I remember my daughter asking me to play a board game with her. I was busy doing some work and told her, "I can’t right now." I remember one time my son coming home from school needing help in math. Teaching math for most of the day, I did not want to teach it anymore. Knowing I did not have the patience and strength to do any more math, I said, "Ask your mother, I am busy."
Before my call to serve at St. John Rochester, I wore many hats in my previous position. I taught half of the day, was principal "full-time", was the admissions director, was the bookkeeper, dealt with building and grounds, and was a member of a few Boards of Directors and task forces. I attended a lot of evening meetings during the week, attended quite a few conferences, and some traveling meetings. My very understanding wife and I have had the philosophy that I am completing God’s mission. The key word being "I".
Things needed to change. My career is not as important as my children. Though I often say everyone’s order of priorities in life should be God - family - job, I was not following what I preached. The feeling that I was missing my children’s formative years began to weigh on me. I was becoming the Drop-and-Run Parent. I may have been physically present at home, but mentally I checked out.
The Drop-and-Run Parent is absent from the daily events of his children’s lives. In our minds the big moments in life are not losing teeth, hitting a home run in Little League, or a dance recital. The big moments are the ones that we are providing and planning for, such as college, weddings, and retirement. We may justify our absence with these reasons:
"I recognize that my child would rather have all of today’s ‘stuff’ than me, so I work long hours to provide for his current and future needs."
"My absence is a good way for my children to learn independence."
"My nanny (or babysitter) is younger and more fun than I am."
"I deny my child emotional bonding when I am home so that our time away is easier on her."
Drop-and-Run Parents are too self-absorbed in their own lives, careers and jobs to pay attention to their children. There is another example of the Drop-and-Run Parent in Exodus 4:24-26. Moses had been too busy leading and ministering to the Children of Israel to take care of things at home with his children and wife, Zipporah.
It may feel at times like God is absent in our lives, and doubt may creep into our minds. We have thoughts like "How could God let this happen?" I am reminded of the Biblical account of 'The Prodigal Son'. In the Middle Eastern Church, the story goes by another name, "The Story of the Running Father." The difference in the title reflects important cultural knowledge that the people to whom Jesus spoke would have known, that it was considered extremely undignified for a Middle Eastern man to run anywhere. Running was for children. Running required men to hike up their robes and expose their legs, which was considered humiliating and disgraceful. Yet, as the Middle Eastern Church version goes, the father ran. And when he reached the boy, the father quickly gathered his son into his arms, kissed him on each cheek and called for a banquet in his honor.
This, Jesus tells us, is what God is like. God is never absent. He is with us at all times. He will never leave us, nor forsake us.
An unknown author once wrote: A parent is someone who wants to catch you before you fall, but instead picks you up, brushes you off, and lets you try again. A parent is someone who wants to keep you from making mistakes, but instead lets you find your own way, even though his heart breaks in silence when you get hurt. A parent is someone who holds you when you cry, scolds you when you break the rules, shines with pride when you succeed, and has faith in you even when you fail.
What changes have been made for me? Suppers are eaten together. Time for board games is spent. Time for math is given. "Dates" with each child are held. Work time is for later. God - family - job.