FIRST-PERSON: Dad & daughter at the ballpark

Tags: parenting

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) -- I took our 10-year-old daughter to a baseball game a few weeks ago. Just the two of us. Our other three children were home with my wife.

For nearly four hours, we spent time together in the car and at the stadium. My phone stayed in my pocket except for taking and posting a few photos.

Over the course of the game, we talked about the rules of baseball; I showed her how to tell if the umpire was calling a ball or strike; we met the people sitting next to us and talked about their experiences watching baseball. My daughter was randomly selected to receive a game-used baseball during the game because she was wearing her Texas Rangers shirt and hat.

The value of that time at the game was priceless. But had it not been for a letter our 12-year-old, our oldest daughter, penned to my own mother, this moment would never have happened. Back in November, as the kids were making out their Christmas wish lists, she wrote a letter asking my parents to buy me season tickets to the Texas Rangers for Christmas.

Her motives were pure. She knew how much I loved watching the Rangers on television. We went to a few games last season and loved every minute. The final reason that tugged at our heartstrings was when she said she missed being able to go with me to a game -- just the two of us -- and spend time together. Although my wife and I intercepted the letter before it ever made it to my parents, it still had an impact.

This season, I started the summer-long goal of taking each of my four children to at least one baseball game by ourselves.

Our second daughter was overjoyed about the opportunity to go first. She has a memory of getting a ball at the game that will never fade. I even stopped on the way home at 10 p.m. to get ice cream -- something only a dad would do. But most of all, we simply spent time together.

We talked. We listened. We slowed down.

If your life is anything like ours, you are busy. Between work, school, church, sports practices and countless other activities, it can be difficult to slow down and enjoy being in the presence of our children. However, my oldest daughter's letter and my second daughter's joy demonstrate that we often forget the value of time. They simply enjoyed being with me and having my attention.

In Deuteronomy 6:6–7, we read, "These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up." How can we teach our children the words of the Lord if we do not take the time to have conversations with them and listen to their hearts?

For our family, the cure for slowing down is baseball. We love watching the games and acting as if we know the players well. However, watching the sport live gives us an opportunity we rarely get with other activities -- uninterrupted time talking. We can sit and watch the game while also having a three-hour conversation.

For you, the activity may be different. You may enjoy gardening, working in the yard, hunting, fishing or another activity. Why not involve your children so that you can spend invaluable time with them and hear what is on their hearts?

Training children in the ways of God is an essential part of parenting. At least 11 times in the opening eight chapters of Proverbs, Solomon stops to remind his son to listen to his instructions (Proverbs 1:8; 2:1–2; 3:1-2; 4:1–2, 10, 20; 5:1–2; 6:20–21; 7:1–3, 24; 8:32–34).

In our fast-paced world, we lose sight of the fact that we need to slow down to teach our children. We need to put our cellphones away (in this, I am, as Paul says, "the chief" of sinners) and invest time in our children's lives.

One of these days, they will no longer be in our homes and that valuable time will be gone. Let us not waste it.

Evan Lenow (@evanlenow) is associate professor of ethics at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and director of its Center for Biblical Stewardship and the Richard Land Center for Cultural Engagement. He and his wife Melanie have four children, Molly, Elizabeth, William and Laurel. This column first appeared at the seminary's Theological Matters website, www.theologicalmatters.com.
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