Almost eight years ago, our family moved from the Sunshine State of Florida to the “Pine Tree” state of Georgia. As was our custom, my son and I set out to explore one of Georgia’s many state parks, F.D. Roosevelt State Park nestled near Pine Mountain and Warm Springs. My son was fourteen, had a handy pocketknife and a lot of energy, so this was destined to be a promising father and son trip into some great unknowns. On our treks, we have developed a track record of being overly prepared or under prepared, swelteringly hot or blustery cold, so it’s always unpredictably memorable. But what has been predictable is a great time of connection between us two explorers.
We had done some minor preplanning and knew that this particular state park offered a great twenty three mile hiking trail, and our zeal and wanderlust gave us the curiosity to soak up whatever may drift our way. Over a couple of days we trekked through several heavily wooded areas, over water crossings and down gentle trails that have streams flowing next to them like that of a dog clinging to the hip of his master. In these settings, my son and I have man to man talks that are always as plentiful as the cold mountain springs that quench our thirst.
One day, we parked at Mollyhugger Hill parking lot and set out on a hike. The sun was high in the afternoon sky and its warmth was as inviting as Grandma’s house when she has been baking pies. We meandered down the well-beaten trail for a half-mile or so and glanced over to our right at a deserted campsite curiously named Whiskey Still. With a name like that, I wonder what kind of “white” whiskey legends has been distilled from that hillside? As we pushed past Whiskey Still, our footing changed a bit; instead of smooth hard packed ground, we found ourselves with uncomfortable soil with rocks rudely protruding into the soles of our boots. Not to be dissuaded from our sojourning, we echoed discomfort and headed onward, but what we found a quarter mile up the trail is something that I hope to keep stored away until I return to the dirt. The Homestead.
The trail hugged the right side of the mountain giving us a view downward to the right and south. Out of the vegetation grows a hope, a dream, and a goal, the Homestead. The Homestead, as I call it, is a sprawling piece of land with three inviting homes of different sizes. These three homes are linked together by a roadway and yet, secluded by a lake between them and planted pines and hard woods around them. The reason why I have been drawn to this place is pretty simple. My wife and I have two kids, and this piece of ground reminds me that we need to strive to be close to our kids even while they mature and seek their own individuality. Hence, not to limit their own hopes and dreams, but to be near enough to speak into their lives and help them to pursue God’s dream for themselves.
Today, our son is twenty two and our daughter is 15, and times are ever changing, but I long to be a man that my kids can consistently trust for sound advice and loving support. I am far from perfect and don’t think for a second that I have fathering or manhood all figured out. I am on my own journey, but I am at work on me and connecting with my wife and kids. With this, the Homestead spurs me to be active in my kid’s lives, to listen to their ideas, hurts and dreams, and to help them grow emotionally, relationally and spiritually. Also, the Homestead provides a glimpse into a preferred future. A future when my kids can stand on their own two feet and that they still desire a close relationship with their mother and I as we are cheering them on in this adventure called life.
I still frequent this Homestead vista because I need to be reminded why I am the man I am, why I need to fight for connection with my kids, and what is at stake if I don’t.
So here are a few things that the “Homestead” brings to mind:
- If you are married, love your wife well and make her a priority over your kids. This gives them a solid foundation that sees marital commitment as a priority and foundation for a family.
- If you are not married and you hope to be, set preferred futures for your marriage and family while single and when the right lady comes along, you can see if your vision matches hers. At bare minimum, she will learn that you are a man of vision and typically, men of vision are not passive in their masculinity. True masculinity draws godly women while toxic and passive masculinity should repel them.
- Men, it is not what you say as much as it is what you do that will shape your marriage and family. Be consistent by modeling the behavior you are expecting out of other people.
- You may fail at this. I have several times, but I got back at it and tried again. I have figured this out by trial and error; no one knows your kids like you, so you already have an edge. Don’t give up and don’t give in!
- Men, make time for one on one adventures with your kids at an early age. I took my daughter on her first outdoor adventures when she was very young (3 years old I believe). These moments of personal connection as more important than you think. Don’t miss them.
- Develop a family mission statement. Define what it is that you hope to achieve as a family. Sadly, I have not led my family well in this area, but now I see that I should have.
- Men, see yourself as the person that God has placed in your kids lives to shape them morally, spiritually and personally and not someone who is supposed to help them to just be happy. On hikes like the one mentioned here, my goal was obviously to have fun and also, to speak heart to heart. Whatever the pressing need was at the time got discussed. If a man doesn’t help his sons and daughters to speak from the heart, it may remain hidden in the recesses of confusion and delusion.
- From an every age, have your kids come face to face with their own mistakes and show them love and support when they fail.
- Explain to them that you are trying to help them to be their own person and not dependent on Mom and Dad. Teenagers long for autonomy, and by speaking this into them you may make an ally and not an enemy. Once they see that you are working together, the skies the limit!
I saw the Homestead earlier this year, and like always, it brings a deluge of emotion and reminds me to be a better man: for God, for my wife, for myself, and for my kids.
I have found my “Homestead” now go find yours.
The catalyst of this movement is a burden to see men glorify God and live out of their best self. So, this brotherhood can communicate through this blog, Twitter @anewkindofman, Instagram with the same handle @anewkindofman or on Facebook by searching for A New Kind of Man.
Thanks for reading and let’s become A New Kind of Man!