Many of you know I am currently the father of three teenagers. I have a sixteen year old (seventeen in May), a fifteen year old (sixteen in December), and a fourteen year old (fifteen in September) under one roof. Please stop right now to pray and fast. Also, due to the current price of cars, gas, insurance, and college – my Venmo is . . . just kidding (sort of).
Within the last week, I have been able to have hard, but rich conversations with my children. Individually. One on one. Just me and them. I am sure they will one day need therapy based on the counsel I give them – but for right now – I am grateful for the opportunities to talk.
As I’ve reflected on our conversations, I have made an observation on how they came about. Each discussion happened on their time, in their way, on their terms. In other words, I didn’t start it. I didn’t set aside a “dad and child” time for an hour one night a week. Those are fine and good. I recommend them. But the conversations I am referring to did not happen under these conditions. One happened in the car and continued the next afternoon in the teenager’s bedroom. The others happened at home. The common denominator? I was there, available, present, listening, and paying attention. Out of nowhere, a question from their lips emerged. When I turned off the television one night, I asked, “Is everything okay?”
Now. Before I go any further, I have to say that I am writing this as a reminder to me as much as anyone. If you followed me around and observed my parenting skills, there would be MUCH to judge and accuse and blame and point fingers toward. MUCH. There are times I am not aware or observant or paying attention. Please hear me say that. But these conversations – all within a couple of days of one another – all happened because, by God’s grace, I was there. Available. With them. Present. As I reflect on how these moments came about, I am challenged and reminded of the importance of being around. There. Asking. Listening. Curious as to what is going on in their heads. With them.
Parents, there is something about “doing nothing” with your children. There is something to not having to be busy when your children are under the roof and in the same room. There is something to not having to have the radio on in the car. There is something to asking your child to put their phone down. . . even if nothing is said. Again – I want to be quick to say that I don’t always do these things. These things aren’t “hard and fast” rules at the Pearson house. Maybe they should be. But sometimes it is okay just to be with your child. Available. There. With them. Present. Unbusy. Undistracted.
Think about it. Are there things you can say “no” to so you can be available? Are there things you are a part of you can put on hold during this season? When you are home, are you there? Present? Are you okay with doing nothing while your children are around you? It may be a couple of months before my children open up to me again. I don’t know. But I do not want the reason they don’t open up be because they can’t. I don’t want the reason they don’t say something to me be because I am not there. Parents, let’s be present.