Help! I’m Being Disrupted!
Posted by Hal in Family Life, Fatherhood

I’d had one of those weeks last week.  The biggest benefit to working from home is that you can be closer to your family.  One of the challenges, though, is just how close that can be when you really meant to focus on work.  The week seemed balanced between fight intervention between brothers, a high-need toddler resulting in a low-sleep wife, and children swinging between slothful and scatterbrained when it’s time to do chores or schoolwork.  You probably have “weeks”, too.

So how do you approach this continual interruption in your adult world?  How do you think about it?

On the one hand, it may be my fault, at least to some extent.   The disruption may be God’s gentle discipline for my failure to train them better.  Maybe if I was a perfect Dad, married to the perfect Mom, our boys would never lose their temper with each other.  Well, welcome to reality … we aren’t, and they do.  Or the interruption may be that something I left undone around the house has come home to roost – I didn’t tell anyone we’d run out of toilet paper, for example.

On the other hand, it can be a teachable moment – for parents as well as the children.  Mark Twain said the man who has picked up a cat by the tail is ever so much wiser than the one who had simply been told not to do it.  When there’s a real world disagreement going on, suddenly Biblical teaching has immediate, practical application.  What better time to talk about 1 Corinthians 13, and what it means to be patient, kind, not counting offenses?  This is a chance to do more than say, “You ought to show love to one another,” but to actually explain how that works out in conflict.  You’ve got the chance to calmly walk through the situation and discuss how a mature believer handles it.  Did you jump to conclusions?  Did you make a joke at your brother’s expense?  Did you take offense where none was intended? If you had known more at the time, how would you have handled it differently?

That last one is for us parents, too.  Sometimes we discover that our guilty child honestly didn’t know how to deal with the situation.  When we ask them, “What should you have done?”, occasionally they give us a blank look.  “Uh …”  Honestly, have we given them instruction and examples of how grown-up Christians are supposed to handle disappointment, anger, sadness, jealousy?  (I know, sometimes we need help with these things ourselves.)  Their confusion is an opportunity for us to teach them–or remind them– how to behave the next time.

It’s important to be calm and judicial through this.  Rather than just assigning blame, you can help the two antagonists learn how to think through an emotional situation, considering the other person’s point of view and their feelings.  This takes time, patience, and some creativity.  Boys respond to calmness, logic, reason.  They appreciate fairness.  You have to keep thinking, though, to get the different viewpoints sorted out and to come up with examples to illustrate your points (things along the lines of, “Now, what if you came in the room and found your brother reading your book …”)  God is giving you, the parent, an opportunity to teach a whole world of skills that are hard to write into a textbook curriculum.  This is hands on stuff that you can’t plan on.

Well, you may say, that’s all fine and good for the teaching and discipline part.  I’ve got work to be done — and that’s part of my responsibility, too.  What about my needs?

You probably know some things you can do for your own privacy and peace — like setting “office hours” so your family will know not to disturb you unless an emergency.  My brother in law had a friend who used to put on a tie when it was “work” hours, and take it off when it was “family” time.  A friend and client of mine has a little three-sided object he hangs on the office door.  When the red or green panel is out, the meaning is obvious; yellow means you can come in, but quietly — he’s on the phone or reading email.  Sometimes all it takes is letting your family know you’ve got to make several phone calls or concentrate for a while.  Sometimes …

The thing I have to remind myself, though, is the passage in Deuteronomy 32:46-47.  Moses told the people of Israel,

“Set your hearts on all the words which I testify among you today, which you shall command your children to be careful to observe—all the words of this law. For it is not a futile thing for you, because it is your life, and by this word you shall prolong your days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to possess.”

“This is not a futile thing, for it is your life.”  God gave me this family to train up for His kingdom.  I have other work and ministry to take care of, and my management of the balance between work, family, and self time is part of the duty of stewardship.  But when the balloon goes up, when the call comes for Dad to drop whatever he’s doing and step into a “teachable moment,” I remind myself — this is what God has called me to do.   This is my life.  The other things will usually wait if they have to.  I’m working on the souls of these children.

Though it does seem like some weeks take more work than others.