I am just about to start my 25th year of teaching.
I find it hard to believe, but my eldest son is in Grade 12- his last year of schooling.
I have spent many years in different roles in the schools I have taught. My resume is very healthy thank you very much! I have been in charge of Senior Schools. I have been in charge of Grade 12 students. I have taught Senior School subjects. I have counselled students, parents and teachers on how to handle this last year of schooling.
I have given lecture after lecture to groups of students and their parents on how to handle all the stresses, anxieties and pain that comes from that last year of schooling. I have been on the camps, the retreats, the formals and the sporting grand finals to celebrate with these young adults to make the final year of their schooling the best year of their short lives.
But now my son, my eldest son, is in his final year of schooling.
And I think I am scared!
As I gained more and more experience over the years, the easier it has been to talk to Grade 12 students and their parents. I can do this quite easily and naturally. When it is your own son, it doesn't seem to feel easy or natural. It certainly isn't easy when he loves just coming up to my shoulder and whispers in my ear, "Hey Dad. Guess what? I'm in Grade 12." He then revels in watching me stare off into space and contemplate that very statement.
I have already been driving him to his football practices and practice games and he will be dropped off and just before he gets out of the car he will randomly say, "See ya Dad. I'm in Grade 12 this year." He shuts the door and wanders off. I sit. I stare. I think of that little boy in nappies running around the yard in Mackay in the early 2000s. I think of that little boy who was the only boy we had around and demanded our attention and my whole family's attention.
Since he was in Grade 7 we have been telling him to plan for his "Schoolies" trip at the end of Grade 12. But not the "Schoolies" that dominates the headlines every November; his own "Schoolies." We made a very bold statement when he started Grade 7. He can go anywhere in the world for "Schoolies"; the only condition is he takes me with him. Our trip is planned- starting on 30th November this year - a final trip with his Dad before we release him to the world.
We want him to make his own decisions and live his own life. We are now partners on his journey. We are no longer dictators of his journey.
I have given up a position of responsibility at my school this year. I have taken a pay cut. But I am available for my son and the rest of my family this year. I still have my coaching to do. I still have my sport to play (sorry Belinda for the smelly training and footy gear after 21 years!). I am hoping to be much more physically available for my family this year, but also emotionally and spiritually available.
I asked my other 2 sons this question tonight:
"What do you want from me this year?"
13 year old response: "An Xbox 1." I'll ask him again another time!
8 year old response: "Hmmmmmm. I want you home early Dad. I want to play cricket and soccer with you when you get home. Can you coach me soccer again and take me to T20 Blast?"
6 years ago I was having the time of my life living with and teaching indigenous kids in Alice Springs. In my last year in "The Alice" I really believe God spoke to me. It wasn't an audible, booming voice, but I think it was pretty clear. He said, "What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, but lose his sons?"
This is God's paraphrase to me of the verse from Mark chapter 8 verse 36, "What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?"
What type of father would I be if I neglected spending time with them?
What type of father would I be if I neglected their mother?
What type of father would I be if I sought a position of responsibility at work, spent more time at work, gained a bigger pay packet from work (yes, to buy that Xbox!)- yet loses his sons?
What type of father would I be if I built up a fine Christian ministry and spent a lot of time "in church" or "at church"- yet loses his sons?
What type of father would I be if I pursued the things of this world- yet loses his sons?
Russell Modlin teaches English and Physical Education at a Christian School on the Sunshine Coast. He is married to Belinda and they have three children.
Russell Modlin's archive of previous article can be found at www.pressserviceinternational.org/russell-modlin.html