By Matt Haviland, Crosswalk.com
Last year I found myself in a unique situation. As I was dropping my daughter off to her mother she told me, “I don’t want to go to dance this week, I want to play in my game. But Mom said I need to go to dance.” My daughter has been participating in dance classes for seven years now and this was her first year playing softball. Looks like dance practice was on the same night as one of her softball games. As tends to happen when our children are in multiple activities simultaneously, schedules overlapped and this was one of those times.
For those who know us, it is no secret that her mom and I don’t communicate as effectively as I wished we could; it would have been easy for me to allow personal feelings to rise up and make demeaning comments such as, “Yeah, she’s like that sometimes” or, “You should tell her you don’t want to go to dance.” I had my daughter look me in the eyes and I said to her, “Promise me no matter what Mommy says you won’t argue with her. She’s your mom and you need to respect her decision.” She agreed. I thank the Lord I was able to repress my flesh during that moment and instead turn it into a biblical teaching moment for my daughter.
The Bible clearly instructs us to honor our father and mother and that fathers are to bring up their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Exodus 20:12, Ephesians 6:4). Single fathers, whether they are the primary or non-custodial caregiver, are no exception to this. Dads, no matter where you find yourself on the custody or co-parenting spectrum, please allow me to share some ideas of how you can help your children honor their mother.
Honor her memory. If Mom has passed away or if she is no longer in the picture for whatever reason, there are lots of ways you can share this time with your kids. Talk about the good times they had with her and the ways she loved them. Focus on the good. Visit her burial site, write letters to her, or make a donation to an organization in her name. Look at pictures, share laughs with them about funny memories, and hold them when the tears are shed too.
Guard the hearts in your house. Even if you and Mom are not on the best of terms currently, that does not excuse you as one of your children’s primary spiritual and life leaders. Watch what you say about her around them, keep your emotions in check, and please model the behavior you would want them to show in return. Never slam or badmouth her in front of the kids (ideally not at all); look for opportunities to build her up whenever possible (Ephesians 4:29). When we do these things, we are teaching our sons to respect women and our daughters that women are worthy to be honored by men.
Celebrate the holidays. Help them make cards or buy gifts for Mother’s Day, Christmas, and her birthday. Before my daughter’s mom was married, I always did this. It was a great way for my daughter to express her creativity and do something personal for Mom. Yes, some years it took much dying to my flesh to pull this off; but in the long run I know it only strengthened their relationship and created great memories for my little girl.
Include her in your prayers. In my personal opinion, this is one of the greatest ways we can model Christ to our sons and daughters. Do you pray regularly with your children? If you do, how often are you including Mommy in those prayers? Let them hear you pray for her and allow them to join in. It wouldn’t hurt for you to pray for her on a daily basis as well--even when the children are not with you.
Clarence B. Kelland said, “My father didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.” When we teach our children to “Honor thy mother” we in turn are honoring our heavenly Father. Single dads, that is what leaving a godly legacy is all about!
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)
Matt Haviland is the founder and director of A Father’s Walk single dad ministry, the coauthor of The Daddy Gap, and the cofounder of the Midwest Single Parenting Summit. He is an ordinary guy who chases after an extraordinary God. Matt lives with his wife and daughter in Grand Rapids, MI. For more information, please visit www.afatherswalk.org.
Photo courtesy: Thinkstockphotos.com
Publication date: November 3, 2016