On May 25 my middle son turned 13. Now I have two teens in the house and a third one closing in (he will turn 12 in June). We try to make birthdays special in our home. Not by focusing on gifts, which we do give, but by reaffirming how uniquely and purposefully God made them.
Here’s one way we did that for Cademon on his birthday. I asked each one in the family to tell something they appreciate about Cademon and why they are glad he was born. It had to be something that related to Cademon’s personality or character (his ability to ice skate well is great, but not as important as his way of being a loyal friend).
Getting gifts is awesome and receiving them from friends and family does insinuate that you are loved. But, the luster of material things eventually fades, tears up, or loses its attraction. Just like other “gift-giving” holidays such as Christmas, Easter, or Valentine’s Day, we tend to focus on material gifts rather than gifts that are INVESTMENTS. Investing in gifts that develop the heart and character of who they are is more likely to yield worthwhile results. As a matter of fact Webster defines investment as an act of devoting time, effort, or energy to a particular undertaking with the expectation of a worthwhile result. That sounds a lot like the journey of parenting to me.
Two things that stood out to me about this particular definition of “investment” were the words expectation and worthwhile. Let’s look at the first…expectation. Most of us think in financial terms when we hear the word investment. And just as those in the arena of finance must consider, or better yet, speculate, the “who, what, when, and where’s” before investing, we as dads should consider likewise in relating to our sons. Financial advisers/planners will utilize all the resources, tools, and information at their disposal to make the best choice for the best result…BUT…they only do so with the expectation of a positive result…there is no guarantee! They understand the outcome is out of their control. They must rely on their due diligence and hope their decision was the right one.
Investing in relationships is much the same. We as fathers give and give and…well, give some more. We sacrifice and labor in love. Our time, effort, and energy compile into countless hours of fatherly duties. But we only do so with an expectation…not a guarantee…that our investments will yield the “fruit” we desire in our sons.
One of the most challenging things to accept in the process of parenting is surrendering the “right” that our children turn out OK, or safe, or comfortable, or even Godly. Yep, that’s a tough statement to swallow. I didn’t say it’s wrong to want these things for your children; but if these expectations cause us to falsely think they are “rights” then we are setting ourselves up for a potentially dangerous let down.
Finally, I noticed the word worthwhile. I love this unassuming word because it invokes a sense of caution. Carefully considering how and where we should give ourselves will make the biggest difference in the life of our sons. I’ve heard many times that having purpose is paramount to accomplishing our goals in life. I would clarify that by saying it’s not enough to have purpose. You must have the right purpose. It’s like the guy who worked so hard to make it to the top of the ladder only to realize he leaned against the wrong wall.
Every day so many things vie for our attention, our energy, and our gifts. Most of those things don’t deserve them. Only those things that yield worthwhile results are worthy of our devotion.
So, what’s worthwhile? I think our sons are a good place to invest!