Writings by Cole Huffman


Parenting 201

I’m sixteen years into parenting now. Call me a sophomore father heading into my junior year—a member of the Parenting 201 class. Here’s what I think I know.

I know I appreciate a church that lets me be a father. Which means my flaws as a father are entirely my own. I can’t blame our church for making me serve them at the expense of my children because our church has never required that. I get to be home with them most every night and travel infrequently. I have a very full ministry but my kids haven’t noticed. Thank you, First Evan.

I know I appreciate a wife who supports me as a father. Thank you, Lynn. No one wants to see me succeed in parenting more than her. Many men praise the mothering skills of their wives. But I can also praise Lynn for believing in me as the best father for her children. Because of her belief in me she never feels the need to emasculate me and I never feel the need to domineer her. The best thing we do for our kids is love each other considerately—as well as passionately—in their presence. (So sorry kids, but Mom’s and Dad’s public displays of affection for each other will continue no matter how many get-a-room faces you make at us.)

I know parenting has made me a kinder man. I had an impatience temper problem when my oldest three were small. I’m ashamed of those times when they, especially my oldest son, saw me react to them short and hot. God got my attention about it around the time we moved to Memphis (2002-03), and there has been lasting fruit in keeping with repentance. Parenting is like maintaining a delicate ecosystem in that it takes some families years to overcome one night of wildfire words. I didn’t want my home to be scorched-earth.

I know parenting has made me a humbler man. But not in the way we immediately think of humility. I do feel like Paul in 2 Corinthians 2, finding my fatherly self in the question, who is sufficient for these things? But if humility is actually gauged not by thinking less of yourself but by thinking of yourself less, then parenting has effected for me that kind of humility that most wants to see character formation in my kids even if the process proves embarrassing to me at points. I don’t like embarrassment, but if I have to suffer some of it for my sons and daughters to gain their maturity then let it come. I try never to use my position in the community as a tactic for keeping them in line. Instead of, “Don’t embarrass me!”, it’s, “You might embarrass me, yes, but if you do I’ll still love you through it.”

I know I don’t miss the age my kids used to be. I thought I would miss the Lego-crazed little guy my now strapping teenage son used to be, and the little bow-haired, dress-up girls my bigger girls used to be. But I don’t really. I remember them that way of course, my office decorated with pictures of them then—and we still have a little guy for now in our Kindergartener, Colson. I think what I’m trying to say here is liking your kids at whatever age they are is a good place to be in parenting. You waste energy and enjoyment pining away for some age they used to be or dreading the age they’re moving toward. Don’t give your kids the sense you liked them more when they were little or you can’t wait until they’re older.

I know that I live in a 1 Kings 1:6 cultural context, even in the church. The verse is a description of how David failed his son Adonijah: “His father had never at any time displeased him by asking, ‘Why have you done thus and so?’” While I’m not to provoke my children (Eph. 6:4) raising them will require displeasing them sometimes. Consider how overindulgent we’ve become that the force of logic in Hebrews 12:9 is no longer that forceful: “Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them.” In my judgment too many fear to discipline because they’re afraid they’ll make their kids resentful of them. We need to recover the respectfulness of fatherhood, including fathers who defend mothers from backtalk and other actions of dishonoring. My kids know Lynn is my wife first, their mom second.

I know saying I’m sorry is as important as saying I love you. And to say I’m sorry is to say I was wrong and ask forgiveness. I’ve overreached as well as overreacted, been insensitive and preoccupied, spoke first and thought about the words I used later. Some of the best moments I’ve had conversing with my kids have been initiated by my apologies for something. We’ve both learned in those times how God’s grace works.

I know I’ve still got a lot to learn yet. Such as: how to get their peers in on some of the things we’re seeking to develop in our kids; discerning when my kids need to learn something the hard way or straightened circumstances for a season; keeping one’s mouth shut when your adult kids haven’t invited your opinion or counsel.

As James Dobson titled one of his books, parenting isn’t for cowards. It tests your mettle and your faith, your wisdom and your wit, your poise and your love. Much grace, peace, and joy in it to my Parenting 201 classmates.
Posted by Cole Huffman at 9:58 AM
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