Presents vs. Presence: Parenting Advice from a Thankful Son

This past fathers day, Tim Tebow gave a fathers day address at Qualcomm stadium to the members of Shadow Mountain Community Church.  In the weeks leading up to it, Tim took a great deal of criticism for giving a Fathers day address when he’s not even married…let alone a father.  Despite the criticism, Tim gave a moving presentation on being the son of two incredibly loving and supportive parents.

Like Tim, I’m not yet a parent but I can say that I was raised by two of the best.  My parents are divorced and I can still say with confidence that they are two of the greatest parents this world has ever seen.

Not because they lavished me with the newest gadget from Apple or bought me every Madden video Game ever release.  Not because they sent me to the coolest summer camps, bought me the nicest clothing or a fancy car when I turned 16.  I wasn’t even allowed video games growing up (however when my brother traded a skateboard for a Nintendo 64 a few years after its release we managed to talk mom and dad into letting us keep it.)

No my parents didn’t buy us a lot or splurge for lavish vacations to fun places around the world…but they were present. My parents have been actively present in my life since the day I was born.  Even after their divorce my parents were on the sideline or in the stands at nearly every football and basketball game of my entire career. My mom was at every athletic practice, rain or shine and my dad spent Saturdays chasing us around the backyard with a cap gun.

One specific occasion my mom approached my brother and I with bags containing water balloons and several cans of whipped cream.  She smiled and said, “Your dad is out back, go find him.”  We unleashed World War III that day and I can confidently say I lost, but that day was written into my childhood history book as one of the greatest.

These days parents act like they have to buy their child’s affection.  That in order to be a good parent, they have to give their kids all the stuff they couldn’t have growing up.  The heart behind it isn’t bad if they really just want to show their kids how much they love them.  But if they resort to buying them things just to keep them happy, or think that their kids need this stuff in order to be happy, that’s where trouble begins.

Your child doesn’t need the 32 gigabyte ipod because his 16 gigabyte one is a year old.  Your ten year old (or your 18 year old for that matter) doesn’t need the iPhone  4s just because his friends’ parents bought him one.  They don’t need to participate in softball, ballet and the dance club.  They don’t need to wear Abercrombie because EVERYONE knows you’re not cool if you buy clothes at Walmart.  (News flash, I’ve never seen a piece of clothing that displays WALMART on it accept the clothing worn by Walmart employees.)  You don’t need to drive a Hummer so that your child and all their friends think you’re the cool parent when you come to pick them up.

What your child needs is a mom and a dad who are there.  Who sit down at the table with them at night and ask them about their day.  Who help them with homework, show up to their sporting events and yes…ask them questions that a parent may not like the answers to.  Your child needs a mom and a dad who are present in their lives, the good areas and the bad areas.

To you, it may be a pulled tooth.  To them, it’s an enchanting moment when something that was a little painful, magically turned into a quarter, a dollar or a piece of candy while they slept.  It may be an hour of your Saturday morning that cuts into your tee time, but to them it’s their dad saying I love you enough to throw a football in the backyard with you.  It might be your pedicure money and you’ll have to sacrifice manicured toenails to take your daughter to the zoo, or the mall or to a ballet.  But I’ve never heard a person looking back on their childhood and mention that their parents weren’t around much, but when they were, they sure looked good!

Looking back through family photo albums I am overwhelmed at the memories we made by doing things together.  Fishing trips, camping trips, building that tree house in the back yard…as a family.  Sure there were times I drug my feet or complained that they would buy me what I wanted.  But looking back today I’m sure thankful they didn’t.  The time they spent with me helped shape me into the person I am and did far more for me than any action figure or video game could have.

Presents are not bad.  Presents can be fun and entertaining and even meaningful.  But when presents take the place of presence, kids start missing out on one of the most important relationships in their lives.  No video game, TV show or product from Apple can teach your child how to be a mature, responsible member of society and will never replace the love they experience by you simply being there and spending time with them. 

2 thoughts on “Presents vs. Presence: Parenting Advice from a Thankful Son

  1. Shelley Iverson

    Stan I would think is very proud of you! Well said, for me as a parent and as a daughter. This is almost the best thing I have read in a LONG time. Great job.


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