Saturday, February 3, 2018

What Did You Say!!??

"So dad my nails didn't turn out right. I tried to use this new zig-zag template and then tried an abstract design but neither worked. The abstract was too thick and ended up being all tacky," she said as dad listened with eyes glazed over. It sounds like a page out of a novel, but that quote is actually from a conversation I had with my daughter the other evening.  If you have daughters like me you know like I do that there's hardly ever a shortage of words being spoken on any given day. With the abundance of words there have been plenty of times that I've missed some detail that I was later interrogated on, but came up clueless. One of my dad superpowers is the ability to tune out female voices. My wife can confirm this. It has gotten me into trouble over the past 13 years of marriage and 10 years of parenting, but I'm learning to use my powers for good. LOL. When I get home from work there are times all I want is for complete silence, but that's normally not the order of the day. The kids give me space but they often want more so I have to comply. It's not always the easiest but their desire to connect with their "guy" usually overrides my desire for space. I know these moments will pass by quickly and I will wish for them one day. So here are a few ways that I intentionally make sure that I am connecting with them.

Dinner Together-I safeguard my schedule to ensure that I am home to have dinner with entire family at least 3 times out of the week. We're together so much that if I miss dinner at least one of the kids will complain.

High-Low-One of the conversation starters we use is a game called, "High -Low." We each take turns discussing the high points as well as the low points of our day. A lot of times playing this game leads to other conversations as we discover what one another is going through. The main rule of this game is that we make eye contact and keep our devices away from the table. It's great when there are nothing but "highs," but be prepared for the lows. While the lows are uncomfortable and demanding, they are also the times that my daughter needs me the most.

Take Notes-I recently added this one. When my daughter is "spun up" and going on and on and on about something that is important to her-(like zig-zag patterned nail polish that didn't turn out right) that I cannot relate to I stop what I'm doing and listen. Not only do I listen but I give her full eye contact and right after the conversation I make a note on my phone about what we discussed. This is nothing extravagant other than a few bullet points to refer to later. This way if I forget what she said, I have a cheat sheet. Having a daughter means as her dad I have to value what is important to her even I'm not remotely into whatever she's expressing to me. I'm convinced many kids grow up with emotional issues because their parents never actually listened to them. Dads it's never too late to start being intentional about being emotionally connected to your kids. It also helps me when it comes to remembering things so that I can be more thoughtful with  birthday gifts or be more sensitive to what the kids are facing. Hopefully some of these tips will help you keep from saying, "What did you say?" a little less often."

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Compassionate Kids

Finding children that are focused on themselves is pretty easy thing to do. I just saw the most absurd story about a 16 year old who posted videos of himself on YouTube biting into a Tide detergent pod. YouTube removed the video, but immediately posted it to Twitter, When asked why he was so determined to endanger his health just to get this video out, he mentioned he just wanted to get more hits. Social media is filled with kids doing some of the dumbest most dangerous stuff all in the name of SELF.
But what about kids that are looking out for their fellow man? It makes me feel good as a person to see kids being assets to society. Nothing brightens my day like an "end of the newscast" type story about a young child helping someone out. I was recently blown away by my own child doing just that. As we were putting our daughters to bed, my youngest began to cry uncontrollably. I thought at first it was the normal not wanting to go to bed shenanigans that flare up from time to time but I would soon find out this was something out of the norm. My daughter went on to inform us that she was really sad because she keeps thinking about the homeless people who are living outside while the temperatures are freezing cold. She went to say that she wanted to do something for them. So the next day, my wife took her to the store to buy supplies to start her homeless handout drive. She picked up bottled water, a hat, a pair of gloves, hand warmers, an applesauce cup, and a pack of tissues. All of these items were spread out on our dining room table so that we could begin the assembly line that would place these items in big freezer bags for the homeless. They were then loaded into the trunk of the car and eventually handed out to random homeless people as we encountered them. Wow! I was totally blown away to think that my 8 year old has that much compassion for a complete stranger. It kind of made me feel like I got something right and that she has been listening to her mother and I as we've tried to teach her about being compassionate towards others like God called us to. It also made me feel good that I gave her the benefit of the doubt that night she cried right before bed. We would've all missed out on an opportunity to do something great for a fellow human being if I'd simply dismissed her. So make sure you're listening and showing empathy towards your kids. You just never know when they're going to blow you away with something amazing.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

A Hero's Welcome in 3 Steps

I live in a town that has a heavy military presence. Navy deployments and homecomings are a regular occurrence in our community. Seeing cars decorated or signs in people's front yard, saying, "Welcome Home Daddy" is commonplace. I've never served but, I can only imagine how the big celebrations make that soldier feel when they get back from deployment. Thankfully, I have my fan club, that is rooting for me when I get home each day.
Courtesy: Heckel Family & Boots & Bombshells
I recently, traveled for business for a week, and received a hero's welcome complete with a stage play written by and starring my wife and daughters. It was their own special way of saying, welcome home. Now, I might not have been gone for 6 months on a top secret mission, but my family treats me like I have been. It doesn't happen like this everyday, but the fact that it happens with any consistency is something to be grateful for. Here's what I mean, if your family is happy to see you when you walk in each day, you should be applauded. That means you as a dad are doing something right. I was always told that a man sets the atmosphere and mood of his house. This can be good or bad. At times I've had to catch myself because I came in complaining or agitated because of something that happened at work. It is unfair to take out your work frustrations on those you call family. If your current situation has your kids running scared from you when you enter, you've got some things to work on. Your home should be your charging station and not an extension of your at-work battles. Here are a few steps to help you keep the right atmosphere in your home and ensure that a hero's welcome happens more frequently.

"I was always told that a man sets the atmosphere and mood of his house. "

1.) Ask for Transition Time: Most of us guys have been there. The second you walk in from work, your kids and your wife have 17 request that could keep you busy until midnight. Depending upon the type of day or the amount of traffic, determines your response. In my house, I've asked for about 5-10 minutes of transition time after I get home from work before any extra request can be made. Of course, life doesn't always make this a reality, but for most days it gives me a chance to get mentally prepared shift into hubby and daddy mode. I have to push the work world out of my brain so that I can fully devote myself to family time.

2.) Leave the Office Behind: In order for me to be ready for transition time, I have to leave the office behind. This means during drive time I might have to call my buddy to vent about the office craziness so that I'm not still stewing over it when I get home. If there are customers that I can call back during drive time then I take care of them in the car too. If they happen to call back when I'm at home, then they more than likely will have to wait until the next business day. As a career focused person, there will be times when work will follow you home, but it can't be that way everyday. Your family needs you to be actively engaged with them after business hours. They've been without you all day and they deserve to experience the fullness of your strength, gifts, and talents in the evenings. Obviously, there are certain situations that will require you to discuss with your wife, but your intimacy will be robbed if you're jabbering on for hours each day about work.

3.) Speak Well of the Family: It should go without saying, but you should say something positive at least once a day about your wife and kids to your coworkers. There's nothing that bugs me more  than hearing someone at work constantly complaining about their spouse or kids. If they're really that bad, it could mean that there is some improvement that needs to happen on the part of the husband or father. Even if your woman is being a difficult, being positive will make coping easier until things get better. Every relationship has challenges, but steering clear of  "verbal spouse bashing"  is the best prescription during these times. Trust and believe, you will make your family feel great at the office party when they hear co-workers commenting about how much you brag on them. Speaking well of your family while you're apart will help you all feel connected and increase the chances of getting that hero's welcome a bit more frequently.