Have I told you that I love your kids? So much.
I love watching them growing up and starting to come out of their shell. I love watching them start to take risks and dream big. I especially love them when they stumble and screw up. It's a pretty cool honour to be walking alongside them as they grow up.
You know what else I love? Watching how much you love them as well.
I see all the little things you do that go unappreciated. I see how hard you work in providing and caring for your family, making sure they get a good education and a good start. You don't want them to go through some of the things that you did when you grew up. I get that, my parents were without work for four years when I was a teenager. It sucked.
I know that everything you do, you do so that you can give your family the best foundation for life. I know that, because I talk to you and I hear those exact words coming out of your mouth. I also see that you are quickly becoming incredibly time-poor. Between work, home, sports, schooling and all the extra stuff you do as a mum or a dad, it gets exhausting. You scramble from thing to thing and it's burning you out. It's like running a marathon without a finish line some days.
Can I ask you one more thing though?
Please, build a real, ongoing relationship with your children. More than all the things that you can give them like good schooling, a nice house and the latest gadgets, they honestly want you the most.
The average amount of time a dad will spend talking to his kids in meaningful conversation per week is 5 minutes. For moms, it's still only 25 minutes. That really sucks! I think if both parents were able to engage in meaningful conversations for even 30 minutes each a week, it would be a game-changer for our young people.
I totally get it. You under so much stress from all angles. You're working longer hours than ever before and you take the stress home with you, and now your kids are growing up and they are weird and distant. It's really hard work to have a conversation with them some days. It's totally alright to admit that it is difficult.
When they were smaller, it was so much easier. You could play with them, and they loved you almost unreservedly. They mostly forgot all the times that you came home late from work, or missed a game but now they are growing up and they don't want to play with you anymore. They seem to want something called space, all the time and it doesn't include you.
Here's what I'm seeing on the ground though. I see that we are currently raising one of the loneliest generations that has ever existed. I'm seeing one of the most anxious, stressed and depressed generations (statistically) grow up before my eyes. I'm seeing more openly broken relationships between young kids and their parents than ever before, despite the fact that many of them have the latest things, a beautiful house and all the activities they could ever want. The kids I work with who are the most well-adjusted, often have healthy and growing relationships with their parents.
My intention isn't to condemn you or to beat you over the head with it, I only want to speak the truth in love. Consider this an on-the-ground report from someone who loves your kids, thinks about them a lot, talks to them a lot and prays for them a lot. I want them to grow up to be world-changing, emotionally and spiritually mature adults and I'm really concerned about them.
Please, please, please make building a good relationship with your kids a priority in your life.
I've seen too many moms and dads who thought that having a nice house and the latest things would lead to harmony in the family. It never has, because kids don't want things, they want you. Don't be that mum or dad who works so hard to give everything that they trade it for a relationship with their kids. Everybody loses.
You might be busting a hump trying to get them into a nice private school, where someone can educate them. The lessons they learn at school will get them to university, but the lessons they learn from you will affect every major decision they will ever make in their life, positively or negatively. They need more than education, they need to be shown what is right and wrong, how to be married well, how to treat men or women with honour and respect and many other things.
Tell them your stories as often as you can. All of them. The funny ones where you tried to chug a full litre of milk and threw up, the ones where you were the hero and saved the day, but especially the ones where you fell short and stuffed up. They love it when you can be honest with them. They know you're not perfect, but they want you to be able to say it as well.
Spend time with them one on one. Take them out for dinner and ask them questions about what they think. Go camping, even if it's a bit weird. Have discussions where you build them up and encourage them but also conversations where you let them hope and dream.
Eat dinner as a family, every night. On a real table, without the television on. Ask them about their day, and what they think about things and what they believe about the world and their friends and how you can love them. Always be asking them how you can love them.
At the end of the day, your relationship with your son or daughter is one of the most precious things you will ever have. Please, let them know that you love them every single day.
James Young moved to the west of Melbourne to follow God's call on his life to tell young people about the greatest message they could ever hear – the gospel. On his days off, he seeks pain on a road bike, blissful beats by listening to Beautiful Eulogy and Trip Lee and relaxing with his beautiful wife Sarah. You can see more of his writing @radicalchange2010.com and follow him at @ragingzephyr on twitter.
James Young's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/james-young.html