So often this blog is focused primarily on Cava and Benjamin tends to be in the background. Part of this is due to the fact that he's becoming a teenager and I want to give him his privacy and not post so much of his life on a blog. Still, I wanted to take time to write something about our first son.
Benjamin and I have always been close. Our similarities can often bring us closer together and make us butt heads often. Being his Papa, I am very aware of my strengths and weaknesses as a parent because he mirrors me so much. I have to watch myself so that I don't parent out of fear that he will make some of the choices I made in my life. It's hard to reign myself in and let him make his own choices, good and bad, and take the consequences of both, but I do because it's the only way he will learn. More than his success (academically or, later on, in terms of his profession), I am concerned first and foremost with his character.
Faith is central to my life and to that of my family's. We not only do family Bible study and prayer time, but, also as important, is that Benjamin has seen me doing these things on my own. It's also critical that he sees that I am living out my faith and it is not just lip-service. Over the years, he and I have had many discussions about faith and I answer him as honestly as I can, letting him know my struggles as well as my strengths. We often pray together and he wants me to pray for him before each school day before he gets out of the car. I want Christ and not culture affecting his character.
Another thing I realize is that it's not just what I tell him, but how I live out my own life. As he's getting older, I am aware that how I treat his Mom is going to affect how he treats any girl that he dates as well as, later on, his wife. If I love, respect, and cherish his mother then he will, most likely, grow up to do the same with his wife. And I work to stress that he is to treat females with respect and that this respect starts with having respect for his Mom. He knows that I will not tolerate any disrespect towards his Mom. I expect that he will be the same way when he's married and has kids.
We have had frank discussions on dating, sex, and pornography. He was uncomfortable and didn't want to have them, but I explained to him why it was important that we have an open dialogue on those topics. I stressed why I was telling him what I was telling him and how it all relates to our relationship with God, either through obedience or disobedience. Even with dating, I've told him to pray about who God wants him to date instead of, and this goes against our culture, dating around.
I want my son to be, first and foremost, faithful to God then, in doing so, he will be faithful to the woman he marries.
Even before he's started dating, I instruct him on how to treat a lady and I, hopefully, show him this by how I treat his Mom.
One of the things both Danelle and I have stressed to Benjamin is forming a strong work ethic now. This will help him not only in terms of his education and his career, but also his marriage. I truly believe that many marriages fail because people just don't want to do the work that is required of keeping a couple together.
I know he oftentimes thinks I'm too strict, especially when it comes to what he sees (movies & TV) and hears (music). "Why can't I see . . . Everyone else is." I hear this a lot and I have to remind him that it doesn't matter what other kids' parents let them see, but that I have a reason why I don't let him see any R rated films, many PG-13 films ("But I'm 13!" he reminds me, as if I've forgotten), and even some PG films. I keep telling him that what he lets in, be it a film or TV show or a song, is there forever. He can't un-see what he's seen or un-hear what he's heard. And I do believe that what he fills his mind with will affect him.
Benjamin's faith is something I have loved seeing grow. I have seen him stand up for what he believes around other kids, even when it meant they would make fun of him (and they have). He has a strong sense of what's right and wrong and will stand up for not only what he believes but for others who are mistreated or bullied as well.
Honesty and integrity are integral to the man he should become. I remind him that it takes a lifetime to build character and only one moment to destroy all of it. One thing he learns daily is that all actions have consequences, positive and negative.
Benjamin also knows that, come 18, he has three choices: college, a job or the military. He will need to go out on his own and learn to be independent so that he can be able to be man enough to support a wife and kids.
There are times he's a great big brother and an awesome role model for Cava.
Often times, he will take Cava under his wing to make sure that Cava's included in things. He's also very affectionate with his younger brother, which is something Cava is having to learn and is often the most difficult lesson for him. Having viewed other kids as competition, he is learning that Benjamin is his sibling and there is nothing like the bond between brothers. I remind them often that, long after their Mom and I are gone, they will still have each other.
I love that he is still very affectionate to his Mom and I. Despite being a teen, he will still hold our hands, or give us a hug or a kiss in public. And I know how rare that is.
One thing I love about Benjamin is that, despite his getting older, he still has the child inside of him. Despite all his interest in science and computers, he loves to play. I cannot wait to see him with his own kids so that I can watch him at play with them.
I love being Benjamin's father. Each new day brings something different with him and I hope I continue to be up for the challenges. I know that none of them are boring. I strive to encourage and educate him and, if need be, discipline him. He understands that no matter how much fun we may have together, I'm his Papa and not just a buddy. I try to parent him with honesty and integrity.
God gave me my son and, daily, I give Benjamin back to God. I know that the God who created Benjamin loves him far more than I will ever be able to and I want my son to be used however and wherever God wants him to be.
If there's one thing I can say without a doubt about Benjamin, it's that I love him dearly, enjoy spending time with him, and am deeply proud of the young man he's becoming.