|Monday Memories: Did I ever tell you about writing a daddy column for our local paper?
Here’s a blast from the past. I published this in January of 2003….and reading it now is a gentle reminder to keep what’s most important at the top of my am-doing list at all times…
What Kids Really Want from Dads
Got five minutes? It might just forever change your relationship with your kids.
“I plan this. . .,” I said. Then I remembered to add a few “I create. . .” and “I build/buy. . .” statements to prove my effective dad-ness.
My friend smiled. “It’s always about you, isn’t it?”
I had no idea what he was talking about.
“All of those things are great,” he offered. “But when I asked you what made you a good father, you listed things that are all about you, where you are active and your kids are passive. You did not even mention your girls’ names once.”
I did not find what he had to say amusing. Yet, I knew he was right.
When things get too busy with graduate school or at work (which seems like always these days), I overcompensate my guilt by doing, creating, building, and (gulp) buying.
These acts of kindness appeased my guilt nicely, but they did little, if anything, for my kids because that was all that I was doing.
My older daughter drove this point home the other night when, after rushing through a bedtime story, I tried to hurry through the rest of our nighttime routine, explaining that I had a lot of work to do (in total for that entire day, I had been with my daughter less than 90 minutes). She became so upset that she began to cry. And when I tried to explain to her how important it was that I had work to do—but that I would leave her a surprise in the morning, she sobbed, “All I want is to be with you. Is that too much to ask anymore?”
It didn’t matter what I had created, bought, or planned to leave in the morning. The bottom line was that all my 6-year-old wanted was to be with me.
So, take five minutes for this little activity. I guarantee your children will be happier with the extra time you’ll be spending with them (even if they don’t say so!).
Take a piece of blank paper and fold it in half three times, which makes eight equal boxes creased on the paper when you unfold it. Write a day of the week in the first seven boxes and leave the last block empty. For each day, make a list of all of the activities your child is involved in. For example, my “Wednesday” box reads, “wake, breakfast, get ready for school, school, snack, gymnastics, dinner, homework, bed snack, bed.” My “Sunday” box reads, “wake, breakfast, free, lunch, free, snack, free, dinner, free, bed snack, bed.”
Circle or highlight all of the activities that you are genuinely engaged in.
Next, in that eighth box, make a list of all of the special things you do for your kids. This might include surprise gifts from business trips, special notes you might leave on the breakfast table when you need to leave before they awake, or trips to the movies, ice shows, or local attractions. (Again, these are all good, important things that we can do for our kids).
Surprised? I was. There was hardly any connection between what I do for my kids and what they do during each day of the week. My older daughter spends 15 hours a week at her gym; I spend less than 5 percent of that time watching and supporting her just by being there. She has homework four nights a week, I’m involved with maybe one of those assignments. Worst of all, her Sundays are totally free, and yet we spend most of the day cleaning up, running errands, and getting ready for the new week. With the exception of the time she spends at the gym on Saturdays, practically every minute of the weekend is not about her.
So if your lists look anything like mine, here’s what we can all do to balance out the things we buy, the notes we write, the surprises we leave. Being present with your kids is the most important thing. Look at the seven days once more and see where you can be present in your children’s lives. Is it during breakfast? During homework time? And what about the weekends? We have so many wonderful opportunities to be with our kids, yet we only get one chance to raise them.
Be present as much as possible, and simply give your kids the experience of growing up with you so that you can be there whenever they need you. Sometimes, just knowing you are there can make all the difference in the world.
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