Saturday, 15 February 2020 10:07

It's a love without end

Written by Craig Merkt

How do you maintain your work life balance?  It is almost cliché, but it’s a haunting question for most dads.  Do we spend enough time with our children … remember that camping trip three years ago?

For me personally, I wonder, worry, and try to give to the max for my family.  I travel a fair amount for work and fly about 75,000 to 100,000 miles per year which means that I am away from home and my kids about 60-80 days per year.  Let that sink in for a little while.  Life on the road is hard and demanding.  A couple of songs come to mind … Michael Bublé Home:  “Another airplane, another sunny place, I’m lucky I know, but I wanna go home” or Bob Seger’s Turn the Page:  “When you’re ridin’ sixteen hours and there’s nothing much to do, And you don’t feel much like ridin’, you just wish the trip was through, Here I am, On the road again.”

When I am home, I’d love nothing more than to relax, but how or when?  At work we are machines and control freaks.  At home, we need to down-shift, our calendars are controlled by our wives, children and holidays.  Cello recitals, soccer matches, 5k races, birthday parties, potlucks, retreats and Home of the Mother family encounters ? 

How or when do we spend quality time with our children?  Sometimes I think that we over think it.  But ultimately, I want my boys to become warriors … modern day knights.  How do we teach them responsibility?  By letting them play video games?  Over the years, I’ve taught my sons how to hunt, fish, make fire … cave-men stuff, but they understand when the trigger is pulled something is likely to die.

I’ve always coached my children and set expectations for them.  Maybe too demanding, some of you reading may think?  I believe that we all have vocations, as married men, we made a covenant with God to raise our children in the Faith.  Most of us have read the book “Image of Christ.”  In a similar manner, are we not responsible for teaching and nurturing our children in our own image?  Pass down our knowledge and wisdom from one generation to the next. 

Not quite two years ago, we made a conscious decision to move to the country and begin a little farm.  Think: chickens, ducks, rabbits, sheep and dogs.  

Farming requires teamwork.  
Farming requires responsibility.
Farming requires caring.
Farming requires dedication.

In a nutshell, farming requires family.  Our little farm has literally come at the cost of blood, sweat and tears.  However, it has also come with life, liberty, love, and endless smiles!  We have dreamt together, built chicken coops together and put-up fence lines together.  Consciously and unconsciously, I am teaching my children how to plan, implement and execute.  And best of all, we are doing it side-by-side.  When I have to leave our homestead for work, I leave my kids with the responsibility of running the farm.  Waking up early, feeding and watering the animals.  Keeping a watchful eye over their flock and caring for the lives of about 50 animals.

We say that our children are our babies forever, so for how long as parents are we required to keep providing them guidance?  I believe we do not just mold and shape them for 18 years and then set them free.  Even though they may venture off and we are separated by a great distance, I believe we play a key role in our children’s lives as their mentors from afar.  After all the bible teaches us to seek wise counsel (Proverbs 19:20).

When my oldest son headed off to college Seminary, I gave him a note card with a few instructions for seminary life.  I sat down with him and had a man-to-man discussion.  Before writing this article, I asked him if by chance, three years later, he still had the note card?  Could he remember any of the pointers I gave him?  A little to my surprise, he still has the note card and keeps it neatly tucked into his prayer book next to one of his favorite prayers.  Here were my words of wisdom, take them if you want:

Everything Passes.
Call your Mother once a week.
We live in a fishbowl and have very few secrets.
Nothing good happens after midnight.
No shots and one beer per hour.  Never drink to the point of getting sick.
Be careful with insta-friends.  Don’t over share to soon.
Wake up early.
It’s a competition.

He keeps it in his Manual of Prayers at the page marked Subjects for Daily Meditation and this prayer:

“Remember, Christian soul, that you have this day and every day of your life:
God to glorify,
Jesus to imitate,
The Angels and Saints to invoke, 
A soul to save, 
A body to mortify,
Sins to expiate, 
Virtues to acquire,
Hell to avoid,
Heaven to gain,
Eternity to prepare for,
Time to profit by,
Neighbors to edify,
The world to despise,
Devils to combat,
Passions to subdue,
Death perhaps to suffer, and Judgment to undergo."

As you’ve just learned, our children do learn from us and as we so often hope and pray for they often pay attention to us and heed our advice.  As you’ve also gleaned, our children also teach us new things.  

On my most recent business trip, a peer of mine from the opposite side of the country inquired how old my daughter was and I told him about to turn 17.  He knew that she had just returned from having spent three months in Spain.  Without very many details I knew he was perplexed as to how as a parent I could have let her go so far away from home, for so long a time.  He asked if I wasn’t worried about her and worried that she may get into trouble.  I proudly responded (forgive me for being prideful this one time) … I proudly responded she is angel and I knew she was in the company of angels.  I’m not saying that it wasn’t difficult for our family.  I’m not saying that it didn’t come without a few sacrifices.  In my heart, I was at peace, because even though we were separated by a great distance, I knew that our daughter had been raised in the Faith, knows well the difference between right and wrong, good and bad, and was choosing to pursue God and goodness.

In writing this message, I am humbled in knowing that our reading audience is an amazing group of devout and dedicated parents.  I have no secret formula, no magic beans.  Parenting is hard work.  I am blessed to have an amazing wife and mother of our children who holds all our world together.  One final song to share with you by George Strait:  

“Let me tell you a secret about a father’s love,
A secret that my daddy said was just between us,
He said daddies don’t just love their children every now and then,
It’s a love without end, amen.”