When I was 7 years old I became the man of the house. It wasn’t anything I wanted at that age but a responsibility entrusted to me nonetheless. My dad embarked on a new career that required him to be away from home a month or two at a time and all I wanted to do was make him proud of me as I stepped into a role I had no preparation for. Needless to say he wasn’t around as much as one would have hoped but the one thing I loved and still love about my old man is that he did everything he could to both provide and be present when he was home.
I vividly remember a phone call home informing me he was sorry he would not make it to my peewee football game only to see him show up tired in his work attire to root for the home team and for me. Time and time again his “whatever it takes” mentality and drive made him present for some of the biggest moments in my life. Now here I am in my thirties with a family of my own and I find myself in the same shoes as he. What I failed to realize growing up and completely understand as an adult is this simply this: he didn’t show up because he had to; it was a conscious decision to do so. The purposeful effort to forego sleep and often pop in on his way to his next work destination was a choice I am glad he made.
Doing whatever it takes is a tangible ideal and belief that was cultivated by my upbringing and the example my dad was to me even to this day. The hardest part about being a parent in present day America is all the external elements in society that easily and effortlessly consume our time. It is an a la carte world full of Netflix, social media, work deadlines and drive thru windows. The rat race is alive and well and in full swing for most of us. Do I get it right every day? Absolutely not! It is a daily choice to engulf myself in my family and other relationships. Here are just a handful of things I implement as often as possible in an effort to do whatever it takes in my role as a husband and father:
1. Cook a meal at home together.
This may sound so simple but I love how my daughter lights up and grabs her stool to help out. It is also an opportunity to teach her about simple things like kitchen safety and the difference between salt and sugar.
2. Visit the kids at school.
Recently I had the opportunity to tag along and chaperone Lydia’s kindergarten field trip to the Fort Worth Zoo. They also had Donuts with Dads and I was able to meet her at school after I left work that morning. Even if it’s just a quick lunch date with her I can tell she feels so special. It also gives me the chance to have a conversation with her teacher to make sure she’s doing well in class. Courtney will have the opportunity to visit Lydia at school when they host Muffins with Moms next week and I cannot wait to hear about it.
3. Get outdoors.
This is one of my favorite things to do. I love getting the family away from the television, computer, or iPad screen. We do things like go fishing, feed the ducks in our neighborhood, kick the soccer ball, and play frisbee. The best part of it all is that we do it together. We recently hung up a toddler swing on our back porch which always gets Lennon grinning and laughing.
4. Do arts and crafts.
Glue sticks and glitter may not sound fun to most but I love being a part of Lydia’s creativity. This year we as a family created a scarecrow for a school project and a Christmas tree to display in the school hallway before the holiday break. It is messy at times but well worth it and the pure joy that I often find on my daughter’s face is worth even the largest mess to clean up.
5. Dates with Dad.
This is personally my favorite way to assure I have an influence in my children’s lives. My work schedule often leaves me physically and emotionally drained and it takes every ounce of energy I can muster at times, but I know it will bear good fruit in the future. A recent date with Lydia included eating at her favorite Chinese restaurant and a trip to the Disney store. The sole purpose for dates with dad is to do something they choose to do. It empowers children to start making small choices for themselves and it also provides teachable moments and opportunities to just listen and let them be heard.
None of us as parents, extended family, or parental figures are perfect and there are days when all I want to do is watch a movie and relax. Just remember time is not on our side and each day provides small moments we can choose whether or not to utilize. Doing whatever it takes will look different to everyone and that is okay and expected. Just take one day at a time and find your own moments to seize.
I remember an older gentleman at the local market seeing us with Lydia as we shopped. He paused and looked at us and asked if he could be grandpa for a moment as he smiled and looked at her. Then he looked up at me and simply said, “Son, don’t blink because she will be grown and gone before you know it.” I must say he, in all his wisdom, was 100% correct. It’s a process that may never be perfected but I leave you with this – don’t just be there occasionally… do whatever it takes.
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