I remember camping with my father. I remember the little things. Rising before the sun, Barq’s root beer, the way he stood at the top of an overlook, leaning to one side hands on his hips. He always carried a pocket knife. It was the same knife, one he had since Boy Scouts. I’d bet he still has it. He kept it in a small box on his dresser with tie pins and cuff links, where I sometimes snuck a peak.
He always rose first in the mornings, had the fire started and coffee in hand. He taught me to build a fire, kindling first, sticks next and plenty of air to feed the flames. I never feared the woods. My father taught me how to read the signs and listen. I remember running through the trees, swinging on vines and swimming in the creek. I loved fishing, but fishing wasn’t my favorite part. The smell of the mountain air, crisp, clean, and light was the best. Anything was possible in the mountains. A place to be wild and dirty. A place to explore, rocks to climb and the joy of family.
We built our tent together. We each had a job, stakes, hammer, poles, bedding, and creatively making it home for a few days. My mother knew how to make any place home. Her laughter and smile sings in my memories and thoughts. As a parent now, I understand what they gave for my joy and education. They were my world, we kids were the center of the world. They committed to keep promises and worked hard not to make any they couldn’t keep.
Today they are my greatest inspiration. My father is always willing to listen, as he always has. My mother’s laughter still sings and her smile a song. She is always kind to me and so patient. I am writing as I think about my family today. I think about my children’s perception of Rebecca and I. They are our joy, our heart, and will always be our greatest accomplishment. I work hard to give them the safety, love, and joy to be who they are. I want them to be free to explore who they are and secure in the solid love I pass on from my parents.
“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).”
It takes faith, on the part of the parent, to free our children to be who they are. It’s tempting to control their every decision. It takes strength to remember it’s not about us, as parents, but them as children. We are responsible to equip our children with the skills to be successful. We must not manipulate or control, but offer boundaries and allow the consequences of their decisions to teach.
“Whoever spares the rod hates their children,
but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them (Proverbs 13:24).”
The rod is a tool of a shepherd to guide the flock. The root for the word discipline is disciple, to teach or train. The rod is not meant to beat or inflict pain, it is meant to guide and teach. Scripture tells us to be careful in our discipline. I have learned a tantrum is not vindictive or hateful, but a reaction to frustration and distress. Replying with more distress eliminates a child’s sense of safety and calm. As parents we are their rock, a safe place to express themselves. An unmoved beacon of love and patience. It’s important not to fall to the level of a toddler’s tantrum. It’s tempting, trust me I know, especially when we are tired to allow our emotions to take over as well.
My wife is a saint. Many times she has found herself refereeing two toddlers, her husband and the three-year-old. Our partnership makes us successful. I am thankful for the woman I chose to do life with. As iron sharpens iron, so my wife and I sharpen one another. I understand it is not always possible to be partnered in such a way, however the need for children to find unwavering love and patience in you, as the parent, is still the same.
Parents are the unsung heroes of each generation. I write to you parents, the ones whose smiles and camping trips will be remembered.
I see you and so do your children.