It is easier to build strong boys than to repair broken men. ~Frederick Douglass
Last week I introduced you to Mr. Charles Johnson, who raised an adult son who made and has kept a commitment to wait until marriage for sex. In today’s post I will share Part 2 of my interview with Mr. Johnson.
Before I share some of the actual questions and answers, there are a couple things that really stood out to me during the interview that warrant mentioning.
The first thing that I found to be so amazing is that Mr. & Mrs. Johnson did such a wonderful job of parenting despite being such young parents. She was 17 years old and he was 21 years old when they got married. Their first child was born within a year of them being married. Their second child was born 11 ½ months later and their third child was born 10 months later.
The second thing that stood out to me was that Mr. Johnson refused to take credit for his children’s success. When I applauded him for the great job he did raising his children, Mr. Johnson quickly gave the credit to his wife instead. He said they made the decision together when their children were babies that she would quit her job and stay home with the children, which he feels made a big difference in their lives.
Now for the actual interview with Mr. Johnson and his sons, Terrell and Terrence:
Terrence, were there any life lessons that you learned from your dad?
“Yes, he taught us that your word is your bond! I remember once when I got my car repaired and I was $20 short. I asked the mechanic if I could bring the $20 back after I got paid the next day. As soon as I got paid, I went straight there and paid him the $20. His face lit up and you could tell that he was really shocked that I came back, and he actually gave the money back to me. He walked me into the shop and told everyone in the shop that he wanted them to see me because I was a good man and a man of my word.”
They may not appreciate it now, but they will later!
Terrence, did you ever think your father was too hard on you?
“Definitely! There was no rap music, no sagging pants (not even in the house), no tattoos and no earrings for the boys. There were even certain cartoons we couldn’t watch. Now that I am older, I appreciate the fact that my father had high standards and I find myself observing his rules in my own house now that I’m married.
For instance, my father made sure the Word was not just at church but it was also at the house. Growing up, we all knew that on Sunday morning there were no cartoons before church and no music unless it was gospel. We had to have our minds prepared for church. The same thing now happens on Sunday mornings at my house.
Also, my father bought us all cars when we graduated from high school; but we had to pay him back for half the price of the car and we had to pay the additional increase in the cost of car insurance. At the time I couldn’t understand why we had to pay him back, but now I understand what he was trying to teach us.”
Mr. Johnson responded:
“I didn’t need the money. What I was trying to do was teach them how to take care of themselves. I never wanted them to have to take anything from anyone. As a parent, if you train them up to be independent, sooner or later they will have their own families and they can pass on the things you are passing on to them to their own children. It becomes a cycle. When you look at your children, you are looking at yourself in future generations.”
Terrell & Terrence, what do you appreciate most about your dad?
“He taught us character. We never heard anything bad about him. I never saw him lose his temper. He taught us how to treat women. He taught us what to look for in women. He taught us responsibility.”
“I appreciate him for showing us integrity and teaching us to finish what we start.”
Mr. Johnson, what are you most proud of about your kids?
“They have integrity and they respect themselves.”
Mr. Johnson, is there anything you wish you had done differently as a father?
“Spend more time with them. If I could do anything differently I would go back and take more vacations with my family. I tell guys all the time who are just starting their families that they should spend as much time with their kids as possible because once it’s gone you can’t get it back.”
Even though Mr. Johnson’s one regret is not spending more time with his kids, apparently, he spent enough time to create some wonderful memories. Both he and his sons’ faces lit up as they talked about regularly watching “Family Matters” and playing board games together. He even taught all of his kids to play chess when they were younger. They all agreed that spending time together on family nights was their favorite time together and also held the most special memories.
This reminds me of a quote I read recently:
To be in your children’s memories tomorrow, you have to be in their lives today!
Terrell, would you do anything differently with your kids?
“That is a hard question for me because the best father I know was my father. I guess I didn’t realize what my father had instilled in me and I took it for granted. My father always told us he loved us, and even today he never ends a conversation without saying, ‘You know I love you, right?’
I always thought everyone got what I got until I started coaching and volunteering in the detention centers and I realized that most of those kids didn’t have their fathers in their lives. The kids I mentor tell me I am such a good person, but the only difference between them and me is that I had my dad, and I had a good dad at that.”
Finally, I was struck by how fondly Mr. Johnson spoke of his own father, who passed away in 1990. He said it wasn’t until this year (23 years after his father’s death), that he has been able to talk about his father without it being very painful.
“I loved my father! He didn’t just say he loved us; he showed it! My father was a pastor. In 1979, he was shot during a robbery at the church and left paralyzed. He preached from a wheelchair for the next 11 years. I always admired him for never becoming bitter after the shooting.
Another thing: My dad used to love watching Bonanza and I used to hear him say ‘That Ben loves his boys!’ When I had boys, I finally saw how the love of a father affects the lives of his sons.”
Positive generational cycles!
When I got home from the interview, I texted Terrell and told him that his father had received a wonderful early Father’s Day gift by getting to hear his sons talk about his impact on their lives. Terrell responded:
“Yes, he did! Just hearing how highly he speaks of my grandfather and how highly we speak of him makes me want that same present from my future children one day.”
I have no doubt that Terrell will be just as wonderful of a father as his father is. And that is how positive generational cycles are created.
It was such an incredible experience to be able to watch Mr. Johnson’s face light up as his sons shared with me how much they appreciated, respected and loved him. I pray that every father will have the opportunity one day to hear his children tell him how they feel about him and the influence he has had on their lives.
If you were touched by reading about this heartfelt interview, please share comments with Mr. Johnson below!