “I’m a grown man. I have two children, two cars, a career and a mortgage of my own. And I’ve just discovered that I have become exactly what my parents wanted me to become. I have no idea who I am.”
You are not selling anything to your kids. You’re not trying to get them to follow your agenda. Your job is to help them discover their God-given gifts and passions, and to encourage them to seek the Lord’s guidance. What you really want is for them to pursue their own dreams — then you do whatever you can to help them be successful.
Train your children in the way they should go. Someday they’ll thank you for this.