“Read book . . . read book . . . Papa, read book, please.” My 2-year old son clasped the ends of my fingers with his tiny hands and led me to his bookshelf.
Reading with my son is an activity I usually do when I get home in the evenings from work. With the new norm of work-from-home arrangements amid COVID-19, however, he has been asking me for more reading time throughout the day.
I must admit that being interrupted multiple times a day while I am replying to work emails or handling video conference calls to read books or play with cars took a while to get used to.
At first, it was a little annoying. I identified with a comic depicting parents tying up their kids at home so that they could have some peace to work. As the days went by and the requests from my son to spend time with him continued, however, I began to realise how much he really wanted and appreciated time with me.
That’s when I started to look back at the 2 years of my son’s life—and saw that I had been absent for the most part of it due to work commitments. Travelling frequently for meetings and conferences during the first year of his life, I had missed many of his growth milestones. Instead, I had watched him grow up through video updates my wife sent to me. My only consolation was the assumption that children needed their mothers more when they were young.
Being physically at home with my son more during this period has prompted me to evaluate my role as a father and given me new insights about my relationship with my son. Here are 3 lessons I have learnt:
My son needs my presence
Being home more has helped me to see that my son values my presence just as much as he needs his mother, and comes to me for different things. As a father and as head of a household, I am reminded by Ephesians 6:4 of God’s mandate for me: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord”.
Firstly, I am not to provoke my son to anger. Secondly, I am to be actively involved in bringing him up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. As my son grows up and seeks to spend time with me, I need to be aware that my absence or neglect could potentially provoke him. And whether through play time, reading together, or prayer moments, being present offers me an opportunity to share God’s truth with him and to bring him up in the ways of the Lord.
My son needs a role model for the important things in life
In prioritising work over family (consciously or unconsciously), I may be sending the wrong message to my son on what is really important in life, and what I should devote my time to each day.
Also, spending more time with him has made me more mindful of my behaviour towards my wife, my son, and other family members. I am realising anew that introducing Christ through Christ-like behaviour starts at home. As a father, it should be my heart’s desire that my children imitate me, as I imitate Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).
My son needs to hear the gospel at home
If there is one thing I ask of the Lord, it would be for His grace and mercy to be in the life of my son, that he might come to know Him as his personal Lord and Saviour. This is a desire that requires much prayer and dependence on the Lord for.
Yet I am also reminded that as a father, I play an important role in introducing the gospel to my son, even at a young age. The busyness and other responsibilities of life can easily overshadow the responsibility of sharing Christ’s love with him. During this stay home period, I have been prompted to be more intentional in taking time to talk about God with my son and to teach him to place his trust in a Heavenly Father who loves him deeply (Deuteronomy 6:5-9).
While COVID-19 has introduced many difficult changes for us all, I’m thankful that having to stay home more has made me think more intentionally about my relationship with my son. It has certainly opened my eyes to the need to pause and to reflect on my role as a father—which I pray God will help me to continue to do when life returns to some level of normalcy.