This week I had a wonderful (and challenging) conversation with a close friend about what it looks like to be a good father. After talking about all of the challenges and obstacles we face at being “Dad” we summarized all of our collective wisdom and said that being a good father means this: get on the floor and play with your kid. I know that sounds way too simple. Some of you (me included) would rather read book after book and memorize the 17 Irrefutable Traits of a Good Father… But before we cram a ton of content into our brains, what if we mastered this ONE thing. What if our kids looked at us as fathers (and mothers) and said – “one thing I know about my mom/dad is that they could drop whatever they were doing and engage with me.”
I know, I know… they’ll probably NEVER actually say those words. BUT, what if that was the reality and legacy you left them with. What if more than anything else, they knew that you gave them the greatest present you possess, YOUR presence! Trust me, it’s far easier for me and probably any of us to toss one of my kids an iPad, a PBS re-run of Caillou, or even a book to go and read.
We just celebrated the 10th birthday of our oldest child. That means I have roughly 2,920 days (Lord willing) with her before she’s a voting member here in the United States of America. All I know is this – the last 3,650 days have gone… WAY… TOO… FAST!
For someone who battles with being “present” in the moment (and who has a Ph.D. in Justifying Why I Am So Busy – not sure if you’ve heard of that degree), I know that I want to change. I know that I want to slow down, to really be present, to turn off technology, and to be “that” dad… the one that “gets on the floor and plays.”
I’ve identified four things I have to PUT TO REST (death!).
Here they are. These are the “mental blocks” that keep ME from being present.
#1 Frustrations with my past hour, day, week, month.
As a re-covering perfectionist, life is too short to live it fuming about my past.
#2 Fears about the next hour, day, week, month, decade.
Pretty sure Jesus gives us some good wisdom in that “infamous” Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6) about the uselessness of Worry. Can I simply trust Him and His wisdom?
#3 Fixation with Making “THIS MOMENT” the PERFECT moment.
It’s easy as a motivated parent to be TOO MOTIVATED and to want 30 minutes of playing Legos with your kid to be THE MOMENT where you have some EPIC connection. Maybe the only thing that will connect is the Legos. That’s OK. Connect at that level and eventually your kid will ask you about everything (and probably more than you’d want them to ask you about!)
#4 Foolishness. The book of Proverbs is a book that portrays the path of Wisdom versus the path of Foolishness. I have to put foolishness to death. And I have plenty of it to go around! IT is foolish for me to believe that I “have forever” with my kids. The apostle Paul puts it this way in Ephesians 5:
15 So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. 16 Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. 17 Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do.
There’s my list. For a while, I may need to stamp it onto my forehead until I “walk” in that wisdom. But I’m convinced I will see both short-term and long-term fruit by dying to these four areas of my life and offering my kids the Present they’ll rarely ask for but desperately want: Presence.