John Markum

Four Seasons of Parenting

It’s hard to look at my kids now compared to where they were when we first relocated to Silicon Valley 10 years ago. My 8-year-old, second-grade Emilee is turning 18 in less than a month and will graduate high school in May. My once 6-year-old Kali has already started taking college courses and is learning to drive. My pre-K Josiah is now a 14-year-old athlete, who can already bench his weight. And then there’s my “Meatball” Elijah, who wasn’t even 2 years old when we landed in San Jose. At least he’s still a kid (kinda). But even as I type this, he’s at the kitchen stove cooking fried rice from scratch… and yes, I asked him to bring me some.

I sat with a dear pastoral friend, Scott Ridout, who once served as the President of Converge Worldwide about raising a family in ministry. The insight he gave me was great for more than just pastoral families, and I wanted to pass on what he shared with me. He described parenting as being in four seasons…

The Caregiver Season

When your child is first born, you parent as their caregiver for the first few years. You do everything for them: feed them, burp them, bathe them. It’s not ‘easy” necessarily, but is generally quite simple. They need our snuggles and compassion, our playtime and interaction. Their eyes follow our every move and it’s adorable… for maybe 2 years.

The Cop Season

You spent the first 2 years teaching them to walk and talk… now they don’t seem to want to be still or quiet! For the next several years, your kids want to test the boundaries of everything. It seems like all you do some days is tell them, “Don’t do that!” It can be exhausting. While the Caregiver stage is defined by compassion, the Cop stage is defined by consistency. Yes, this means discipline, and there are many theories and firm convictions on how to discipline. But the one thing they all have in common is that they require consistency.

The Coach Season

As our children approach 10-12 years old, they require less discipline and more guidance. Like a sports coach, your kids are the “players” and they are the ones now entering this game called “life”. The hardest part of this for many parents is the transition from doing things for them and teaching them to do things for themselves. In this season more than any other, our kids need room to rise and permission to fail. Rather than “punishing” our kids directly, they begin to suffer the consequences of their choices more directly. The Coach stage requires our cooperation for their training and success in life. But like a coach of a team, you still have some leverage. Coaches can bench players, make them stay longer for practice, etc. Likewise, parenting in the Coach stage still exercises a degree of authority over our children.

The Counselor Season

Eventually, if all things go well, we eventually surrender whatever leverage or control we have over our kids as they enter adulthood and the independence that comes with it. If we’ve done the previous three seasons well, we should be able to enjoy our “kids” as peers now… and hopefully, friends. Some disaster withholding, our Counseling years represent the longest season of parenthood. At this point, our kids do not owe us obedience, but will hopefully express honor to us for raising them, and the experience and wisdom we still have to offer them.

My wife, Tiffany has always excelled and thrived as a Caregiver and Cop. The Cop years were exhausting to me! But I’ve found myself loving the season of Coaching our kids. If you’re a parent, what is/was your favorite season of parenting, and why? Share in the comments!

Pastor John

26 Questions for 2023

As 2022 closes out, I once again observe the spectrum of attitudes about another revolution we’ve made around the sun together. They range from optimism and relief of a new year approaching to animosity over the notion to the point of cynicism of change.

The truth is, I love this time of year. It reminds us to take inventory, celebrate where appropriate, and learn where required – if we’re humble and wise enough. You can make your resolutions, yearly goals, or vision boards, but this isn’t intended to be a Pinterest post for ideas of any of those tools. What I do want to offer are the necessary questions I believe we should all consider as we look into the next year, regardless of how you may choose to organize your ambitions.

Consider unpacking these questions, maybe even journaling them out…

General Life Goals…

  • What would I have done in 2022 that I didn’t do?
  • What would I quit if able to in 2023?
  • If all my plans fall apart in this year besides one thing, what would I prioritize?
  • What advice would I give someone else in my exact situation?
  • What are the small pieces I can achieve toward bigger goals?
  • How will I make modest improvement this first week (rather than the year)?
  • What new skill will I commit a minimum of 3 months to develop and evaluate?
  • Who do I want to be in 10 years, and what would it look like to aim for that this year?

Spiritual Growth…

  • What can I trust God with that I shouldn’t be carrying?
  • If I’m not already, which church will I commit to serving and belonging to?
  • What is a single fruit of the Spirit I should focus on more this year?
  • Will I consider fasting at some point this year?
  • How will I be more faithful in my generosity?
  • Who has God put in my life for accountability I should reach out to?
  • Who has God put in my life to share my faith with?
  • Who has God put in my life to disciple/mentor me in my current season?
  • Who has God put in my life for me to disciple/mentor in this current season?

Relationship Goals…

  • (Single) If I want to find a spouse, how will I go about looking?
  • (Single) If I want a spouse, how I be the kind of person that would attract someone I’d like to marry?
  • (Single) If I don’t intend to marry any time soon, who will I do life with to be my best self?
  • (Married) How will I love my spouse as Christ loves the church?
  • (Married) When will I take my spouse on our next date, and where?
  • If I have kids, what do I want to help them achieve in this next season?
  • Who have I not forgiven that I need to forgive?
  • Who do I owe an apology to?
  • What boundaries should I maintain or establish?

Our first middle schooler

I’m writing this post, knowing full well that the subject matter of my children is increasingly something they will eventually become aware of. Yet I had to commit my thoughts and feelings on their journey, since so much of my life and identity is inextricably linked to them. Enter, Emilee Markum. My oldest child…

Emilee, by the time you get the chance to read this, it’ll likely mean you’ve finally got your grades up and earned your first cell phone. Congrats, baby girl! I knew you would do it. Everything about you has forever changed who I am. You’re my first kid! Every new season of life you encounter also marks a new season for me.

Your birth made me a father for the very first time. You were my first child to take their first steps, go to their first day of school. Everything about being a dad – you were the first in all of it. I still remember being 23 and having your mother run in to tell me we were going to have a baby… that we were going to have you in our family. I’ll never forget that flood of emotions as I managed uncontrollable waves of love, excitement, and to a lesser degree, panic!

Now you’re in middle school, and trying really hard to become a young woman. Despite my best efforts to slow you down, time seems to be consistently marching in your favor. There are so many things I want to tell you, but I want to give you just 4 things to cling to in this season of your life:

  1. No matter what you do, or where life takes you – both I, and your Heavenly Father, will always welcome you back with open arms.
  2. Remember who you are! You are not who anyone tells you to be, you are who you know you are. A child of God. A dearly loved daughter. You are strong, able, resilient, and growing.
  3. Mistakes are just opportunities to grow. When you fail, instead of beating yourself up, choose to rise up. There’s nothing you can’t do.
  4. I will always love you. I’m so proud of you, girl. For good and otherwise, you have so much of me in you. I see it every time I look at you. And you’ve got what it takes, kid! Even if you don’t know it yet.

One day, you’ll be a grown woman despite my earnest protests. Just be patient with your mom and me. And know that as much as we want to keep you to ourselves, we understand and are completely committed to what God wants to do through you. While we have a responsibility to protect you, we also know we’re called to train you – to unleash you to do all God put you in this world to do. And before you figure all of that out, we just want you to know – we believe in you, Emilee. And we’re already proud of you.

All my heart,

The phrase no pain, no gain has been a mantra for athletes and fitness junkies for years. And what they understand about physical pain needs to be broadened to a much more general use in all of our lives. Pain hurts. That's the whole problem. No one enjoys it, and if someone does, we rightfully

The Premium of Pain