by Michael Holland    

During a summer evening on the Magothy River, one of the large rivers feeding the famous Chesapeake Bay, I witnessed a beautiful sailing race: 40 or 50 sailboats tacked back and forth along the river, each one maneuvering to catch the wind perfectly and take advantage of a competitor.  From far away they look alike, but as I drew closer I saw that they were all very unique.  Sure, they were about the same size, but each sail was vibrantly different, and the subtle changes in the markings and trim were evident from this perspective.  And from up close, I could see the captains of each boat, guiding them with what I knew to be a very small rudder below the surface of the water.

As fathers, we act as a sort of rudder in our kids’ lives.  We provide guidance, nudging them gently to direct the course of their lives.  The rudder isn’t evident: it’s just the tidbits of conversations we’ve had over the years with our kids that are hidden away in their hearts and minds.  Those conversations conveyed our values, beliefs, rules, struggles, hopes, dreams, desires, and our feelings.  Ideally, there is such an abundance of these that our kids can leverage them as needed to make the slight adjustments in the course of life as they desire.

We have to remember, though, that our kids are the captains of their own boats.  They are looking out towards the object of their journey.  They are choosing how much wind they want to catch to determine their speed, and how close they’re willing to come to obstacles.  They are deciding how long they want to drift along on a beautiful sunny day to enjoy the moment or season of life they are in.  We and our historical fatherly wisdom stay hidden under the surface, awaiting their call to action.

As you go through each day leading your family, make sure to have tens of thousands of small conversations so that you can build a strong rudder for your kids.  That way, they will be able to choose how and when they want to leverage that rudder as they propel through life.