One Sunday after our church service, before my husband and I had children, a man about the same age told us and another Navy couple that it wasn’t right for a husband and father to be away as much as being a member of Defence required. His boldness left me speechless and I could only stand there opening and closing my mouth like a gold fish. Now that I have three children, do I think there is any truth to what he said?
Let’s look to what the Bible says about parenting. There are smaller passages about the importance of discipline but the longest passage that I looked at about parenting advice is found in Proverbs Chapter 4. The introduction to Proverbs in my student NIV Bible says that the “central message of Proverbs applies to anyone, old or young: ‘Get wisdom at all costs’”.
The first nine chapters are spoken from father to son, and just as the introduction told us to expect, Chapter 4 verse 5 says, “Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or swerve from them”. What is this wisdom that we are to get? According to the last verse of Psalm 111, it is the fear of the Lord.
You may not be surprised to know that the Bible is quite silent on how much time you should spend with a child helping them to gain this wisdom and fear of the Lord. I think this is where a combination of knowing your children and common sense comes into play. For a start, gone are the days when the odd timed phone call and intermittent letters were the only method of communication. Skype brings our Defence Force members into our homes, even if they are half a world away. But sometimes it isn’t enough.
When my husband was last on a ship, he was away for more than half of those two years. My mother-in-law sends a
generous amount of money to each of our children for their birthdays and during this posting we introduced the rule that this money could only be spent on an experience rather than toys. Each of our children therefore spent wonderful adventures alone with their dad (such as going to the zoo) and clung to those memories during his absence.
Despite this time together though, towards the end of the posting our children were showing signs of stress at the amount of time they were apart from their dad and I’m not sure what would have happened had it been for any longer. That posting has been followed by several years of togetherness and relative calm. Some might say it was a coincidence that my husband was at a more stable part of his career and was therefore offered jobs that allowed us this calm. But knowing that God has our best interests at heart, we believe that we prayed for the well-being of our family and God provided just what we needed. I think pride in our achievements, rather than deployments, is a greater threat to our families – a topic for another post.
Maree Sirois is a spouse of a current serving member of the Navy. She is passionate about military families and the author of Commanding the Home Front: True stories from the families who support the modern-day Australian Defence Force, published by Echo Books.
Maree and Mark have belonged to several churches throughout Mark’s Navy service, including St. Andrew’s Anglican Church Lane Cove (Sydney) and Christ Church Anglican Mandurah. They currently attend Stromlo Christian Church (Canberra).
You can hear an ABC Canberra interview with Maree and find links to purchase her book here.