(Honoring your father and mother – Part II)
Unless something big happens, you’ll father as you were fathered. They say we become who we are from our DNA, or experiences and the decisions we make. It works the same way with fathering. Unless we’re disrupted . . . unless we’re seriously scared by something bad or we catch a vision for something better, we’ll emulate our dads and never even realize we did. There’s a one-minute clip of Jeff Foxworthy talking about fatherhood. He says we look back at our dads and decide to be like them or the opposite.
And it’s a ‘double-down’ when you realize you’re not just raising a boy, you’re not just raising a man, you’re raising a father. You’re modeling what will become your son’s basic approach to fathering, including how he will ‘father’ you when the roles get reversed in your later years. How you care for your older parents will set the standard for how your kids will care for you.
In my family, my dad was the last one to go. After his funeral, we divided up a few ‘treasures’, sold the house and it was over. I was an orphan for the first time in my life. Only in that moment did the last part of Ephesians 6:3 hit me . . . “that YOUR days may be long upon the earth.” I hadn’t grasped how long I’d live AFTER they were both gone. How much peace I’d have knowing I ‘fathered’ my aged father well and ‘walked him home’ through his final years alone.
Here’s a few things I tried to do. Don’t get me wrong . . . I failed a lot. But at least consider these ideas for “honoring” your father (and mother):
- Forgive – Few parents intend to harm their kids even when they do dumb things and focus on themselves. Remember, you didn’t ‘walk in their shoes’, you didn’t have the parents they had, or grow up in the situation they grew up in. Give them grace. Nothing good is going to come from holding a grudge. Drop it.
- Ask them the “really” question – “How are you . . . really?” Feel them. You can’t fix them or their situation, but they want to be known, loved and understood. The last time I saw my dad before he passed, I asked him the really question. His answer?
“I’m lonely, son. I’m ready to go on and be with your Mama!” He was 81, living alone and in failing health. 4 days after I asked this question, he died of a heart attack. My “how are you really” question and his honest answer made it so much easier for me to let him go. He knew where he was going. He was ready and God took him home.
- Praise them – For their accomplishments and specifically for their independence. Don’t coddle them unnecessarily. Celebrate their victories. Encourage them to keep going on their own.
- Get answers while you can – Ask them real questions about real stuff and write down what they say. You’ll learn things that might help you understand them. And listening is loving. Showing interest in their lives and their stories can be a great gift of love. And at the very least, you might learn some things that’ll provide a laugh later on.
- Pray for your parents daily – Praying for someone regularly brings God in and keeps your heart soft.
My kids watched me as I ‘fathered’ my elderly parents . . . I saw them. Yours will be watching too.
Question: Are you taking good care of your aging parents? Tell us here.
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