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Month: September 2016

Fathers Need to Show Up and Be Present

Fathers Need to Show Up and Be Present

Sometimes as a father we just need to show up. We’re not always going to have the energy to teach or coach our children but our regular presence in their lives goes a long way.

I want to be clear, presence is not defined as just being in the same room as your children. I have found myself over and over again, being in the same room as my kids, but I’m staring at my phone. Or watching the ball game on the TV. This is not being present with your child. You might as well be in separate rooms or not there altogether.

Being present with your children means that you engage them.  You ask them questiions or let them ask questions. You get on the floor and play. Or you read with them.

In today’s world, there are many different distractions that prevent us from showing up in the first place.  Work, social engagements, recreational activities, and sporting events are just to name a few.  I feel that the biggest disctractors are the ones that are in our own homes that vie for our attention, which are our smartphones, computers, and TVs.  I even have used chores as a major distraction to being present with my kids.

About 5 days into a recent week long vacation, my 4 year old son told me something that stung. He looked at me one afternoon and said, “Dad, I don’t want you to play with me any more because every time I ask you to play Legos with you me you always say no.”

Ouch. Legos are his favorite toy. In fairness, it is unrealistic that I’m going to play with him every time he asks, but it was a trend for at least a few weeks where I didn’t play Legos with him. To me this is not a big deal but from his perspective, it was tremendously saddening. I quickly learned to say yes more frequently but more importantly, not let myself get in the habit of remaining disengaged. Let’s just say I played a lot of Legos during the remainder of that vacation.

It’s also very easy to let work prevent us from being present with our children. I’m primarily speaking about jobs and careers but it does pertain to yard work and projects around the house too.

Without a doubt, my job is often easier than parenting my two boys.  Parenting is hard and sometimes not what we want to be doing.  This makes it very tempting to want to go in the office a little early to avoid the chaos of getting them out the door in the morning. Or stay a little later in the evening to avoid the witching hours that overtakes our younger children. And now that technology enables us to work remotely and respond to emails on our phone, it’s even easier to say yes to work when we are at home.

Let’s be honest. What we are really doing in these moments is we are saying no to our children.

No, you cannot have my attention, I have to check my phone to see if there is a new email response from that manager I’m trying desperately to impress. No, you can’t see me at 5:30 tonight because this report needs to go out so that maybe someone will hopefully read it tomorrow. No, I can’t play Legos with you right now because I have to empty the dishwasher first.

It’s often hard to say no to opportunities at work or in my social life but it’s critical to give myself enough time to be present with my children.

I used to play 1-3 gigs a month as musician, which I loved.  Now, I rarely play them and while that makes me a little sad, it was not more important than being present with my children. I could see softball or soccer leagues being similarly tempting.

We all have our duties at work or within the home that need to be done, but when they get completed are often within our control. There are also many activities that could be eliminated, simplified, or involve our children.  For example, I’ve let my oldest help me approve time sheets for my employees late one Friday evening.

To be clear, I’m not saying we can’t have room for some of these activities in our lives.  We just also need to make sure they are balanced with enough opportunities to show up and be present with our children. We need to find a balance of activities that engage our children with activities that help us grow as fathers. And we also need to get more creative on finding time and activities that can accomplish both.

Some activities that can be eliminated or reduced are mindlessly scrolling the news or social media on your smart phone or playing softball three nights a week.  Or maybe the activities just need to be better managed. Maybe we don’t need to work 50 hours a week. Maybe we just need to work smarter, occasionally say no to a project, and work a more effective 40 hours.

Our children can tell when you are present with them or not. So let us all take one of the first major steps on the path to fatherhood, let’s show up and be present.

Fathers Need to Keep Dreaming Alive

Fathers Need to Keep Dreaming Alive

We all have dreams. We dream of happiness, achievement, and fulfillment. We dream to connect deeply with others. The opportunity to achieve these is what fuels us and makes us human.

I learned something from my parents about how to dream. In the early 1980’s while in the throws of raising a family with three children, they dreamed about spending more time boating. They loved the playfulness and joy that came out as a family when we were on the water.

So while they were working two full-time jobs and raising kids, they managed to find land, design a house, save the money, and build a lake house. This was a dream of theirs and they saw it to completion when their children were all under the age of 10, which was probably the busiest decade of their lives.

That dream of theirs keeps on giving to me and my family to this day. Now my parents are grandparents and take joy in my family and my siblings families use and appreciating their lake house.

My boys love it. They love grandpa’s boat, swimming in the lake to keep cool, and taking naps on the porch. To be fair, everyone likes taking naps on the porch.

Dreaming should not end when we become parents. Or be put on hold and then start up again after our children grow up and move out of the house. They should be reinvigorated with a new motivation and passion. They should be visited during routine self-evaluations and stoked by regular action. They should be fueled by a new source of joy, our children.

Since becoming a father I have been revisiting my personal dreams very often. And my dreams have changed. What I value has changed. Money and stuff isn’t as important now. Time and experience with those I love is.

I have found that I dream best when I’m walking by myself. Whether it is on a hike in the woods or just a quick stroll around the neighborhood at dusk, there is something about solitude in the outdoors that triggers my imagination and wonder. With distractions minimized, the majesty of the world around me provides the energy and I allow myself to let go.

I dream of more time with my family.  I dream of simplicity in my routine and less distractions from material things. I dream of developing a few, very deep relationships with good men. I dream of growing skills for my career so I can provide more for others. I dream more of financial independence. I dream of having a six pack and being able to dunk a basketball again. I dream of long, health marriage with my best friend.

And I’ve been called to action in support of these newly invigorated dreams.  I try new methods, routines, or diet strategies. I wake up earlier, go to bed earlier, workout more, eat healthier, and write more. I play with my kids, write less emails, and automate the mundane.

I’ve also gotten ruthless at elimination. I’ve eliminated much of the time I used to waste on mindless web-surfing or watching brainless TV shows.  My web-surfing is usually focused with a purpose of something I’m trying to learn about.

I am more selective on what I read. I started this blog and built it from scratch without knowing anything about websites. I’ve become very picky on how I spend my time at work and at home. I’ve learned to say no more.

We as fathers also influence our children’s ability to dream. They learn from us leading by example when we allow ourselves to dream and go chase them. Their dreams will be different from ours and that is OK. Our encouragement for them to dream while they are young will be critical in their willingness to do it later on in life.

As a father, I am trying to focus my time, energy, and resources to dream big and go chase them. And I want my children to have no unreasonable fears that prohibits them from dreaming or chasing those dreams. Our humanity is built on hope that our dreams may come true, so we as fathers need to do what we can to foster that hope.

Fatherhood Needs Self-Improvement to be a Top Priority

Fatherhood Needs Self-Improvement to be a Top Priority

The responsibility of fatherhood is often so overwhelming that we often willingly sacrifice our own health and well-being to take care of our children. But we also need to continually invest in ourselves and it should remain a high priority.

We invest in our own health, wellness, and skills so that we can have the capacity to take care of and add value to others. We all have a deep need to grow and if we don’t feed this innate desire we become frustrated, resentful, and even depressed.

Self-improvement and fatherhood are not mutually exclusive, but sometimes you also need time away from your kids to invest in yourself. I feel that by combining self-improvement activities done in solitude with ones that can be done as a family will provide more than enough opportunities for growth.

Whether it is sleeping a bit more, reading, lifting weights, or learning a new computer skill so you can get a new job or promotion, the reality is that we need some time to ourselves and for ourselves. These tasks are in addition to the time we need for reflecting and self-evaluation. These are action based tasks.

There are many different ways to find some time to regularly invest in yourself. I discovered that after my children were born I was forced to develop new schedules and habits in order to do so. I now usually choose to go to bed earlier so that I can get up first in the house for time to myself. I often stretch, meditate, exercise, read, or write in those moments. Some days it’s only 10 minutes, other times it can be an hour or two. But I never regret the valuable quiet moments in the house to myself.

This means that I don’t work or watch TV as often in the evenings when the kids go to sleep, and guess what? Both of those have turned out to actually be good things in my life. These are areas that originally felt to be sacrificial ended up actually producing unexpected fruit.

Fortunately both of my children still nap, so on the weekends I try to carve out an hour during their naps to invest in myself. I usually workout, read, or write during this time.

In addition to early in the morning and naps there are other times I occasionally use to invest in myself but these are currently not part of my regular routine. This can be during my lunch hour during the work day, taking vacation time while my children are still in school, or even occasionally getting a babysitter.

I’ve also focused this time to myself on activities that are hard to achieve when I’m with my kids.  Reflecting, reading, writing, and lifting weights are the most common of those activities. Sometimes it is mountain biking, spending time with friends, or on a date with my wife.

Self-improvement allows me to add more value to others. Investments in my health through diet, exercise, and sleep provide me with more energy, patience, and physical fitness to keep up with my increased responsibilities. Investments in knowledge, wisdom, and new technical skills provide me with more tools to solve problems at my job or in other people’s lives.

Fatherhood is a continuum and what parenting skills i have learned through my first four years are different than what will be needed as they get older.  This continual change requires me to keep it a priority to continually take care of and invest in myself.