My 13-year-old son started a blog this week called “The Work Never Goes Away.” He is only two posts in, but, since today is Father’s Day, I was reflecting on the content of his two blogs and saw how much of what is in just that small amount of content has been inspired by the fathers in his life.
Both my husband, Jeff, and my dad, Charlie, have been a huge part of our son’s life. Many of you know that I started my first blog, “Moving in With Dementia,” when my family was living with my parents to help take care of my mom who had Lewy Body Dementia. That intergenerational living was what changed the course of my ministry into a community ministry helping people live the best life possible. I specialize in helping people that other people think are not helpable (yeah, I know that’s not a real word), like people with dementia, mental illness, ADD, or just otherwise people struggling to function in parts of their life. I always knew that much of my call to ministry came from my father, who is a doctor. While he took care of the body, he was actually always helping people with their spirit as well- giving them hope, encouragement, and support.
In reading my son’s blog, I see how much he too has been influenced by his father and grandfather. Jeffrey’s first post was about creating a schedule for the summer so that he can be consistent in his athletic progress and academics. He did not post his specific schedule in his blog post, but when I saw on his calendar a half-hour carved out for meditation, I immediately thought of my dad. For years my dad has meditated in the mornings. When we lived with them, often Jeffrey would be up early in the morning and come downstairs to see his grandfather meditating in order to get ready for his day and be more mindful, kind, and prepared for the task of being a care partner for my mother.
Today’s post was about how we should treat every day like a holiday because “Just think how our society would be if we treated every day as special or like a holiday, everyone would be nicer and more accepting of each other.” This sounds so much like his father. My husband, Jeff, is very optimistic and strives to see each day as special. While he likes holidays, he would rather just get someone a small gift that he saw and thought they would like and give it to them rather than save gifts for a “holiday.” He tries to remember to express his gratitude for his family, friends, and co-workers on a regular basis because he knows this helps people feel valued in their community.
Jeffrey also wanted to start his blog to share with other student athletes what it is like to manage being a student, athlete, and person with food sensitivities and a special diet. Sticking to academic, athletic, and lifestyle plans is hard for anyone, especially teens, and he wanted to connect with other teens in a similar situation to him. Jeffrey’s father and grandfather are extremely dedicated to their athletics, nutrition, sleep schedule, and time for balance in their lives. It is not easy for either of them. They have demanding jobs, they take care of their family, and, for my dad, he was a care partner for my mom for over ten years. I aspire to be like them because I know how hard it is to try and take care of yourself (which our society does not value) and still get your work done and help your family. It is always assumed that people should be able to do it all, and it is easy, but it isn’t. They have had to fight against the cultural norm, especially for men, of success meaning overwork and a focus on money, little time with family, and working until you make yourself sick.
I am really grateful that our son has had such good father figures in his life. As he has gotten older, it is amazing to see how examples of people who work hard on their mindset and do things that manage their mental and physical health have really stuck with him.
We all know that our kids watch us and do what we do. It is okay to struggle and be imperfect. When they see the struggle and the times when we handle the struggle well, and when we do not, they learn how to manage their life into adulthood. In fact, I see how Jeffrey has learned far more from when his father and grandfather have talked about when they have struggled and how they still strive to do their best, rather than the times where it seemed like everything went perfectly.
May we all show our children the complexities of our life so they can learn ways to strive for mental, physical, and emotional balance.