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

Nothing Worthwhile…

As long as I’ve been a pastor, and well before that, I’ve held this statement as a core conviction:

Nothing worthwhile is ever easy.

It’s nothing original, to be sure. But it has guided me through a lot of life’s difficulties. I assume a few things to be generally true about everyone:

  • We all want to matter, to someone and something.
  • We all want to enjoy success.
  • We all want deep, meaningful relationships.
  • We all want some degree of peace, happiness, and pleasure.

The struggles of life often leave us pushing against our aspirations. “Mattering” to anyone or anything is largely out of our direct control. Success is like dopamine – it feels good, we crave more, and only end up chasing the next “hit” that satisfies for a moment, only to leave us with more craving. People and relationships are definitely the best part of life… but unfortunately, they’re also the worst! Nothing can hurt us like other humans. All of the things promising happiness, peace, pleasure all tend to over-sell and under-deliver.

So where does that leave us…

Everything comes at a price. As my Dad would emphatically remind me growing up, there’s no such thing as free. Even the “free” gift of God – salvation to all the human race who believe on the name of Jesus, isn’t truly free – just free to us! Our salvation cost Christ His very life, and the weight of the sin of humanity. Nothing worthwhile is ever easy.

That tells me that – to God – we were worthwhile. We were worth redeeming. You are worthwhile. The pain you’re going through in life right now, is evidence that there is a battle to be fought and won in your life. I know it’s hard! It’s not suppose to be easy. Not if it matters.

All the struggles I described earlier are not wrong, inherently. You should seek to matter. You should try to make a difference. Success in life, work, school, health, finances is a good thing. Relationships are certainly worthwhile! But they all cost something. They cost time, focus, thought, energy, money, friendships, “other” opportunities, and the list goes on.

And then it gets more difficult! Because you and I are finite human beings. So if I pursue financial or professional success at all cost, I may one day realize that it cost me my marriage. If I pursue building a ministry while neglecting my own spiritual, mental, and emotional health – it may cost me a dark bout with depression. It’s like we only get a certain budget of energy, time, focus, and talent. And once we’ve spent our budget, whatever is left on our list of goals ambitions gets the scraps.

Which leads me to a few questions:

  1. What is the difficult, worthwhile thing you’ve been avoiding doing?
  2. If people are the most worthwhile/difficult thing in life, what relationships do you need to invest more into?
  3. What do you need to let go of that is necessary but still difficult?
  4. Are you willing to pay the price for what you’re seeking to achieve this year?
  5. How would you prioritize your “budget”? Consider marriage, education, friendships, faith, physical health, finances, kids, etc.
  6. How do you keep the harmony between all of these things?

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?

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