Kids have an uncanny way of catching parents unprepared, don’t they? While our family was in the car (on the way to church no less) my youngest son asked the open-ended question, “Dad, has anyone in our family ever been in real trouble?”
I have no idea what inspired his question or what he meant by “real trouble.” In a matter of milliseconds I was in full internal dialog conflict. I’ve already had the discussion about my wild and wooly youth with my eldest son, on my own terms, when he first became a teenager. I want all the boys to learn from my successes as well as failures, but I didn’t plan to introduce certain parts of my history until I deemed each was mature enough to understand. With the question I found myself put on the spot by my “baby” – the child with the unflappable memory.
First thought – deflect the question. Surely we didn’t have time to get into the details right before church.
Second thought – lie now and ask for forgiveness later when I set the record straight. After all, how would I be helping my boy by exposing him now to the truth of his father’s fallibility?
Third thought - tell the truth. Heavy sigh...
Thankful for the influence of the “still small voice” of the Holy Spirit, I resisted the temptation to try to rewrite my history. In the end, there was more at stake than my pride. Instead of adding a new failure to a past failure, I shared that yes someone had found trouble, and that someone was me. After my son’s shocked look that pierced my heart momentarily, I explained that I had made some poor decisions as a young man, letting my immaturity and anger get the best of me - and I paid the price. As quickly as the question came, the answer satisfied the random curiosity of the inquiry.
Fatherhood Challenge: Dare to tell the truth. I realize there are definitely times when it would be inappropriate to share all the adult details of life, even if directly asked by our children. However, risking a wound to my ego and being challenged to follow-up the truthful answer with a teachable moment later on, when the time is right, was the better choice.