About 7 and a half years ago, I became a dad for the first time. It began my quest to be the best parent and church musician that I could be. Really, the quest started before then, but obviously, once the reality of being a parent happened, I had to figure it out. I’ll give you the quick and easy (but really, it’s difficult) answer, which is, there isn’t a magic answer. You have to do your best and figure it out. But, I’ll share more.
The priority to keep in mind is that you are a parent first and foremost. That is your first responsibility. Your child needs you just as much as they need your spouse. So….how do you do it? It’s all about seasons. Not just seasons of the church year, but there are seasons of life. When your child is an infant or a toddler, these times come with their own challenges. When your child is older and involved in more activities, these bring their own challenges. As my girls are 7 and a 1/2 and almost 5, I’ve realized that the time goes by so fast. And as many people told me, enjoy each moment as they pass. Being a parent, being a grownup, being responsible isn’t easy. It’s a lot of work, it’s a lot of sacrifice. Being a parent who is called to serve the church as a musician is also a sacrifice, but all of it, it’s worth it.
Here’s some tips from my experiences. First, do your best to leave work at church. What I mean is that when you’re home, be home. Spend time playing with your kids, helping them with homework, whatever it is. If you have to work, work after they go to bed. Second, do your best to do a least one family outing once a month. Much more is even better, but go to the park as a family, go for a bike ride, a walk, whatever…..just do it together. Third, let your kids see what you do. For the longest time I didn’t do that, because I felt like it would be an extra hassle or frustration while I was practicing. But once I let my oldest come and be my “audience”, she would dance, sing along, and do her own things while I was practicing. And it has been moments like that that even now, just thinking about it, bring a smile to my face.
But what about the busy times? Especially Advent/Christmas? It’s tough. The one thing that we did early on is to make a time during Christmas, usually a Friday night or Saturday night, get in the car, let the girls put their pajamas on, have hot chocolate and goodies and drive around and look at Christmas lights. Again, it’s back to that doing one thing as a family, but especially during that time, it’s finding things to do as a family to make memories for the kids. Growing up as a pastor’s kid, Christmas Eve was all about going to the children’s program, coming home and having snacks and opening Christmas presents. For my girls, Christmas Eve is about going to church, coming home, and going through stockings, and when Christmas morning comes, opening presents.
The whole thing is about what works best for you and your schedule. I can’t say that I’ve done it perfectly, or that what I’ve done will work perfectly for you. Do your best, ask for help when you need it, and make your kids the priority. Those are the most important things that I’ve found in my goal to be the best parent and church musician that I can be.