How Emotionally Bonded Should a Father Be to His Kids?

So I host a father’s Midrash every week on my front porch, on Thursday nights. And right now, we’re going through the book of Proverbs. And what we do in that, is we just read a couple of chapters and then have a discussion, just a free flowing discussion, interpreting the different verses and asking how they apply to our lives as fathers. Man, there was a discussion that I thought was interesting that we did last Thursday, we were reading Proverbs 23 and this discussion erupted around how emotionally bonded should a father be to his kids. There’s really an interesting answer that culturally, we really don’t want to be bonded. It’s really almost considered codependent for you to be emotionally impacted by your children. And one of the fathers in our Midrash pointed out that, this doesn’t seem to be what the Bible is teaching in Proverbs 23. So let me read this and I’d love just to get your thoughts Jeff, on this.

So one of the things that Solomon is saying, and he says things like, and this is verse five, “My son, if your heart is wise, my heart too will be glad.” Ooh, what is that? So you’re saying… He says, “My inmost being,” this is verse 16, “will exalt when your lips speak what is right.” Really? So you keep reading this, verse 19, “Hear my son, and be wise and direct your heart in the way.” Verse 22, “Listen to your father who gave you life and do not despise your mother when she is old.” Verse 24, “The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice.” In other words, okay, I’m emotionally impacted by what my kids decide to do. “He who fathers a wise son will be glad in him.” Verse 25, “Let your father and mother be glad. Let her who bore you, rejoice.” I remember one time I heard Tim Keller say, that a mother is as happy as her least happy child. That was like a red pill moment.

That’s true.

I’m sure there’s exceptions of that or times where you need to like be a little bit less enmeshed with your kids. But all that to say, our culture really has I think, very simplistic ideas about this. Like, “Hey, once your kids are 18, hey, they’re on their own. And if you’re feeling bad because they’re being unwise or unrighteous or going off on some, then that’s your problem. You need to learn how to disentangle your heart from your kids.” I don’t think that’s exactly right. I think there is definitely being overly enmeshed with your kids. I definitely believe there’s a line on that side in which, “Hey, your kid is going off on a really hard path, and the fact that you’re constantly being impacted that way…” That needs to be like, is there a way to sort of disentangle more?

However, what Solomon is saying here, I think is really wisdom. In other words, it’s just reality. You will be emotionally impacted by your kids. It will impact you. You will be ecstatic when you see your kids walking in righteousness and you will be really, really hurt and upset and saddened when your kids make really bad choices. I think one of the reasons why it’s important to bring this up, this is just reality, is that when your parenting your kids when they’re young, and most of you guys who are listening to this have young kids, you don’t understand how much of your emotional future is going to be impacted by the wisdom and the paths that your children take.

And if you were warned by older people to say, “Hey, this is a really big deal.” Even if you’re just being selfish about it, you would be a really, really intentional parent, let alone if you’re trying to be righteous and wise about it. And a lot of the reasons why we’ve been talking about, “Hey, it’s a big deal, working on your skill as a father,” for example, that’s something that is really worth investing in. So these verses that Solomon is saying, parents are really impacted by kids. This is good wisdom that is important to be aware of. But yeah. Jeff, what are your thoughts about that?

I got nothing, but amen. Agreed.

You agree with that? Are you enmeshed with your kids emotionally?

Yeah. Honestly, I didn’t feel like at first, once you totally talked it out, but at first I was like, “I didn’t know that people did the alternative.” You know what I mean?

Oh, yeah. Right.

Like, what else should you do except be emotionally invested in your kids and understand that, that’s interrelationship dynamics and let your heart be soft and all those things? So, yeah. But I totally agree with what you said, that I think a lot of times people do push at a distance, of like “Oh, let it be,” or whatever, especially once they leave the house. But no, amen. Agreed. Necessary.

All right.

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