Volume 5 Number 3
The Art of Shaping a Family
By Leslie and Chip Dobbs-Allsopp
We were reluctant to give our children biblical names, figuring that it would be enough of a burden to have a pastor and a Bible scholar for parents, to say nothing of learning to spell “Dobbs-Allsopp.” We gave them royal names instead: Will is 9 and plays soccer, chess, and, this spring, lacrosse. He is an avid reader, and a patient big brother. Henry will be 4 in July, loves trains and his castle and knights, and idolizes his brother.
The best part of our day together comes in the evening, performing all the rituals that make up bedtime. Chip and Will read together, and Leslie reads a book to Henry. The boys say a prayer Leslie prayed as a child. Will always adds a prayer for all of us to have good dreams in the night. Henry likes to add a verse of “God Is Great” and “Joy to the World.” Henry has to hold mommy’s hand, and then snuggle with daddy, while Will snuggles with mommy. This is the time when they confide in us, and tell us about the joys and sorrows of their days. It’s sacred time.
Raising children is the most challenging and rewarding task that we’ve ever faced. Parenting seems to be an ever-evolving art to meet the needs of ever-developing children. A constant concern is to make sure that our children have safe, loving care while we both engage in the service to which God has called us. It seems odd that this country has yet to adequately address childcare needs when both parents work outside the home. In our life together we have attempted to share domestic responsibilities; in reality it seems that one of us is always more involved in the life of the children. Chip was home with Will until he was two, while Leslie served as a pastor in western Maryland and then in New York City. Six months after she began to serve in Brooklyn, Chip moved to New Haven to teach at Yale University. Will lived with Leslie in Brooklyn, went to a wonderful preschool, and had a devoted group of sitters for those inevitable meetings at night. Chip would come home for long weekends, exhausted, and Leslie needed a break after four days as a single parent. We found this very stressful, so by the time Henry was born, the family was living together in New Haven.
Our family life has always been conducted with spirited negotiation. Often we both want to go to the same event on campus, which means attending in shifts or deciding who goes if there’s no sitter available. Leslie has returned to work on a part-time basis and greatly enjoys her position with the Institute for Youth Ministry. These days the greater part of daily parenting is Leslie’s, which is, quite frankly, not what she had envisioned. As the primary driver in the family, she spends a lot of time on the road in Mercer County, driving to and from sports, play dates, and preschool. Chip often feels inadequate—there’s never enough time for family life, for class preparation, and for his research. It’s difficult to balance out intentional parenting, being an attentive spouse, teaching well, engaging in the administrative duties of faculty, and participating in the larger PTS community.
We live with these real tensions every day. We don’t really have many models for how to weave
together the various roles of our lives. So we’re learning how to balance it all (sometimes) and make it up as we go along. Sometimes we make mistakes, and it’s really exciting when we get it right. We spend a lot of time reflecting together on how we shape our family life. The bottom line is that we love our children, we enjoy them as people, we’re trying to be good stewards of the wonderful gift God has given us in them, and we take it one step at a time.
Leslie Dobbs-Allsopp is the project coordinator for the Bridges Project of the Seminary’s Institute for Youth Ministry. Chip is an assistant professor of Old Testament at PTS. They are the parents of Will and Henry.
© Copyright 2001 Princeton Theological Seminary