I’m repeating a few posts for my own good. Even though, in every case, families have grown and aged, I hope you enjoy this interview.
FF: Describe your family.
PW: My family is comprised of me, my wife Vicky, and my three sons: Chris (16), Joshua (7), and Caleb (5). We are a fun loving bunch. We laugh together, go to church together and enjoy each others company doing many things. Everyone has their own personality – Josh and I are the extroverts; Vicky, Chris and Caleb are the introverts. I think all of us are temperamental at times but we have learned to give each other space when needed and to live in each other’s space with understanding.
FF: How has fatherhood changed you?
PW: First of all it has made me respect and love my parents more. It has given me a new perspective on the impact that fathers have on their children and family. It has pushed me to live carefully and cautiously. For me, parenting challenges me to know me better. I think about why I say no and yes in many situations. Even if I don’t always tell my sons why I said yes or no, I, at least, think my responses through. There have been times when my responses were based on my upbringing and I had to reevaluate them. I have enjoyed the process.
FF: Have you made any mistakes as a dad? If you’re not a liar, name one and talk about what it meant to you.
PW: Yes. I was made in an household that believed you “do as I say and not as I do.” In my house my children respond better to what I do rather than what I say. So I don’t ask them to do something that I am not willing to do. I used to just tell them to do stuff around the house but now I do it and tell them to model what I do.
FF: What’s the most helpful advice you heard when you were becoming a father or as you’ve been a father?
PW: What you do in moderation your children will do in excess. Be careful what you do; your children are watching and listening even when you think they are not. Oh how true this is!
FF: How do you attend to your relationship with your children’s mother? It’s changed over time. How so?
PW: I believe my sons take their cues in how to treat their Mother from me. I am careful to demonstrate how I want them to treat their mother. Even when we are angry with one another, I am careful with my words and careful not to argue in front of them. Our relationship has improved. I think how we handle our frustration has changed and we have some understood rules of engagement, now. Our children must see that Mom and Dad are okay. They must see that we love, respect and cherish one another so we are careful to demonstrate t in front of them.
FF: How do you pay attention to the differences, the unique characteristics, between your sons? Do you have a spreadsheet?
PW: LOL…No I do not have a spreadsheet but I am very observant. I know each of their strengths, personalities and temperaments. I listen to each one’s questions and conversations no matter how silly I may think they are. Their questions and conversations are the inroads to their possible passions. The movies, books, music, toys, etc. that they show interest in give me some clues as to how I should feed their passions. Chris loves technology, CSI and music. Josh loves math, hero cartoons, performance and movies. Caleb loves cars and singing. All of them have their likes and interests that are unique and fascinating to me. So I observe carefully.
FF: What surprises are there along the way for parents? What do you wish you were told to expect?
PW: I wished someone would have said to prepare my heart. Parenting is joyous, painful, sometimes confusing, frustrating, happy, thought-provoking and challenging. If your heart is not in the right posture you may respond erroneously. A parent’s heart is that of a servant. If you do it right, you do grow and develop a good relationship with them. Over time the relationship changes and may have to be modified to fit their station in life. There are sometimes when I look at my 16 yr old like he is still 6 and have to understand that he is becoming a man. Eventually I will have to let him go or at least change how I respond to his needs because his needs will change and what he needs from me will be different. The shifting in our relationships carries with it a host of emotions.
FF: What is one recent memory you made with your children?
PW: I took the oldest boy and his friends paint balling for his 16th birthday. I took the 7 year old and his friends along with his 5 yr old brother to Lego Land. We have gone camping, to football games, baseball games, basketball games, field trips, boating, etc. We are always trying to find something to do together.
There are times when I remember all the things my 16 yr old and I did when he was younger and how I was involved, present and engaged in his world. Now, since he is becoming a man I must shift. It hurts because I have grown to love him and enjoy his company but he is growing up like we expected he would. Now I am careful to be just as present in my younger sons’ lives. The thought of doing it all over again with them is exhausting. But they need the same amount of time that I gave my oldest.
I was teacher, pastor, coach, mentor, principal and many times playmate. In the time of their lives I find myself trying to be the father that I felt my father should have been. Don’t get me wrong my father was a great provider, fun loving, outgoing, and present. But he was not a good listener, watcher and observer. I have always believed that he should have been more involved than what he was in my life. Now I understand that he was more involved than his father was in his life. His job and the demands of life – i.e.providing for a family, dictated how involved and present he could be. My career choice creates opportunities and possibilities of being actively present and involved in my sons’ lives. That is a blessing!
I recently told my son that I know he is growing up and the boundaries that we have in our house are becoming more noticeable to him. I told him we have these boundaries because as Christian men it’s good to have boundaries and accountability. I shared with him that the time is coming where he will have to set his own boundaries, I will try hard not to tell him what to do and that how I function as a father will change from life overseer to life coach. But it’s not now but soon. I would not have been able to make that statement if I had not done some soul searching to see how best to serve his ever changing needs.
Fatherhood is ironic because while I am fathering my children and helping and directing them in development and and healthy growth; the interaction is developing and growing me. I appreciate the lessons my sons give me everyday.