I started this journey and website over 12 years ago, back when my children were 6 and 5 years old. Quite simply, I wanted to raise children who had Godly character, engaged the world, and used their lives to have an impact for God’s kingdom. I haven’t been actively posting on Legacy Dad the past year because, quite frankly, I’ve been in the trenches, engaged in raising teenagers, and preparing to launch them into adulthood. In my opinion, this is a critical time in my children’s lives and the decisions they make will have more long terms implications. However, the road has not always been easy and things have not always gone as planned…
To start, we currently live in the Northeast part of the country and things are culturally a lot different then we are used to. For starters, where we live, the average couple does not start having children until their mid to late 30’s. This means that in our home town and in our church family, we have almost no peer support as most couples our age are just starting their families. Largely, we have had to rely on older couples who have kids our children’s age or “empty nesters” who have already launched their children. Granted, we have been truly blessed by the couples who have walked with us but peer support has been largely missing for the past 5 years.
Next, we purposely chose not to shelter our children from the world but to raise our kids “in but not of the world.” We’ve had to raise our children in a culture and in schools that preach “work hard at academics and sports, get a good college education, make a lot of money, and buy big houses and boats to make you happy.” It’s a very self-centered, what’s in it for me culture. Traits like serving ones country or community, giving back by volunteering time, talents, or money, and pursuing a vocation or career that impacts people for God rather than making a buck are largely absent or in some circumstances even deterred.
Thankfully, God had a plan in all of this and our church family and our children’s experiences allowed them to see through this shallow and empty culture to persevere. Yes, our children were exposed to things like peers using drugs and alcohol, depression, and even suicide. They’ve seen friends consumed in the world and end up in trouble with the law or worse. But, they also got to see behind the curtain of the upper-middle class lie – kids who had the big houses, the latest phones, vacations to Europe, and everything handed to them were many times more unhappy, depressed, and treat people with a sense of pompous entitlement. Instead of assimilating and being influenced by this culture, our children rejected it and wanted nothing to do with The Success Illusion. They witnessed and experienced first hand all that the Bible (and mom and dad) have taught them over the years.
Parenting teenagers is an entirely different style of parenting. Teens often look and think that they are adults, therefore they want to make their own decisions. Directly trying to tell your teens which college they should go to or what vocation they might be happiest in often has the opposite effect. Ultimately, teens want to have a say and make their own decisions. Therefore, if you wait until they become teens to start letting them make decisions, you could end up with some setbacks. This is why I have preached for the past 12 years to start allowing children to make decisions and have responsibility early. In the teen years, you move from Director to Coach or Mentor. You have to be clever and find ways to plant ideas and seeds in your teens but ultimately allow them to make the decision and go the direction they want to. Sometimes, this means letting them fail or deal with natural consequences. Too many parents these days are micromanaging their kids lives up until the day they drop them off a college. Sometimes even longer?
Our oldest just graduated and heads off to college this fall yet he is still not sure what he wants to major in or pursue for a vocation. My encouragement to him is to pray, explore some areas and take some classes to see where his passion lays. Over and over again, I have told my kids to follow their hearts and God’s plan for their lives and they will never be wrong. Don’t choose a career or path just because it has a big salary or fancy title. Pursue what you love based on your calling and gifts and find a way to advance God’s kingdom and have an impact on the world. This being said, both of my children are looking at careers and vocations that will have them working and helping other people and possibly working overseas. They both feel that helping people, fighting injustice, and building community are more important than salaries and titles.
Bottom line, nether one of my kids will be attending Harvard or becoming neurosurgeon’s. They probably won’t develop the next startup app that goes IPO and makes a billion dollars. However, they are both actively engaged (in their own separate ways) in deepening relationships, helping other people, and pointing others to Jesus Christ and his undeserving, amazing grace. While they sometimes slip and have setbacks, more often they rely on the foundation of Christ and Christian values to guide and lead their lives and everyday actions. While they are both spreading their wings and venturing away from our nest, my wife and I are confident and secure that they both are listening to God and allowing the Holy Spirit to move and guide them in their endeavors. By this measure, we have succeeded as parents.
“To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.