Principle number 2: BE PRESENT “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil and cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal but keep your spiritual fervor.” Romans 12:9-11. Be present for your children, not just in the home and not just showing up once in a while, but be present, really connected. This means you have to play with them. Play dress up with your daughters and wrestle with your sons, coach little league and drive them to ballet, pick them up at school and eat dinner together, Help manage their schedules so they have time for family, laugh together, cry together, take a hike in the woods, teach them to love nature and the ocean, dance in the rain, take your daughter on a date. Limit their tv time or video game time in favor of DOING SOMETHING TOGETHER,
This kind of presence requires discipline and selfless decision. It means we put the needs of our children before our own needs. It means we are not too tired to play, we do not lack in zeal. It does not mean we give them everything. We do not want to raise narcissists. Too often we give them things to cover for us when we know we are absent from their lives. I have watched many times as parents give kids an xbox to keep them busy while we do something else.
Plan significant times of presence, like a fishing or camping trip, no electronics allowed. Try a date night with your daughter and take her someplace fancy. In my life, summer vacations with Brenda and the children were always critical moments of presence for the family. We played games, caught crabs, found sharks teeth, put jigsaw puzzles together, watched movies, made comfort food, played put-put, swam in the ocean, went fishing, rented a pontoon boat and on and on. I never took work with me and if cell phones were around then I would have reserved it for an emergency.
Presence in God’s house together was not just something we did and forgot about or occasionally visited without thought. We always talked about the things we learned in church and Sunday School. We never missed, of course it was my job, but it was not Brenda’s job. My kids sat through two services and went to Sunday School every week. They often went with me to youth group Sunday nights and even on youth retreats. They were always at church. Church was our way of life and I have come to believe that is how God entered them. When the kids got a little older, we would be out living life during the week and I would here them say, “that’s going to be in the sermon.”