From The Editor
I am probably done. Although it isn’t like they will never listen to me again, but I’m done with any sort of imprinting in the way that a salmon fry will simply know exactly which stream to return to after thousands of miles and years of swimming around out there in the big ocean. That’s right, from here on out it’s going to take much more effort and planning to pass on any real wisdom or advice to my kids.
A salmon, of course, learns everything by imprint. A youngster from one of the five species will wriggle free of its eggy womb at the bottom of a redd somewhere, sometimes hundreds of miles from the ocean, and begin its amazing journey to the sea and back. Along the way it will dodge fresh water predators, whitewater, slack water, ocean currents, saltwater predators, and of course man and all of our influences. It knows what to eat, what not to eat. It knows how far to go and who to swim with. And most impressive, it knows exactly when it’s time to head back to its natal stream thousands of miles away to begin the process all over again.
Humans, however, need a little more information to be intentionally passed on, preferably from someone who has experienced it before. The problem for a parent, and this of course only dawned on me after the fact, is that the window of opportunity where you are the primary influence in their lives is extremely short. Friends, professors, co-workers, and culture take over sooner than we want to admit, and it takes a steady, delicate hand to continue to have a meaningful impact in their lives.
I have two that are solidly in the brackish estuary, beginning to plot their course out into the great big ocean while my youngest is not far from the mouth with his eyes set excitedly on the horizon. I suppose I’m having the normal parental regrets of wishing I had done more. Yet even in this, God calms my anxiety through His presence and His word.
“Train them up and they will not depart from it1,” promises Proverbs, and I see it as they circle back around, wanting to do some climbing, ski a few runs, wet a line, or talk about God’s will for their lives when they return home for a visit or an extended summer break. So although the opportunity for the automatic influence in their lives isn't there any longer, these opportunities for intentional imprinting do come up. The challenge now is to recognize the opportunity and be ready to engage when it shows itself.
The good news is that I've learned right along with them over the years. Now I’m much quicker to put down the book, come in from the garage, and make time to take advantage of the short bits of time I get to spend with them. I try to listen and provide input when it makes sense, or God nudges me. Now, beyond the frenetic pace that life seems to take on when you have young kids running around the house, the teachable moments are usually more enjoyable for everyone. In fact these intentional imprinting moments might even be better, just fewer and farther between.
The other bright side of your kids beginning to branch out on their own is that it frees up time to pass on your passions and your faith to those outside your immediate family. People without kids know this too, there are so many people out there, youth and adults alike, who are dying for some mentorship, dying to be taught a new skill, a new talent, or a new truth. As the bible says, don’t hide it under a bushel, let your light shine and pass it on.
Pursue, Explore, Celebrate,
1 - Proverbs 22:6