I’m so thankful my dad didn’t come to all of my football, basketball and baseball games. He was thankful too. He never even pretended that perfect attendance at our ball games was a goal, or that his identity was tied into whether or not he showed up. Of course I was excited to see him on occasion standing down the first base line just outside the fence, with his tie loosened cheering me on while I tried to crush the ball. But those days he wasn’t there I knew why—he was working. His absences were a real gift to me, a gift I didn’t fully appreciate until decades later. Dad refused to make me the center of his world.
I recently stumbled upon a pretty gross disorder called Pradar-Willi Syndrome (PWS). The few who are diagnosed with this annually, never get full when they eat. Left without the sensation of satisfaction the individual keeps eating and eating and eating, right into obesity and possibly an early grave. When an individual is inflicted with PWS, good things (like food) can become deadly things.
Many children today are being over-served in the attention department. When children take the place of Jesus as the center of the home, they’re set up for failure outside the home. A sociologist has quipped that ours is the boomerang age, where children leave the home only to return and settle in for extended adolescence. How did this happen? When you were the one everyone orbited around in your home, and then when you left and discovered you’re not the center of the world, of course you’d want to come back to the one place you were.
In hindsight, my father’s refusal to allow me to overdose on attention gave me three gifts:
1. The gift of not being number one. My parents are deep lovers of Jesus, and they always reminded us that we’ve been called into something so much bigger than us, the kingdom. Our extra-curricular activities were scheduled around church attendance, missions’ trips and service projects (not the other way around).
2. The gift of seeing a man work. Dad’s absence communicated loudly he works. When kids (on occasion) would ask where my dad was, I could tell them he was at work. Work is a good thing. His work paid for my athletic fees, cleats, equipment and uniforms.
3. Resilience. Children are a lot more resilient than we give them credit. My father was easily gone over 100 days a year, and that’s a conservative estimate. While he came to everything he could, he missed a lot. What were the results? My three siblings and I are all educated, contributing, healthy members of society. We’ve ventured into almost every region of the country hundreds and thousands of miles away from our parents and each other, where we’ve had to start lives and build churches, businesses and community. We’ve got a grit to us because our parents refused to coddle. Thanks dad (and mom).
So relax. Missing a game or a piano recital isn’t a bad thing. It can actually do your children some good.
Bryan Loritts is the Lead Pastor of Abundant Life Church in Silicon Valley, California. He also serves as the President of the Kainos Movement, an organization committed to seeing the multi-ethnic church become the new normal in our world. In addition to these positions, Bryan serves on the board of trustees for Biola University, and is the husband of Korie Loritts, and father of Quentin, Myles and Jaden. He’s been a featured speaker at the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit, Catalyst and a host of other events.