Points to Ponder: Play It Forward by Just Playing

Points to Ponder
Play It Forward by Just Playing

My dad used to tell me the stories of his mother and the incredible job she did raising her kids as a single mom. One story was about his older brother, Herb. It was Christmas time, and Herb had received a set of boxing gloves. He said, "Hey, Mom, you wanna go a round with me?" Their ninety-eight pound mother put on the gloves. Herb took his stand and position. Then Mom landed a punch and Herb landed in the Christmas tree. How nice it is when parents take time to play with their children.
Having two little girls myself, they like to play with me. We've wrestled on the floor, played hide and seek, and enjoyed some board games. But sometimes I realize I don't know how to "play" very well. You know, the kind of playing we all did as children. Your stuffed animals or action figures have names and you have them holding conversations. You build little houses or forts and play out certain scenarios you make up.
I find that when one of my girls comes to me and says, "Come on, Dad, let's play," I kind of recoil from some of the things they want to do. "Petshops" and "My Little Pony" are the favorite toys right now. Our four-year-old Joanna especially loves her animals. She said, "Daddy, let's play with my animals." I think she's destined for a career in sales, because while I'm dreading this idea, she'll say, "You like to play with animals, don't you, Daddy?" She expects me to make "my" animals talk to and play with hers, following a storyline only she understands.
I'm just so surprised at myself, and ashamed of myself, when I feel these reactions of great reluctance inside. Maybe it's that "I'm a guy . . . they're girls" sort of thing. Boys and girls play with the same kinds of toys but in different ways. I don't want to do it their way; in fact, I just don't want to do it at all.
Then I think back to my earlier years when I imagined what being a dad would be like. I'd seen the model dads on television. Today most of them are portrayed as dense or goofy (seems to me). I also had my own dad and the other dads I knew, and these all contributed to my high ideals of what kind of dad I wanted to be should that opportunity ever come.
I pictured myself as the cool dad. Remember "The Courtship of Eddie's Father"? The 1970's TV show starred Bill Bixby as a single father raising his little boy. Every episode featured them walking on the beach or somewhere and having deep discussions. Little Eddie asked profound questions, and Bill Bixby would impart his fatherly wisdom on a level his little boy could grasp. Yeah, that would be me, I thought to myself. Full of wisdom, having deep conversations, answering the profound questions of life.
I also thought that I'd have no problem jumping into whatever my children wanted to do. My dad worked a lot, but when I asked him to play, he never turned me down. He even seemed to want to do it. He was cool like that. I thought, yeah, I could do that. Play is play; no big deal.
But now I find I am not meeting my expectations. Sometimes I could just kick myself for some of the attitudes I exhibit and poor judgment calls I've made. Priorities and ordering them properly can be the toughest daily assignment.
I felt pretty good about the time when a state senator invited me to come to a Monday night session of the State Senate to deliver the opening prayer. I turned him down because it was our daughter's bedtime and I didn't want to miss that. When I told Elizabeth I'd done that, she hugged me in appreciation.
But then, I have missed being home for much lesser things. It is almost a daily struggle to balance what could be done with what really needs to be done. I have to remind myself that at their age now they want to be with me, to play with me, and even just to ride along in the car on an errand. But one day, they will be busy, have lots of friends and activities and interests. Perhaps, like so many young people, they'll move far away to pursue what life holds for them; and hopefully what God has called and gifted them to do. Is it any different for our child than it was for Jeremiah, the young prophet, whom God had called?
"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations." (Jeremiah 1:5)
So we have them for a time. It is a great stewardship given from heaven. I'm not everything I ought to be for my children, but I have today to try again.
Isn't it great to have our Heavenly Father Who is the perfect parent? And even if you didn't have the best human role models to help you grow as a mom or dad, the Lord is there for you. And He is there for every child.
I don't want to let my kids down, but I do and probably will again. I have to teach them to turn to the Lord, and to do so myself. He will lift them up when I can't or when I fail.
"When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take care of me." (Psalm 27:10).

Points to Ponder is a series of occasional articles written by Rev. Dennis Whitmore, Pastor of Hilltop Christian Fellowship of Clear Spring, MD. These articles are also found at www.HilltopChristianFellowship.com.