A campground bathhouse is a bit like a locker room. Yes, there are shower stalls with curtains, but often the dressing area in those stalls becomes nearly as wet as the tiles behind the shower itself. Sometimes you have to open the curtain so you can step out and put on your jeans without dragging them through a puddle. On our last trip a woman came marching out of the stall in her jeans and bra, flapping her arms and exclaiming how hot it was. What would have happened if those two little boys had been in there then?
Even the little boys cared. They were showering when I came in to brush my teeth late one night. Their mother had all their clothes piled in a far corner of the room.
“Come on out,” she called through the shower curtain.
“But there’s a woman out there,” the older boy said.
“I’m sure she’s seen it before,” she hollered back, and suddenly in the mirror I saw a naked child streaking behind me. For his sake I kept my eyes averted from the embarrassed little boy crouching behind the sinks. If it bothers the boys, surely that’s the time to put them in the men’s bathhouse, isn’t it?
Then I got an even bigger shock. “I’ll be right back,” the mom told the boys. “I have to take this to your dad.”
Dad? Why didn’t Dad have them in the men’s bathhouse to begin with? No, dad was absent, as so many are these days, watching TV in the trailer by the satellite dish he had hauled along on a two night camping trip on top of a beautiful mountain. I wonder if he ever noticed the scenery, much less his sons.
My boys were blessed to have a father who took his role seriously. He didn’t leave everything to me until they got “bigger.” He changed diapers. He rolled around on the floor with them. He played every ball game in season, even when they weren’t very good at it yet. He read the Bible to them every morning while they ate breakfast, and a Bible story every night before bed, even before they were able to understand what he was reading. Nearly every night he was the one who gave them their baths so I had time to clean up the supper dishes. And yes, he took them into the men’s bathhouse whenever we camped, which began when Nathan was only three.
For awhile Keith worked nights. He would not have seen the boys except right before school and on weekends, but he got up early every morning, despite his late hours, to walk them to the bus stop. He left them notes in the middle of the table every day, pieces of advice, Bible verses to memorize before the weekend, and always an “I love you.” They usually ran straight for the table when the bus dropped them off, and I still have a notebook with those little yellow notes taped to the pages. It wasn’t long before he changed jobs, taking one at far less salary because being with his boys was more important than money.
Fathers, you have a more important calling than the one that pays your bills. Boys need to know what it takes to be a man of God. Girls need to see the kind of man they should look for one day. If all you do is let mama handle things till they get a little bigger, you are missing the most precious years of their lives. You still won’t have a relationship with your child, because you didn’t build one when the building came naturally. They won’t trust you to really care, and no one will much blame them.
And you fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, Ephesians 6:4.