“Even every hair on your head has been counted. Don’t be afraid! You are worth more than many sparrows.” Luke 12:7
I am a 32-year-old man, but I am only four and a half in dad years. My oldest girl Reese is tenacious, craves quality time, creative, and a professional fun-starter. Next is my first son Judah, who is two years old- he loves physical touch, is brilliant at problem-solving, and has a major servant’s heart, always looking for ways to help. Lastly is our newest boy Hunter, he is only two months old- but already you can tell that he is calm, gentle, and full of joy! Already- he will stare into my eyes and track my every movement when I hold him. And then there is my amazing wife… the one who made me a dad in the first place. She is honestly the best partner I could’ve ever asked for. She is selfless, skilled, passionate, and excellent when it comes to mothering! She teaches me so much, probably without even knowing it. I love my family dearly, and I strive to be the best version of myself so that I can father my kids well and help them to feel loved and cherished. But, I am fully aware of the huge “areas of growth” that I have and I want to share a few things with you that I am continuing to learn and attempt to practice, as I seek to be present and engaged as a dad. I desire to know and love my kids with the same intimacy and attention that God shows to me.
A Community of Dads!
One of the most helpful and supportive communities that I am involved in is a group of men online from all over the world with two things in common- we are fathers and believers. It’s “Dad Tired” and it’s led by fellow father and lover of Jesus, Jerrad Lopes. You can find and join the group on Facebook. In a recent episode on his podcast, called “Don’t be an Absent Dad,” (which I HIGHLY recommend) he humbly, and skillfully instructs and disciples his listeners about the importance of staying present for our kids. One of his main points is this: “One of my greatest fears is that we will run past our kids, in an effort to chase down a better life for them.” His point is that we can not be so overworked/busy or on the other extreme… so over-leisured/lazy… that even if we are physically present, we are emotionally disengaged and disconnected. He notes that we tend to justify our overworking by saying that we are “just providing for our families”… and that we tend to justify our excessive “relaxation” time (or more sinful escape behaviors) by telling ourselves, “ I deserve this… I earned this because I worked so hard.” But, if we are overworking, or escaping through Netflix binges, video games, or way too much time in the garage by ourselves, the truth is that we are ironically missing out on the family that we are supposedly working so hard for.
Practical Solutions to Two “Presence Problems”
I confess that I have fallen into both of these categories at different points over the last four years- but, I want to always strive to be a better dad, and if you are reading this… I know that you must have the same desire. So, I want to give you two practical ways that you can be present with your kids, so that they will
know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you not only love them, but that you like them and that you desire to be fully present when you are with them.
1 | Learn and practice how to share how your feeling (and to apologize when you blow it)
Problem: Have you ever become so frustrated with your kids that you “snap” and say/do things you don’t mean? Yeah, me too. I’ve worked with so many men over the years who say things like “I never learned how to express emotion… I don’t even think I have feelings.” So, I ask them if they ever get angry… and 10 times out of 10 they are able to name several moments they have been irritated, frustrated, or angry that week (or that day). A lot of people forget that anger is an emotion. Or- as many brilliant scholars in the field, and Jarred says in his podcast, “It is a little indicator on my dashboard that there is something wrong under the hood.” The truth is, that we sometimes feel like our kids are “in the way“ or that they are a barrier that prevents us from getting work done or resting. We are not being present with them in these moments. I am so glad that God does not treat me this way!
Solution: If (when) you mess up and snap at your kids- choose to be brave enough to acknowledge the anger that you are feeling (without blaming them) and then model an apology to them. I know that this is way easier said than done! And- sometimes your kids (depending on their age) will call you out… and you have a choice to make in that moment. You can either become defensive and blaming (which leads to disconnection)… or, you can humbly acknowledge your mistake and say that you’re sorry (which leads to intimacy and connection).
2 | Get on their level, press pause/put down your phone, look them in the eyes, and connect intentionally at the end of every day (when you are able)
Problem: Most people reading this are probably American. We have a big problem as a nation, and that is “the glorification of busyness.” It has become an idol to so many of us at different times in our lives. It helps us to feel accomplished, and purposeful… or something. Maybe we are still struggling with the false belief that we have to work to earn love? But, whatever it is, it can rob our children of crucial face to face/connection time that leads to an increased sense of security for them, which in turn develops trust. And I don’t know about you… but I want my four-year-old daughter who tells me about the unicorn picture that she colored or the lizard that she found in the backyard to develop into my 14-year-old daughter who tells me about peer pressures at school, or confides in me about insecurities that she is feeling. If we don’t slow down and show them what connection and trust looks like now… why should we expect that when they become teenagers? Or even adults for that matter?
Solution: Most nights (and I am not perfect by any stretch of the imagination) I try to connect, even for a few minutes with my kiddos one on one, face-to-face. This could literally be less than 10 minutes. I might ask them to share one fun thing about their day, or maybe I ask them if they made any choices that they wish they hadn’t. At bedtime, we say a quick prayer- and then I challenge them to find one thing that they were grateful for during the day and talk to God, thanking Him for it. Whenever we are having this intimate, face-to-face time, I try to be very intentional about leaving my phone in a different room, or in my pocket. I want them to know that I am fully engaged, just like my experience with God- the ultimate Father- when I have my quiet time with Him.
You can do this men. These are solvable problems, and you have what it takes to put them into practice! Remember, we are not just parenting our children, but we are making all of our choices right now through a “legacy lens,” desiring for our actions to be spoken of for generations to come. God bless you in your journey!