I learned many years ago from some very good friends that an essential element of good parenting was taking time out of your busy schedule to enjoy a special day with your children. So I have instituted Daddy / Daughter dates and Father / Son day as a regular part of our family rhythm.
I remember when I was a kid my Father, at the encouragement of my Mother, took me on a road trip every summer break. I still remember the lessons I learned like, “You don’t cry over spilt milk.” The meaning in the message – that you don’t get worked up over an incident that has already taken place and over which you have no control. A great life lesson I learned in childhood.
On these Daddy / Daughter dates or Father / Son days in our family a staple activity is to hit the city park playgrounds to PLAY. They absolutely love the fact that I get “down in the dirt” with them and play on slides that are too small, hide in corners that are too tiny, swing on swings that hurt my butt and run around doing CRAZY kid “fings” – as my youngest would say (for things).
One thing I have observed on these regular outings with my children are the many parents who stand on the sidelines talking with other adults, working their smart phones, or just dialing out mentally while their children play and [often]vie for their attention. Granted, adults are busy, need breaks and will use the weekends to recharge. I don’t want to take away from that obvious need. However, when you have the ability to spend time with your kids – focus on them. Time is precious, is in limited supply and creates moments your children will never forget. Plus – it’s great exercise for those of us (ME) who are out of shape (I’m working on it!).
Now – what do I mean when I encourage Catholic Dads to, “Hit the Bar.” Well, it’s not an encouragement to imbibe on an adult beverage after a long, hard day at the office. It came to me as an idea that HIT me unexpectedly. When I received the inspiration for this blog I just laughed and laughed and laughed (after I almost cussed like a sailor). Now for the story!
The Park Bar:
As I stated earlier I love to run and play with my kids. I run, play hide and seek, slide down slides, swing and basically go wild with my children on the playgrounds of our neighborhoods. We actually drive around to find the best one and then return week after week to enjoy the spoils. In addition, I have become a bit of a star as my children’s friends or playground associates seem to like the fact that a grown up is actually PLAYING rather than checking the messages on my phone.
This past weekend Heather was out of town and I was in charge. Hence we had Daddy Daughter Weekend. On Saturday we went to one of our favorite playgrounds and, upon our arrival, jumped right in with the other kids to start playing hide and go seek. I was in the midst of a chase when, “BAM” a BAR came out of nowhere and HIT me square on the HEAD, “Holy…Darn It All.” It hit me so hard I stopped in my tracks, evaluated the pain, struggled to hide it from the other grown ups watching us KIDS like zoo animals in a cage while trying to make sense of what happened.
I was running through a zone with a low bar overheard. As I went back to find out exactly what happened I saw THE BAR and then a sticker next to it that stated this play area was for kids 5 to 12 years old. I understood immediately. The park engineers were young, single and had no idea what it meant to be a father or mother. They were intending to limit the playground usage but didn’t get the fact that engaged and involved parents want to spend time actually playing with their children. It’s not children playing and parents watching – it’s a combo of the two.
I quickly recovered, made a clear assessment of the engineering mistakes, determined exactly where the other “hazards” were located and continued to play.
What I Learned:
As much as sitting on the sidelines looks attractive to a tired parent the pain of my own silliness reminded me of some valuable lessons.
- Active engagement with your children creates a bond no one / thing can break.
- It develops trust between you and your children while giving you a vantage point to see clearly how your kids play or interact with others.
- You HEAR what other kids are saying and how they interact with your children giving you plenty of “teachable” moments.
- It’s great for the busy individual (like me) who has grown a bit too large and suffers from a lack of exercise.
The best part – when your daughter says, “Daddy, I had a great time and I love you.”
As Catholics and parents, we are encouraged to slow down, be more attentive to our family and together anticipate the coming of our Lord & Savior. Use this time to lead your family towards Christ and purpose to be more active in the development of a deep relationship with each of your children.
Enjoy – it’s a bit of a lost art.
Copyright 2013 Eric Neubauer