by Benjamin Watson
Train up a child in the way he should go: even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6 ESV
I love my children. I love my wife. They are blessings bestowed on me by the Lord. Sometimes I’m not as thankful as I ought to be. I take their presence for granted. Their questions become irritating; hearing the same knock-knock joke over and over loses its charm. But when I’m traveling for work and I’m alone in a hotel room, there’s nothing I wouldn’t give to have my loud, noisy, chaotic family right there with me. When I become exhausted by the endless games of peekaboo or being used as a human chariot, I take a deep breath and remember that these moments are precious, and one day these daily activities will fade into cherished memories.
Last off-season, I was reminded of how lucky I am. My whole family was traveling to visit relatives. Since we’re such a large group, we’ve got traveling through airports down to a science—my children are pros at taking off their backpacks and patiently going through security checkpoints. However, this particular trip stood out because nothing seemed to be going right. Our flight was delayed, our seat assignments landed us in separate areas of the plane, and my children were acting like . . . children. Tired, cranky, hungry, excited children. Add the rude stares and “Wow, you’ve got your hands full!” comments, and Kirsten and I were at the limit of our patience.
Finally, we made it to our seats. As I took a calming breath, I wondered what would be expected of me while scuttling between my children and my wife over the next few hours. Instead of being thankful that we were all on the plane and nothing terrible had happened, I was stressed out. And my kids were still acting like kids—chattering, enthusiastic cherubs, to be sure, but a minute of silence would have been welcomed. As I sat collecting my thoughts, a flight attendant who had been standing in the aisle walked in front of my seat and leaned toward me. Great, I thought. We haven’t taken off yet, and already there’s trouble.
“I’m so happy for you,” the flight attendant said. “Excuse me?” I said, caught completely off guard. “It’s wonderful to see such a big, happy family like yours,” he said. “I’ve been married for twenty years, and my wife and I have been unable to have children. You are blessed.”
After he walked down the aisle, my heart sank. I felt so sad for this man, and I was embarrassed that I was ungrateful for even a minute that God had entrusted these young lives in my care. It was humbling, and it shouldn’t have taken a moment like that to remind me of the blessings bestowed upon me. I think God understands that I’m imperfect, and that little situation was a way to put me back on course.
To say that every day since that flight has been perfect would be misleading. There have been days when I’ve lost my cool, and others when I’ve acted so poorly that I’ve had to ask my children for forgiveness.
Overall, Kirsten and I work toward raising our children to respect others, to love one another, and to live in the light of the Lord. We try to teach by example, but we’re not always perfect. Our bedtime ritual includes singing one of our favorite verses from the Bible: “Be ye kind, one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another even as Christ has forgiven you. Ephesians four thirty-two [ba-dum, ba-dum], Ephesians four thirty-two, [ba-dum, ba-dum].” I always hope my children sing that song and will internalize those words.
Some days parenting will be a blessing, and other days it will test you. No matter what, we as parents must be willing to teach our children well, to explain right from wrong, and to encourage a life of faith. The best way to teach is to lead by example. Though it is the power of the Holy Spirit that ultimately draws people to himself, all the hymns and Bible verses in the world won’t amount to a hill of beans if we don’t live what we preach. This means we parents must be willing to admit to our own shortcomings and to ask for forgiveness when we mistreat others, including our children. We’re all imperfect, and we’re all going to stumble at some point or another. And when we do fumble, we must be willing to ask for forgiveness, even if it’s a thirty-five-year-old asking his three-year-old for clemency. Our children may obey us as we obey the Lord and strive to live the life we have been called to, not in our own power, but by that of his Son.
To bring everything back to the gridiron, I once asked a former coach of mine for advice on parenthood. “The days are long, but the season is short,” he replied. I’m grateful for every one of them and the challenges and beauty they pose. There will continue to be obstacles on the road ahead, but I hope to face them with clarity. I am confident that you will also find the joy and the wonder in raising a happy and healthy family as well. Your work will not return void. Your commitment will not be in vain. Always remember, my brothers, you have what it takes to leave a legacy that will bless generations you may never see!
His descendants will be mighty on earth; The generation of the upright will be blessed. Psalm 112:2 NASB
Benjamin Watson is a tight end for theBaltimore Ravens, an ESPN and NFL Network commentator, a leading spokesman for All Pro Dad and NFL Father & Kids Experience, and the founder of One More, a foundation that helps to spread the love and hope of Christ by meeting real needs, promoting education, and supporting local charities. A finalist for Walter Payton Man of the Year, Watson is deeply engaged in the community through his work with the NFL and its organizations and his own, and he is one of the league’s most active members in both traditional and social media, with over 300,000 Facebook fans with whom he engages on a daily basis. He is the author of Under Our Skin and his latest work, The New Dad’s Playbook.
Adapted excerpt from The New Dad’s Playbook by Benjamin Watson, Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Copyright © 2017. Used by permis-sion. Family photos credited to Grace Photography.