I've been teaching one of my young friends how to write a research paper, which is something I know how to do and have a fair amount of experience with. My family is co-oping with another family in homeschooling our children, as we have done with good success in the past, and this is one small way that I am able to contribute. Other than catechesis with the family, which I am able to do most nights and some mornings, I've done very little of the schooling over the years. I began to do math with Zachary at some point, and, even though I wasn't as diligent with that as I would have liked to be, it was something I really enjoyed doing with him. Now that he's away at college, I retained an itch to participate in the homeschooling process, and so it is that I've been helping out by overseeing a research paper project.
I never did anything like this with either DoRena or Zachary. I proofread and edited some of Zach's writing, but I never took him through the process of researching a proper sort of paper. It's just one of many things, I now realize, that I never found the time to do with my two oldest children, and I'm past the point of any second chances with either of them. I don't think they hold it against me or feel deprived; I'm tremendously grateful for the good relationship I have with both of them. They don't appear to have suffered any loss in their education, either, as they are both doing quite well in college. But I do regret the lost opportunities I failed to take with them. Not only in the area of their education, but simply in getting to know them as people. I've always loved them, more than I could ever express, and I've always been so proud of them, but I haven't always taken the time to enjoy their company and share their lives as I should.
I'm always learning from my mistakes, like it or not, and hopefully getting wiser with age. By the grace of God in Christ, I'm getting better at giving my time and attention to my younger children. It's certainly true, by way of a more general example, that LaRena and I are more comfortable and confident with Frederick and Gerhardt than we were with poor little DoRena and Zachary. We've learned by trial and error, I suppose, and I guess that never really stops altogether. If I were going to offer advice from what I have learned along the way, I would encourage others to seize whatever opportunities they are given to speak from the heart, and to listen carefully, as well. That goes not only for children, but for parents and siblings, spouses and friends. There are those things one wishes he had never said, which can't ever be taken back, but equally tragic are those things that were left unsaid, for which the chance to do so may never come again. In any case, I have gotten better at simply saying what ought to be said, straightforwardly, instead of resorting to idle chit-chat or refraining from anything of substance.
There's a bigger gap between Zachary and Nicholai than between any of our other children, and there is an inside family joke that we actually had a daughter, Katie, in between those two boys, but that we accidently left her at a gas station. The children all know this is only a joke, and they find it quite amusing. I'm sure they realize that their paranoid and overprotective father would never leave any of them behind! But the young lady I'm helping with the research paper is just the right age, and she is close enough to my family, and we to hers, that she is in some ways like that "missing daughter" of ours. I suppose it would be cruel and unusual humor to call her the "missing link," although I suspect she might find it hilarious. In all seriousness, however, it has dawned on me, in my conversations with her, that I missed the boat with my own DoRena when she was that age. I honestly don't think I learned how to visit with her or communicate with her properly until after she moved away to college. How sad is that? There's no making up for it now, no undoing of the past at any rate, but I do hope and pray that I will be a more attentive father to my two younger daughters, especially as they become teenagers in the years ahead. It seems to me that there is hardly anything more important for a young woman as she is growing up, then to have a good relationship with her father. In the meantime, I cherish the good relationship I have with my oldest daughter, who is now a grown woman and a bride-to-be.
It is encouraging to remember that we live by grace and the forgiveness of sins, for Jesus' sake, and that our children have a dear Father in heaven who loves them perfectly and cares for them more adequately than we could ever achieve or even imagine. Children are also rather resilient, by God's good design, and loving parents who may fumble and fuddle along are still not likely to mess things up too badly. It does appear to me that, whatever else I may have failed to give my children, I have somehow managed to catechize them with the Word of God, and He has served them well with that. I would not trade their faith and piety for anything. Yet, it doesn't have to be an either-or. I'm glad to be taught how to communicate more capably with my children, and I pray that the Lord will enable me to do so. Better late than never.