It was the second year of our marriage, and the arguing in our house was getting more intense. I had no idea what to say, so I said nothing.
I just watched, and listened.
My wife, Heather, was arguing with her mom. It had nothing to do with me. They were arguing about whether or not they did family devotions in their house when Heather was growing up.
Heather exclaimed, “Mom, I don’t know what you are talking about. I’m not saying you guys are bad parents, but we never did family devotions when I was growing up.”
Heather’s mom replied, “I don’t care what you say. I know we studied the Bible with you kids. I remember. I can’t believe you’re saying this.”
Before I knew it, they started crying, the argument was over, and we all felt horrible.
But nothing was settled. They still disagreed. Heather said they didn’t. Her mom said they did. I was confused. It wasn’t until later that they figured out the irony of all ironies.
They were both right.
Evidently, they did have regular Bible-oriented family time—but only when Heather was young. When she and her brother started school, and they started getting involved with other activities, they stopped.
Case closed. They were both right. But there was something nagging at me…something that grabbed hold of me and wouldn’t let me go. That night, as I walked my six-month-old daughter, Noelani, to sleep, I was haunted by one solitary question.
What if my children forget me?
They had family devotion time. It was real. It happened. But Heather forgot about it. What if that happened to me, as a dad?
I knew it could happen. What if I am a great dad on half the days of my children’s lives, and a deadbeat dad on the other half? And what if they forget the days that I was a great dad? Then, I thought, it would be as if I was only ever a deadbeat dead.
I couldn’t accept that. That would be the worst thing in the world for me. I thought about how I can only control what I can control—myself. So I started thinking about all the things that I could do to ensure that my parenting legacy would be a God-glorifying one.
But first, I had to know…what makes things memorable, and what makes things forgettable?
Why do we remember birthdays, weddings, funerals, childbirth, moving, and any kind of emotional devastation or exhilaration?
It appears to me that the single greatest description of what gets remembered, or not, is the level of intensity associated with it.
Think about it. We all probably know a couple who has said “I love you” countless times, yet the one time someone hears “I don’t love you anymore” overshadows everything.
Am I the only one among us who has gotten caught in the rut of turning “Alright, I love you, bye” into a single word expelled with a solitary breath? Ugh. My wife deserves better. Our children deserve better.
From that fateful moment walking Noelani to sleep, to this very day and beyond, that principle of intensity has governed everything I do as a parent that I want remembered. In living my life this way, I have discovered three simple yet powerful keys to leaving a parenting legacy, to being remembered. I hope and pray they will bless your parenting.
1. Go Big.
If you want something to be remembered, increase the intensity. Level up. Go big.
Are you saying “I love you?” Then don’t just say it. Engage as many senses as you can. Cradle your child’s face while you look into his or her eyes. Pause before you speak to command their rapt attention. Then say it with as much expressiveness as you can muster. Jam as much love as you can into every single word.
“I LOVE you!”
Or, you could say it, “I. love. YOU!”
Play with it. Have fun with it. But go big. Engage all five senses. Enhance it with a tighter-than-average hug, or a kiss. Engage all five love languages if possible. (A reference to The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman—a must read!) You never know which love language will become your children’s most dominant. Engage them all.
2. Go Deliberate.
Are you on vacation? Then don’t just do life as usual, watching TV, playing video games, or whatever that may be. Go somewhere you’ve never been. Do something you’ve never done. Eat something you’ve never eaten. Play a game you’ve never played. If you never go for a walk, do that. Just do something that you have thought about. Don’t simply let life happen. Think about something, and go do it.
I am so convinced of the power of this principle—being deliberate—that I think it’s worth your time to spend five minutes the night before you go to bed to think about one deliberate thing you can do each day. If you wait until the morning to do it, it’s probably too late. Your children may wake up before you and you’re behind the eight ball all day.
Be intentional. Whether it’s in your day-to-day living, or in special occasions, go deliberate.
Yes, the third key is to simply “go.” You see, in my opinion, we as homeschooling parents care very much about everything involved with our children. That’s why we engage in what I call “Extra-Mile Parenting” by home-educating our children.
Thus, we sometimes overthink things so much that we discourage ourselves before we even try. That’s why the third and maybe most important key to creating a parenting legacy, is to simply go. Just do something. And pray about it.
One of my mentors once told me, “God answers prayers, but sometimes you have to give Him something to work with.” Give God something to work with regarding your parenting efforts.
If you are going to memorize Scripture, go to another room. Go to your bed. Make your children go to a certain spot where each child has to stand and recite it. I don’t care what you do, just go. Do anything with intention.
These three keys have governed my parenting. If I ever get discouraged, and feel unable to go big, and have nothing deliberate left in my tank, at least I want to go and do something.
And then I give it to God. I pray about it. God promises those who love Him, and stay true to His calling, that He can make good come from anything (Romans 8:28). That means, even if I think my effort is abysmal, God can do wonders with it.
And ultimately, isn’t it God whom we want to raise our children anyway? We are simply stewards of our children’s souls until they return to Him.
These three keys not only govern my day-to-day parenting, but they also triggered some big things in my life as well. In 2008, I started a father-daughter retreat, largely born out of these three principles and the idea of creating an intense expression of God’s love working through me that my daughters could never forget.
We engage all five senses. We utilize all five love languages. We make God the center of it all. There is both formality and casual playfulness. There is a banquet, as well as outdoor games. And there are photographers capturing magical, once-in-a-lifetime moments between dads and their daughters.
I intentionally thought this retreat was just going to be local guys, here in Tampa. But every year, even the first year in 2008, people have attended it from across the country. I tried to go big, and God made it even bigger.
And you can do the same. Whether or not you attend our father-daughter retreat, go big with your children. Do something deliberate. And if you don’t know what to do, by all means, just go.
To the glory of God, go.
Your children will never forget.
Frederic Gray, the founder of the “Fathers of Faith and Daughters of Excellence” retreat, has spoken for homeschooling groups, state and local conventions, family camps, and retreats across the country. And he’s speaking at the HEAV Virginia Homeschool convention THIS JUNE 7 to 9, 2018, at the Greater Richmond Convention Center. Learn more about him at www.fredericgray.com.
Check out this clip of Frederic in recent video!