In the weeks before David’s birthday, I began thinking of all the good books I read when I was a young teenager.
“Books are important,” I told Kathy. “They can cast a vision for what it means to be a man. I want David to read some of those good books.”
You know the kind of books I mean. The books that teach the important things — books about loyalty and honor and courage and self-sacrifice. Books with larger-than-life heroes who set the standard for manhood.
So I did a quick pass through my library and wrote to a few of my friends and family members, asking for lists of books that they would recommend. Soon, I had a whole shelf’s worth. Except I didn’t have a shelf.
“Hey, Kathy, I need a shelf. How ’bout this one?” I pointed to a promising shelf in our living room at eye level for David. Immediately, I knew something was wrong, by the look on Kathy’s face.
Homeschooling Moms get a little territorial about bookshelves. Whenever we need a blank wall for a photo, we have to go outside or to someone else’s house, because we have bookshelves in every place that could possibly fit one. A quick survey of the house tells me that we have thirty (30) bookshelf units in our home, most with at least 5 shelves. But do you think Kathy will relinquish one in a prime location? Not likely. Eventually, she grudgingly made the top shelf of one of the units available.
I talked it over with David, and he and I agreed that we would start a Reading Challenge. We would both abstain from playing computer games for a certain period of time — maybe a few weeks, or a month, in which we would focus on reading some of the good books on that shelf.
My newly-teenaged son wanted to start the challenge when he got back from the Middle School retreat (and after he had a full week to enjoy his new Lego Marvel Heroes game). Of course, Sarah wanted to participate too, and is actually the only one who has already finished a book (and written the requisite book report). She is a bit of an over-achiever.
David spent today abstaining from computer games, and trying to finish a book that Joshua gave him for his birthday. I had a few meetings this evening, and (when I finally returned from working out at the gym) I settled into my computer chair. Out of habit, I toggled to one of my favorite computer games, and was playing it serenely when my youngest son walked up behind me.
“You’re playing a computer game!” he accused, aghast. “What about our Reading Challenge?”
“Oooh, you forgot about the challenge,” Kathy and Sarah joined in, gleefully.
As a father, I usually try to set a good example to my children, by rigorously keeping my word and being as honest and faithful as I can. It is so easy to compromise one’s integrity in our culture, I feel that I need to hold the line as faithfully as I can, to show my children that it is still possible. I hope that I can one day say, like Paul did to the Corinthians, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”
This was not one of those days.
“How ’bout we start the Reading Challenge tomorrow,” I suggested, rather timidly. “It was an honest mistake, I’m sure you understand. The game was already running on my computer, and I just forgot … ”
One thing about parenting, it keeps you humble. I guess tomorrow we’ll start the Reading Challenge … again.