Mentioned a story to a new-mom friend of mine and she said I should pass it on to all the (many) new-soontobe-dad friends in my life.
Sometime after informing my 14 yr old daughter Haily of our impending family addition, we were out having dinner at a favorite local Mexican restaurant. After receiving our food, I decided to toss a question to Miss Haily. I did not vet this question with my wife ahead of time… I like livin’ on the edge.
I asked my 8th grader daughter, very simply, “Talk to us about our parenting. Tell us the good, the bad, whatever. We’ll just sit here and listen. Open floor…”
What followed was… well first 15-20 secs of distrustful gazing and silence as she gauged if I really meant it… but after that about 30 minutes of touching, revealing, honest reflection on familial interaction, teaching, discipline, communication, leadership and more.
Out of all the great knowledge that came out of that conversation one theme rang out again and again.
She thanked us for our time. She thanked me for Daddy Daughter Dates, she thanked Rae for shopping trips and manicures. She talked about Desert Museum trips and traveling. She loved the times we talked in the car (even when she had made it clear at the time she didn’t want to talk), she appreciated being pushed to speak about her feelings and her days (even when she hadn’t felt like it). She thanked me for taking time to teach her things, for our “Dad Class” days (though she mentioned I often could get to my points quicker… that part didn’t sound like me at all). She thanked me for coming to her sports games, for taking her to guitar, for helping her with her singing, and homework, and writing.
She thanked us for the TIME.
I would implore you all to spend time on your kids.
Don’t kid yourself… It will usually NOT come naturally… it will take physical effort to choose to talk in the car instead of turning on the radio, to have them help you with a home project instead of just doing it yourself (it will take 3x as long), to go hiking on Sunday after church instead of watching football, to explain what you do at work even though you don’t want to talk about it and they don’t want to listen (what you do for a living is important and you have something valuable to teach), to discuss their hopes and dreams, interests and struggles, the hard meaningful stuff instead of the easy trivial stuff.
Fathers of daughters, take your girls shopping…
Fathers of sons, build something with your boys…
I’m not saying you have to be school volunteer of the year or coach of the state championship soccer team.. Each of us knows what time and talents we have, and those we don’t.
But take the time and talents you DO have and invest them in your kid. They will benefit from (and eventually appreciate) your time more than ANYTHING else you will do for them or give them at any time in their lives.
Be creative, put in effort, think about your specific unique child, and then design some time for them this week.
It may take years to pay off… but it totally will.