Photo courtesy of Chupp Photography

A few weeks ago, our family had one of its most amazing celebrations yet. My oldest son, Jordan, married the love of his life. They are so ready for this and the life that is ahead of them in Christ. We couldn’t be happier for them.

A wedding is a monumental moment in every parent’s journey. The week leading up to the wedding had to be one of the most emotional times of my life. For the many of you with young kids – I’m warning you: buy stock in some facial tissue companies. You’ll be glad you did.

Although I’m a novice at this your-son-is-getting-married-thing, I couldn’t help but reflect back on the last few decades as the wedding grew nearer. Here are some thoughts in no-particular order.

You have less time than you think. I could hardly believe this season had come. Seriously? Wasn’t he just in kindergarten last year? Whether your kids get married at 20, 25, or later is kind of irrelevant. Time flies. And no, you can’t get it back.

Let them grow up. There’s something inside most of us as parents that wants our kids to stay young forever. One of the tensions Jordan and I faced in his teen years was his desire to be treated like a young adult and my desire to delay whatever phase he was heading into. Sure, there’s a role for strong parental guidance. But what I realize now is that he was likely ready for more responsibility earlier than I was ready to give to him. He’s always been mature for his age, and my parenting style has finally caught up with him. I now see how critical his desire for independence was to his development. If I had it to do over again, I would have embraced the development of him as a young man more readily at every stage. I would have made it less about my fears and more about his development.

Character is Everything. There are so many competing demands on your time as a parent it’s hard to see what really matters. One of the tensions in a limited time/resource universe is developing skills versus developing character. While it’s important to do both, it’s clear me to which one matters most deeply: it’s character, hands down. Who you are ultimately impacts everything that you do. It determines the kind of person, Christ-follower, friend, neighbour, employee, boss and – ultimately – husband and even parent you will be. Do whatever you can to help shape the person your child is becoming. It matters far more than you think.

Relationship Matters. Your journey as a parent continues, its just changes. Your role as rule-maker is gone. All you’re left with is influence. And the amount of influence you have is proportional to the quality of relationship you’ve built. The reason? Simple: we listen most to those we love the most. If you work hard – especially in the teen years – to fight for the heart of your son or daughter, the reward is significant. You can emerge into the adult years as more than just parent and child – you can move into those years as friends as well as parents.

As his wedding day approached, I got to say these words to my son: “You’re ready for this son. I’m so proud of you. And I’m so glad this day has come. I consider it a privilege to have been able to help raise you. And I look forward to our relationship growing and developing over time. I will always be thankful I get to be your father.”

He was ready, and I think – finally – so was I. It was perfect timing, because we had (and have) a lot to celebrate together.