Saturday, July 20, 2019

Dad for the Win!

I love soccer. I love the beach and I love my kids. A few weekends ago I found myself in the middle of this triple play of my favorites. We spent the entire day at the beach as my youngest daughter competed in a huge sand soccer tournament. It was good because it had been a while since we visited our favorite beach. In between games the whole family was able to get in some much needed relaxation time. At one point as we’re chatting it up with fellow soccer moms and soccer dads, I noticed that my oldest daughter wasn’t so happy. She was all of sudden a bit withdrawn and had 'that look' on her face. I asked her what was wrong. Her reply? “Nothing.” I’m experienced enough to recognize the “nothing technique” that females use to test the male species. So, I suggested she and I excuse ourselves for a walk down the beach to check out the adult soccer games at the main stadium. 

Walking hand in hand I asked her about what was  really going on. She finally opened up and 
shared an emotional crisis that she was currently going through. Part of me wanted tell her to get over it. As our toes splashed in the crashing surf on this perfect beach day I thought about avoiding any further discussions on anything less than positive. I could’ve easily said, “We have all of this awesome beach to enjoy and you want to focus on this issue right now!!?” I brushed those thoughts aside because I knew I couldn't take the easy way out. She needed me. So, instead I  listened ...I mean I truly listened. 

At first, I did try to solve her problem but she made it clear that this conversation wasn’t about solving her problem. So I gave relinquished full control and let her speak. As she poured out her heart on that sandy beach I remembered that this conversation was an example of what the Dad Days are all about. This was what a father is supposed to do. She could’ve shared what’s going on in her heart with anyone, but at this memorable moment in time that I was chosen to be her emotional hero. She trusted me with the truth that was in her heart about a situation she was trying
to deal with. 

I hope she’ll always feel comfortable talking to me about the tough stuff life throws her way.
For now, I will just savor as many of these awesome conversations as possible. Oh by the way, we also managed to get to enjoy seeing some amazing soccer players from around the world do amazing stuff. Right now, it appears that I'm dad-winning!

Fellow dads be on the look out for these types of moments. They come when you least expect them and when they do, make the right choice resist the urge to wiggle your wait out of it. Encourage your kid to talk it so that you can help them navigate this crazy world. You might not hear them say thanks for listening every time but best belief that some day they'll look back on your heart to heart conversations and feel good about it.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Connection Starters

The moment that I decided to become a father, I knew my life would change forever.  I still remember the surreal feeling I had when my wife gave me the news that she was pregnant for the first time. All kinds of questions ran through my head. Things like, “Am I ready for this?” “Am I going to lose my wife to this needy child for the next 18 plus years?”

I was a little overwhelmed because I knew there’d never be another waking moment that I would be able to only think about the needs of just my wife and myself. I was about to embark upon a situation where an entire human being needed me 24 hours a day 7 days a week in order to survive. Ready or not a connection had started with a person that I had yet to see, yet to hear cry or yet to touch.

You see that first connection was pretty easy back then. Fast forward 11 years and things have changed a lot.  Connecting with them when they were babies is way different than dealing with these critical thinking intellectuals that I currently have on my hands. My life is filled with many two-way conversations that are laced with some interesting perspectives from two very opinionated young ladies.  There have been plenty of times that I wished for a playbook to help me when I’ve responded in a way that caused the connection between my daughters and I to be briefly challenged. I feel like apologizing just comes with the territory. There’s nothing I want more than to tell you that I’ve been a perfect father. Unfortunately I can’t. What I can tell you is that I’m 100 percent determined to improve as their dad. 
 Maybe you haven’t been as connected with your children as you’d like to be, well I have some good news for you. God created children to be super resilient. If you stay involved in their lives and work hard not to make the same mistakes they usually bounce back from the failures we dads tend to make. So keep going man! You can get better at connecting with your children today.

Here are a few connection starters below that you can you use to kick your fatherhood game up to the next level. (I've also included some links to resources that you can download from the National Fatherhood Initiative to help you.

1.     Forgive yourself for your own fatherhood failures and move on.
2.     Schedule weekly (at least) uninterrupted One-on-One time with each of your children. (One-on-One Resource Download)
3.     Be actively involved with their educational and spiritual growth.
(Involved Dad Resource Download)
4.     Provide financially for both your children’s needs and some of their wants. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Keeping the Connection

To say she was scared out of her mind would be an understatement. She tried everything she could possibly think of. She hit the power button what seemed like a dozen times. She even pressed it and the volume button as hard as she could ,but got the same results each time....NOTHING. Her mother's phone was broken and it was all her fault. A few minutes earlier she'd been doing something that most nine year olds do. She'd planned on streaming a little background music to do homework to  when the phone slipped from her hand onto the cold hard concrete of the driveway.  When she picked it up it was dark with no signs of life. My youngest daughter ran to grab the charger and plugged it into the wall hoping her mom wouldn't ask for the phone any time soon. As she waited for the screen to show some sign of life she whispered a faint prayer for God to perform a miracle. As she did a tear ran down her eye. Still NOTHING!

At this point my daughter had to go face the music and tell her mom. She prepared herself for the oncoming wrath. On her way downstairs to fess up she grew weak realizing that she'd also have to hear me give one of my lectures on being more careful...with a little yelling thrown in as well. In her mind with this one act she'd committed would be the cause of the entire family being mad at her...ruining the entire weekend. As she told my wife the truth of what happen with a panicked shaky voice something weird happened. My wife simply said, "ok thanks for telling's no big deal."  "What in the world did she say!!!?", my daughter thought. When I arrived home instead of lecturing her or screaming, I reminded her that she's more important than a cell phone. Some would say my wife and I would've been within our rights to yell a little bit about dropping an expensive iPhone. Maybe on a different day we would've. In this particular case there were two take aways for my wife and myself to process through:
1.) There could be something we needed to work on with our parenting style if our child was so terrified of us because she dropped an inanimate object.
2.) I'm pretty happy that she tried to problem solve her way out of the situation before panicking.
3.) She ran to us with honesty when she needed help.

For all the days that I've blown it as a parent, I'm glad that for some reason I was on my "A game" that day. Only time will tell but I think something powerful happened in my daughter's heart that day. I know something happened in mine when I looked into her little relieved eyes.

The Dad Days go by quickly. Let's work hard to make sure they are filled with moments like this where we keep things in perspective. Our wives and children are the most important parts of our lives...not the job, not the latest gadgets, and not the clothes. Make sure your loved ones know that they're a priority.