“You’re the worst father I’ve ever seen!”
Our friend Helen went on to say, “Bo, you’re so consumed by your business that you don’t know your kids or what they’re doing.”
What? I loved my little son and daughter and would do anything for them. In fact, it was why I got up in the morning and went to work long hours—so they could be well taken care of, and my wife could be a stay-at-home mom.
And now someone I held in high esteem was telling me I was a terrible father, when I thought I was doing it well, like a dad and provider should do. If she hadn’t been such a good friend and someone I knew truly loved our family, I would have been ticked.
But still—what did she really mean? In my dad book, I thought I was getting an A+. She went on to explain that she and her husband, Everett, hadn’t done this right either when their boys were young; they were too involved with their own activities to pay much attention to them, and they missed a lot. Then she said, “No matter how much we love them today as grown men, we can never go back and recapture those early years, and we regret that. But you can learn from us, and not miss some of the greatest joys and most significant experiences in life.”
So what did I do? First, my wife, Gari, and I looked at our lives and started praying and resetting our priorities, especially mine. Then I started reading my kids bedtime stories, and doing things like playing catch with Andy and dolls with Ashley. We started going on more family outings, and when we were together, they had my undivided attention. It was amazing! No hobby or work could ever be as fun and meaningful as time with my children. We built great memories together; memories that would last all of us a lifetime. And how close I had come to missing it all!
Fifteen years into the future, the foundation of a strong family formed in those early years would carry me through the darkest days of my life, when I endured a federal prison sentence that my wife and I write about in our book, Grace Behind Bars.
I needed my family desperately during that time, and I was beyond grateful to the Lord that I had chosen to build that strong, loving foundation so many years before. And how thankful I was to Helen Dye that she cared enough to tell me!
by Bo and Gari Mitchell, authors of Grace Behind Bars
Bo Mitchell is chaplain and senior advisor for the Colorado Rockies. The former minor league baseball player has a master’s degree in Christian leadership and has cofounded several nonprofits. Gari Mitchell directs consulting services for Crosswalk Fellowship in Denver. Married for more than 45 years, Bo and Gari have two children and four grandchildren. Together they share their story in the book Grace Behind Bars, available now from Focus on the Family.