I am a 67-year-old grandfather, married to one woman, Lynda, for almost 45 years. I have a 38-yr-old daughter and a 36-year-old son. Both are happily married and each has children. I am proud of my family, and the fact both of our kids have turned out to be successful in their individual lives.
Lynda and I waited to have children for six years after getting married. We wanted for me to finish seminary education at SMU and for us to have some time married before having children. And we wanted, if possible, to have a son and a daughter. Our plans worked out pretty well!
Our hopes for our children to make it on their own have been fulfilled. They have found intelligent mates to marry. They have their own homes, and they work hard at parenting. How did our kids turn out so well?
I reflected on that question this week. There is no single thing that created them becoming good people, but rather many things. It began with us wanting to have children, and waiting for a good time where we could more easily care for them. Lynda was a stay-at-home mom until both kids were in grade school, so she could devote her full attention to them. Once in grade school, she just worked part-time so she could send the kids off to school in the morning, and be home when they got out of school. That was very intentional. We could have used the extra money if she had worked full time, but we both thought it would be better for the kids to do it this way.
At dinner time we sat at the table together and talked about the day. Mealtime became an important part of our family routine. Lynda was awesome in helping the kids with homework as they grew older. On Sundays we all went to church together, and all of us went to Sunday school. As a pastor that was just expected, but had I not been a pastor we would have done the same. That’s the way it was when I grew up in my family. I realized that being a pastor greater scrutiny would be given to our kids by parishioners. We heard plenty of stories of rebellious preacher’s kids! We wanted to make our home life as normal as possible and not put greater pressure on our kids to conform to some image of what a “preacher’s kid” should look like. I think we did pretty good on that score.
The first half of my ministry my salary wasn’t too great, but we saved so we could always take a relaxing, week-long vacation somewhere nice, either in Florida or in Colorado. We still talk about those road trips and how much fun they were. Likewise, we took our kids to appropriate movies we could all watch together, like E.T. or Back to the Future. We lived close to the kids’ grandparents and decided to live in Missouri just for that reason. We wanted our children to really know their grandparents. That, too, had a significant effect with our children who grew up loving their grandparents, and extended family of aunts, uncles, and cousins.
I think our kids turned out very well because we invested ourselves in their lives while they lived at home. We taught our values to them, and demonstrated those values in everyday living. Perhaps one of the greatest gifts we gave to our kids was a stable and loving marriage that Elizabeth and James could observe every day. I cannot overstate how important that is! While many people in their thirties have rejected church, both of ours attend United Methodist churches in Kansas and Michigan. I am very happy knowing that. In mostly little ways we became a close family that loves being together. The investments were worth it!
Mark Mildren, father of two adults children and grandfather of three, is a retired Methodist minister. He spends part of almost every week working at Good Dads. He can be reached for question or comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.