As I studied the notebook paper, a smile broadened across my face. My ten-year-old daughter completed her school assignment when she handed me a persuasive letter imploring me to take the family to Colonial Williamsburg for Christmas. A passionate plea for sure, and the result was a credit card transaction to spend our holiday in a two-bedroom condo suite in America’s quintessential historical town.
That must have been some letter, right? It was a well-written piece, but I didn’t need much arm twisting to act upon her request. I am very passionate about early American History. I teach it, read it, and write about it. Yes, I am one of those weird guys who would rather roam a Civil War battle field than lounge on a beach in the summertime. My children know this and, to my delight, my passion is becoming theirs. I know this because they brim with joy any time we pile in the van and head to another historical destination.
My little girl’s letter reminds me that passion is certainly contagious. If enough put on display, it will undoubtedly rub off onto our children. How else can my kids’ desire to adopt a child into our family be explained? We are a family of seven living in a modest, three-bedroom home where we can all sometimes feel overcrowded. I have an incredibly busy schedule and it is a challenge to get individual quality time with each of the children. Why would my family want to add one more “obstacle” into our lives? The answer is quite simple. The compassion of my wife infiltrates our whole household as her heart aches for all the orphans of this world. With every article or blogpost about abandoned children she shares with us, the more my children beg me vehemently to adopt. I’m grateful for this kind of influence in our family life.
Before I give the wrong impression that all our passion is being harnessed for good, let’s take a peek at a couple of unflattering moments. At first I was caught off-guard when one of my daughters threw out a critical comment about an adult she doesn’t really know. Why on Earth would she say such a thing for which she had absolutely no context? Then it hit me. Even though my wife and I may sometimes talk like our children are not in the back seat of the van, this doesn’t stop them from absorbing so much more than we know. It was in that moment I realized my critical and arrogant passion was shaping those little minds. At other times, my kids will be stuck in a pattern of talking back and responding poorly to me or my wife. Could they be affected and influenced when they see me stubbornly unyielding to my wife during a conflict? I’m frightened to know how much of my ugly passion they’ve picked up over the short years of their lives.
The good, the bad, and the ugly can all serve as great reminders. My passion is obviously contagious and my children are the chief beneficiaries. How can this knowledge make me a better father? Where can I fan into flame feelings that will help my little ones become better people? May I be aware of those times I lack self-control in my speech and seek to change into a more positive influence in their lives.
Maybe I’ll contemplate all this again on our family getaway to Virginia. Then again, perhaps we’ll be too busy meandering down Duke of Gloucester Street and peeking into all the perfectly manicured colonial buildings. While I am thankful my passion for American History has rubbed off onto my children, I am hoping for a greater and more significant impact as a father. I think it is safe to say my ten-year-old’s writing assignment was successful in more ways than one!