I blinked… my “baby” is grown up–3 intentional parenting steps

Today my “baby” turns 18.

I knew it would happen… I watched age 18 arrive with my older two kids, but this one “feels” different. Possibly because she’s the youngest. Maybe because I turned 50 a few days ago and that’s messing with me. Or, maybe it’s because Cathy and I are only 8 months away from being “empty-nesters” and our baby will be going away to college.

Regardless, Cassie’s birthday has got me thinking about how much I have loved being a dad.

Last night I was at Dennys with two of my dear friends who are 10-12 years younger than me and are dads with small children. They are really good dads and very intentional about their choices with ministry and home-life (both are youth pastors). We talked a little about parenting and I gave them 3 tips (unsolicited of course).

1. Don’t blink… it goes by very fast. Regardless of what you think, your kids grow up very quickly.


2. Capture memories! Photograph, video, and write letters… the more the better. With each birthday and holiday, use it as an opportunity to write your kids a letter. Pour on the love… even if they can’t read it or understand it. These letters will become eventual treasures. Many of the younger years are forgotten–photos, videos and letters help retain and capture the best of memories.

3. Put your family before your job (even if you’re in ministry… actually, especially if you’re in ministry). Not before Jesus, but definitely before your job. Here’s a little harsh reality: anyone can do your job! Actually, one of the guys I was with last night has the job I held for 18 years and he’s doing a better job than I ever did. And, there’s someone out there who will eventually replace him too. But, no one can replace him as a parent. No one can love his kids like he’s designed to love them.

Time… Memories… Priorities.

I would challenge any parent to become a master of those 3 biggies and, if you do, chances are good that your children will someday thank you. A few days ago on my 50th birthday I received incredible letters from my kids (ages 24, 21 & 18) as well as a time where they breathed life into me with a verbal affirmation at my birthday dinner. It was rich! As a dad, I know I didn’t do everything right… actually, I made a lot of mistakes… but, I fought for those 3 biggies (time, memories & priorities) and now I feel like Cathy and I are in a season where we’re reaping the benefits of being intentional parents.

Those 6,570 days flew by… and now my 18 year old “baby” is an amazing young woman. I’m so grateful.

Happy birthday Cassie… you’re the best!

Question: what are you doing to be an intentional parent? Share your ideas here.

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  • Ted Lowe

    Douglas- the great thing about you is that you truly live what you suggest for others- and because of that, you and Cathy have GREAT kids! I’ve been so blessed to watch you love your family all these years!

    • dougfields

      you are gracious Ted… thanks for sending Cassie the text photo this morning. Another one of my points could have been–surround your kids with other great adults… you and Nancie are some of those for the Fields’ kids.

  • kevin

    Doug, my son was 18 years ago today as well. good thoughts. Having been a youth leader for years I saw patterns that led to the 3 most important decisions my kids will ever make. Can i share them?

    1. What you do with Jesus.
    I saw many church kids walk from their faith but many broken home teens go far with Jesus. Beyond religion. Now living in the South this is even more important.

    2. What you do with dad & mom in yourteen years.
    Will you trust us with your friends, purity, dating, etc.? Will you trust us when you’re convinced we’ve lost our minds?

    3. Who you marry.
    Doesnt matter if you go to college, make lots of money, etc. if you marry poorly.

    These 3 build on each other. one leads to the other and gives the next a greater chance at success.

    I started when they were 8ish and reminded them periodically. When we struggled with typical teen issues we’d revisit the top three and they’d think it thru again.

    I’d ask, “what are the three most important things”? Now they respond, “God, Girls and you Guys.” Whatever the order, they got the msg. So far so good.

    Sorry if too long.

    • dougfields

      Kevin: not too long at all… actually, really helpful. Thanks for contributing.

  • http://www.smarterym.com/ Aaron Helman

    We went to Olive Garden and my 11-year-old son ordered from the adult menu and finished the entire portion. There I was with tears welling in my eyes. Thanks for the post.

    • dougfields

      Tears in Olive Garden… love it!