I’m reposting this story from about three years ago. Fishing season is upon us, and my daughters are anxious to get out again soon. And, if that wasn’t enough, my oldest daughter is growing up so quickly. She absolutely rocked out a solo tonight at her school choir concert, and it made me think of the times we spent singing the song that I talk about later in the post. Here goes:
“This morning, I took my daughters fishing. They have experienced a bit of fishing before, but this was their first time with me. Just the three of us went; 2yr old Emma, 3yr old Lily and Daddy. We drove about 7 minutes to the local lake. I taught them how to put the rods together, then switched the lefty reel to a righty. We then baited a hook (lure) and I showed them how to cast and reel. They took turns and ultimately, had a great time. We didn’t stay long. They were more interested in their ice cold water and snack that waited for them in my truck and not so much in casting and sitting still in the hot summer sun. It was all good.
I had prepared them for this “fishing trip” the night before. They woke up excited and were ready to go fairly early. They thought we were going to catch huge fish, but I knew better. I wasn’t using the right lures and the rods were way too big for them. Again, it was all good.
It wasn’t about catching fish. [If it was, they’d call it ‘catching’ instead of ‘fishing’.] It was about my daughters having time with their father, and it was about their father having time with his daughters. Time, that’s really all. And memories. When’s the last time you took time to make memories with your children? Your godchildren? Your nephews/nieces? Your grandkids? Go make memories. Oh, and on the way home from fishing… we stopped in at the adoration chapel at our church for a few minutes of silent prayer with Jesus. Overall, it was a great morning.
Trace Adkins has a great song that became “Lily’s song”, and I sing it to her all the time. Here’s the video. Speaks to what I’m talking about here. Thanks, Trace.”
A series of posts I used to write were called “Tuesdays with Daddy.” [They’re in the blog archives under the Fatherhood tab.] These posts were about my time at home, on Tuesdays, with my daughters. At the time, I had two toddler daughters that I was lucky enough to be able to spend special time with on Tuesdays. Today, I took the opportunity to stop working (I mostly work from home) and I went outside with them. It was a beautiful day and I figured it would do us all some good.
Nowadays, it’s not just my two girls, I also have a one year old son, Dave Jr. He’s really awesome, and we had a great time outside today. (Maybe if I can get the video edited together quickly enough, I will post the video of him riding on his four-wheeler by himself! Yes folks, he turned 1 last week and can ride the thing by himself!) All three of them were all over our fields and sincerely enjoying the outdoors, the sunshine, and even the brisk breeze that was lightly blowing today. I was running around with them, laughing and joking, holding them and hugging them, throwing them in the air, pushing them on the tree swing, watching them on the four-wheeler, playing t-ball, helping them ride their bikes, and showing them the old tractors. What a way to rejuvenate!
When I came in the house, it was time to get back to work. When I sat back down at my computer, I was so filled with joy, it was almost hard to sit still. I took an hour out of my workday to be with the people who are the most important in my life. Not only will they remember it, I will remember it. Not only did it bring life to them today, it brought life to me today. What a blessing my children are to me.
If you’re a father, and you’re like me, you often get bogged down in the “stuff that has to get done.” Work, helping your wife, chores around the house, helping your wife, this meeting and that meeting, taking care of the vehicles, oh yeah don’t forget prayer, helping your wife, going to the bank, making money, helping your wife… on and on. The “stuff” never stops. But without a doubt, your kids grow up more and more each day. Every once and a while, just drop what you’re doing and take your kids outside. If your kids are anything like mine, and they probably are, they really don’t care what they get to do with Daddy, they just know that they get to be with Daddy! Don’t let another day go by without spending this invaluable time with your kids.
Last thing… I have been really frustrated lately. I plan to write more on this in a coming post. My frustration stems from things that I see in our society, in the government, the 2012 presidential election, things that are happening in and to the Church and so on. I have to remember, and ask you to consider, this… our world isn’t doomed. Our world is set for joy, as long as we teach our kids how to live joyfully. Once we and those who die before us are gone, our kids are in charge. If they know how to live with joy, our world will be just fine.
To all the men who are fathers… today’s “Tuesdays with Daddy” is for you. Unfortunately, my opportunity to be home with my girls on Tuesdays will be coming to an end in about a month. I thought it would be a good idea to put forth a challenge to all the dads out there, to keep you thinking, to keep you purposeful in your parenting. Read over these questions and be honest with yourself about the answers. If something’s not up to par, make a change today. I believe that we are all on a journey towards being the best father that we can be. The journey requires us to always be moving forward, always toward being better.
- Do you tell your children, not just everyday, but every chance you have, that you love them?
- Do your actions match up with your words?
- Do you love your wife?
- Does your love (action!) match up with your “I love yous”?
- Do your children see you loving your wife?
- Do your children have a healthy and realistic understanding of love, or is it what they see on television, in movies and online?
- Do you prioritize your life well? Or do you give one (or more) part more attention and neglect the other things you ought to be doing?
- Are you addicted to anything? Porn? Alcohol? ESPN? Work? etc.
- Are you working to overcome your addiction? (Ask me if you need resources… Dave@TrueManhood.com)
- Do you strive to grow in virtue?
- Are you faithful to a daily prayer life? To a Sacramental life?
- Do your children know that you pray?
- Do you pray with your children everyday?
- Are you actively involved in the spiritual formation of your children daily?
- Do you pass on responsibilities and place them on your wife and/or childcare provider?
- Do you rejoice in your children?
- What else do you need to work on?
“Our lives change when our habits change.” – Matthew Kelly
My daughter has been sick for several days. Because she is a toddler, it is difficult to really pinpoint what’s happening with her, what hurts and how to make her better. I’ve been at a loss for exactly what to do, and although we’re trying, she doesn’t seem to be getting better. At least not as fast I my wife and I would hope. As I’ve been observing her and contemplating solutions to this problem, I realized something today… selfishness impedes service. What do I mean?
When you’re in charge of someone else, and their entire well-being stems from your actions, it’s plain to see that they not only rely on you to make good decisions, but to be at their service. This isn’t to say that I wait hand-and-foot on my children, but it means that my daughters, especially when ill, need me to be selfless in regards to them. And, I want to be a servant-leader for my family and for the world, which requires me to continually learn how to better serve them. I look at my life and realize (quite often) how selfish I can be. I like what I like, the way I like it, when I like it, how I like it. This gets in the way of my ability to truly serve my family.
Where did my selfish tendencies come from? Besides my fallen human nature, my tendency toward selfishness stems from my past pornography use. It made everything I do, even serving my sickly little girl, about me. Because of this revelation, I realized that the only way to do that is to look to the cross. I must unite my failures in life to the struggle Christ experienced on the cross so that I am purified of my tendency toward comfort, self-pleasure and ease. My little girl needs me to be one hundred percent committed to taking care of her and if I don’t watch it, I’ll put myself before her, falling into old patterns and losing sight of the cross. If this happens, my selfishness has won and drastically impedes my ability to serve.
I urge everyone to take a step back, especially during Holy Week, to evaluate the areas in your life (vicious behavior) that require change. Figure out how to change those things and continue to work on them until you possess the virtue that overcomes that vice.
This morning, my oldest daughter woke up on the wrong side of the bed. From her nap this afternoon, she woke up on the wrong side of the bed, again. Nothing was right for her all day. She didn’t want to play when playtime was suggested. She didn’t want to eat, when meals were prepared. She didn’t want to clean up, she didn’t want to nap, she didn’t want to play, she didn’t want to pray. Then, to top it all off, a huge snow storm hit our region and is potentially preventing us from getting to the airport and flying to visit family – she was not happy about these details. She reacts and her reaction is to pout, throw a tantrum and fuss. A man shouldn’t react that way.
As a grown up (or as a “growing” up), we must realize that our reactions to tough situations should be even keeled. More properly put, our reactions should be “ordered”. I recently watched a program on prison inmates. The inmates seemed pretty calm and easy to get along with while on camera, but unruly, defiant and violent when someone made them mad. They looked like a little kid who wasn’t getting their way, and anyone in their way paid the price. A TrueMan reacts differently.
When I was younger, my reactions to tough situations were pitiful. As I’ve grown older with age, and as I’ve come out the other side of a really bad rage problem, it has become very clear to me that men of virtue, ie: TrueMen, don’t allow their emotions to determine how they act. TrueMen act out of truth… with responsible reactions. It’s a good thing to work on.
It’s funny to see how a child’s mind works, and how profound a simple statement can be. Today, while walking through a gigantic multi-purpose store, my daughter spotted a rack of cheap summer-time rubber, bouncy balls. You know the kind… they stack them from the floor to the ceiling, with all different colors. The balls themselves are poorly made and wobble through the air because of the poorly designed air hole placement. Regardless, she noticed that something was different about the balls in the rack. She said, “That blue one’s the boy one, that pink one’s the girl one.” I informed her that she was correct as we zoomed past the balls heading towards much more important things – the outdoor section. As we continued on, she noticed lots of other toys that were specifically for boys and specifically for girls.
She had no idea what she was saying. All she knew was that boys play with blue things, trucks, beasts and get dirty and that girls play with pink things, dollies, host tea parties and despise getting dirty. This isn’t something we teach in our home, it is a natural instinct of a child. (Yes, there’s a lot of pink in my house for my two daughters, and lots of dolls, stuffed animals, dress up clothing and tiaras. However, there’s also toy cars, bats and balls, a fireman costume with ax and plenty of time to help Daddy around the house on various projects.) It brings up a point that’s frequently mistaken in our society. The point is that there’s a difference between men and women! John Paul the Great, the late Pope, spoke often about men and women having “equal dignity, but different roles”. It’s evident to children; maybe we need to return to a child-like way of living. Innocence, simplicity and freedom.
The point isn’t about the color, although you won’t find me in a pink or purple shirt. The point is that there’s a difference and as men, we must fulfill our role. Women have a role that they were created for and we have a role we were created for. When men fail to fulfill their role, women typically respond with an attitude of service and want to step in to fill a gap, but it’s not right for them to do so because it’s not what they were created for. So men, live a life in relationship to what you were created for: provider, protector, leader. More on this in the future.
When I stay home with my girls on Tuesdays, I know that it’s vital that I stay consistent with my discipline techniques. My daughters have learned to not push their luck with me, as they know that I’m not going to back down from the standard I have set for them and will, when necessary, continue placing them in time out, removing their toys, or even have the occasional stern “talkin’ to”. This isn’t simply a finger-waging session, telling them how bad they are. My children are great, but sometimes they need a loving nudge to make better decisions. In order for my discipline techniques to be effective, my “Daddy discipline” must already be in place so that I can stay consistent. Discipline, used in two different senses here… confusing. What I mean by my discipline techniques, is the set of expectations and consequences that I’ve set in place, with my wife, for my children. -Let’s call this discipline “the rules”-. What I mean by my Daddy discipline, in this case, is my personal commitment (self-discipline) to remaining true to what I know is the best method of parenting, resulting in the best formation and development for my children. -Let’s call this discipline “the preparation”-. Both distinctions are crucial for the welfare of my children. [In both cases, the theological virtue of charity must be central.]
There is a close relation to the two definitions here, and is important for us as children of God. He wholeheartedly wants what is best for His children. God the Father also has a set of expectations for us, a standard that He desires to see His children fulfill (the rules). We should know that God, our Heavenly Father, is going to remain true to his “method of parenting” and simply wants what is best for our formation and development (the preparation). The problem, I believe, is that we aren’t that worried about “time outs”, and that honestly, we don’t listen when He gives us a stern “talkin’ to”. Maybe it’s because we can’t see the reward with our eyes. Maybe we don’t know how to listen to the voice of God. Maybe it’s because we aren’t smart enough to follow the path of those who have successfully gone before us. I’m not really sure, but I think it has something to do, at least in part, with our discipline.
The other day, I wrote about discipline in one of my Super Bowl articles. (7 Days of Super Bowl Stuff -SBXLIV- Day 5 “Discipline”). Athletes have, even at the most basic level, a certain amount of discipline that is a responsibility that comes along with playing a sport. They practice, workout, study the game and then perform. In this previous article, I wrote about the similarities between being disciplined as an athlete to being disciplined in our spiritual lives. In today’s article, I hope I show the importance of discipline in our lives, both discipline in the form of a set of expectations of how we live as well as discipline in the daily, practical applications in our lives. Becoming and remaining disciplined is difficult, but attainable. Discipline in the little things makes us disciplined in the big things.
I noticed today, that for the most part, my children aren’t interested in being held by me. It’s not that I scare them, or that I’m too rough, or that my beard is scruffy on their faces, or anything like that. It’s that they have other stuff they want to be doing. On occasion, when a head is bonked, or a toe is stubbed, or a toy is stolen by their sibling and just about every 2 hours or so when that hunger thing comes around, then they come running, arms wide open, running to their daddy asking for something in their time of need.
Consequently, I realized, because of my wonderful children, that many of us are that way with our Heavenly Father. All He wants is for us to be connected with Him, to be united with Him, to love Him and to be with Him. More often than not, we want the opposite. We have other “stuff” we want to do, and we don’t include Him. He’s going to be there waiting for us, the same way I’m always there waiting for my girls, but wouldn’t it be better for us to run to Him in the good times too, when we’re not in need of something from Him? I challenge all of us, myself included, to give God our first-fruits. To give to Him the perfect time, upfront, not just the leftovers.
I had an idea to implement some special prayer time and Scripture reading into each day with my girls. Even though they are young, I’m finding it very fruitful. My two year old and one year old don’t listen intently, nor would they have total comprehension if they did. That’s not the point. The point is that each and every day, in the morning, my children know that God is number one. Here’s what I’ve been doing.
Every morning, I get my children from their rooms, we do the necessary change of diapers/underwear, comb the hair and do morning hugs and kisses, and then we head into the kitchen for breakfast. Before any food is consumed, and before any milk in sippy cups is drunk, I have the girls join me in the sign of the cross, and I hold their hands as I offer our day for Christ. I want them to get in the habit of praying, of giving God our “firsts”, if you will. I also want them to know that we should make a sacrificial gift of ourselves to God.
After making our morning offering, I then put their bowls and drinks in front of them, and they begin to eat. This is prime time for their attention, so I began reading them the Scripture readings from each day; Sunday or weekday. I found an “app” on my phone that has all the readings from each day, which works out nicely because I always have my phone handy.
This entire process takes just under five minutes. My girls “stay with me” that long, so it doesn’t become tiresome, like some other prayer options we’ve tried. One of the best things about spending this time with them is that I’m actively participating in their spiritual growth. Their spiritual growth is my responsibility as their father. I cannot take that lightly. They see that prayer and time with the Word is important to me and they become used to it.
I’m going to continue this process until I see the need to change things up.
Sometimes it’s hard to clearly determine priorities. What’s really number one in my life? Why is it number one? What else must occur in order for number one to stay number one? As a husband and father, my primary vocation is to care for my wife and children, and this is where priorities get sticky for me. In order to care for them, I need to be with them, but at the same time, I also need to provide shelter, clothing, food and safety – the essentials. In order to provide the essentials, I have to earn money. In order to earn money, I have to be away from them, either at my office, on the road speaking or at other locations outside the home. Since I’m also studying for my master’s degree, my time is taxed heavily. This isn’t even to mention upkeep of the house and vehicles, house chores and other necessary errands that must be completed. How do I determine rankings of my responsibilities?
I’ve found that taking myself out of the equation is the best way to make the determinations. What? Here’s what I mean… I try to remove my desires, my wants, my preferences and instead, place my wife and children (and all of their needs, wants and desires) first. When I do this, I find that my emotions are kept in check (even though I might want to be making money, hanging with my guy friends or watching a game). When my emotions are kept in check, I am able to clearly determine what’s important. Keep in mind, that making money isn’t bad, and hanging with your guy friends isn’t bad. They are both goods things. However, if making money, hanging out with your guy friends or any other activity/project/endeavor takes you away from your priorities, they become distractions and hindrances.
So, when determining priorities, I recommend removing yourself and your emotions from the decision making process. Once you do that, your mind will be clear and you’ll be able to clearly make the right decisions. Best of luck.