Sometimes you get a treasured text from your child that signifies a milestone in your relationship, or just a job well done. I remember in 2004, when we ran our first Dads and Kids Bush Camp at Wollondilly River, my daughter was 11 years old at the time. She graciously agreed to come away camping with a group of dads and kids for a ‘fun’ weekend away.
She brought along a friend of hers who didn’t have a dad. Jasmine (not her real name) had grown up without a father. Her dad had walked out when she was very young. To be more precise, her father had never walked in.
You see, her father and mother had never married. Statistics show that the majority of children born to non-married parents usually end up fatherless. For this reason, I was excited that Jasmine could come to our camp.
The weekend brought real healing to her heart. To see great dads in action, who love and care for their children is an inspiration at any time for any child.
For me personally, the big moment came in a text message from my 11 year-old daughter when we got home. “I love you dad, you are special” with a smiley face.
I kept that message on my phone until the phone collapsed. I did not have a very close relationship with my daughter at the time, and I was trying hard to build one. That text showed me that despite my many failings as a father to my daughter, I had at least succeeded in part in my mission.
Several years later, I received a slightly humorous text message from my 23 year-old son that I kept for many years. Looking back, I realised it was a milestone text. It went like this:
“Hey everyone, just sending out a quick text to let you know Bryn and I are doing a bush bash/walk this Saturday morning at 7am, somewhere out the back of the mountains behind Dapto. We think it would be great if a big crew of us went up, had a quick prayer sess up the top of the mountain, then went back down. We’ll probably be finished by 10. No pressure, just letting you know … PS please let your fathers, grandfathers, brothers, sons, uncles, mates, mentors, padawans and followers know if you think they’d be keen for such a venture. Peace Isy +Bryn”.
I knew that the fact that the invitation mentioned fathers was my son’s code for a direct invitation for me to come, which I was quite chuffed by. You see, he had sent the same message to all his friends.
They knew his code as well. He was inviting me to an intimate meeting with his friends. I had finally hit the big time. It reminded me of the quote by a great man:
“There are many ways to measure success, not the least of which is the way your child describes you when talking to a friend.”
I later asked what a padawan was, expecting it to be a rare Mongolian yak. I was pleasantly surprised when I found out it was a Jedi Knight in training. I was going up the ladder moment by moment. Hopefully my next call will be for a part in a Star Wars movie.
The climb up the mountain was very steep, and being the only older biological father, I struggled to keep up with 12 fit younger men. The other exciting part of this adventure, besides the extreme heart work-out, was that the ‘prayer sess’ was led by my 23-year-old son.
Anyone who has been reading this newsletter for any length of time knows I am a big believer in prayer. Some people think I’m mad. I don’t care. My goal in life is to be a good father and a good husband, but I fail at both tasks quite consistently.
I need all the help I can get, and I am not too proud to admit that I need help. That’s why I pray. Besides, any father that has been present at his children’s births and then says he was not moved by the God-given miracle of the moment is lying. I will not say any more.
As I have grown older, my faith in God has deepened. I pray a lot. Perhaps more than I ever did. As a family, we have always given thanks for the meal, and at Monday night Family Dinners we pray for each other. We have always gone to church as a family. Consequently, my children have been exposed to faith from a very young age, but that doesn’t always mean they will believe and pray themselves.
A father must step back as his children grow older and allow them to find their own level in life. As Robert Bault wisely said,
“It is one thing to show your child the way, and then a harder thing to then stand out of it.”
That’s one of the reasons I stepped out of leading the ‘prayer sess’ on top of the mountain that day. My job had been done. My son had taken over. All I had to do was step back and give him the space to do it.
The words of writer and father Andy Andrews come to mind,
“Remember, the goal is not to raise great kids; it’s to raise kids who become great adults.”
As a comedian said, “The trouble with being a parent is that by the time you are experienced, you are unemployed.” I appeal to my readers, get the experience before redundancy sets in. Learn from my mistakes every week. That way, you don’t have to make your own!
But a word of advice: Make sure you keep your milestone text messages free from digital demolition. Those Treasured Text Milestones will give you comfort when your home is quiet.
It will be an encouraging assurance of a job well done.
Yours for enjoying the moments,
PS: Currently Australia is facing a shocking bushfire crisis. As of this writing, 1700 homes have been lost and 17 people have died. Many children have lost fathers who were fighting the fires. Let us also pray for those who have lost loved ones in the fires. Let us pray for those fighting the fires. Let us pray for rain to put out the fires. If praying into the bushfire crisis interests you, join me on Monday night 6 January at 8PM (AEDT) at a special Bushfire Crisis Zoom Prayer Call. Login details here.