I love trendy restaurants. I love trying new food. So when I take my wife out we usually try something new. The other day I learned that there was a new cafe in Knoxville. It advertised itself as an organic cafe with fresh from the farm food. Count me in! It was Saturday, and I wanted to spend some time alone with my son. So I tell my wife I’m going to take him to get his haircut, go eat lunch, and then go play ball together. I thought, “Let’s go to the cool trendy farm-fresh organic cafe; it will be fun. Surely he will love it.” We pulled into the parking lot, and he took one look and said, “Dad there’s no way I’m going in there. I hate this place. “I said, “Wait, you’ve never even been here.” “I don’t care, I hate this place,” he said.
This made me angry. Am I raising an ungrateful, entitled teenager that we always hear about in the news? Why isn’t he grateful? Why can’t he be happy that I’m going out of my way to have a fun day with him? And then it hit me. I’m trying to have a fun day WITH HIM, and I scheduled lunch as if I’m seeking a fun day with my wife.
I realized I didn’t do what was fun for him; I did what was fun for me. At this point in his life, my son is not the farm-fresh organic type. He’s more of a Chick-Fil-A or pizza guy. There are times when my kids are going to have to go places that they don’t like because mom and dad need them to go. That’s life, and they have to learn to deal with it. But when we are intentional about building a relationship with our kids, we need to make sure we are scheduling things that they want to do.
Now the flip side of this conversation is the parent that always defers to his or her child for restaurants and fun. This is the parent who always lets the child decide where they are going and what they are going to do. That’s a recipe for entitlement and selfishness.
After arriving at the cafe, I walked in and got a table. My son was angry and decided to wait in the car. I was determined to have a good lunch. Eventually, he calmed down, and I convinced him to come inside and give the new cafe a chance. When the food came out, he enjoyed what he called, “The best sandwich of his life.” Turns out he might be a farm-fresh guy after all.
Next time, I’ll try to remember to schedule things that my son will enjoy. But I did learn something that day. Any time I’m trying to connect relationally, I have to check what I want at the door. I have to be sensitive to the needs and desires of others. Jesus said, ““If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:2). Becoming a better parent means that I’m constantly denying my desires for the best interest of my children. I die to my desires to help meet their needs. But I also die to my desire to give them everything they want because I realize that will hurt them in the long run. It’s a constant balancing act. It’s a journey that we will never completely figure out, or get right every time. That’s why we need the grace and guidance of the Lord in our life. As long as we cling to Jesus, we can trust that no matter what we face, he will use it for His glory and our good (Romans 8:28).