Every father should read the lyrics to or listen to Cats in the Cradle by Harry Chapin before they put their kids to bed every night. In other words, no one ever sat on their Deathbed and said I wish I had drank more or I wish I had watched more TV.
I’m a good dad! At its base, I know I’m a good Dad. Other people tell me I’m a good Dad. One of the best compliments I’ve ever received was from a divorced/ single parent friend who said “I’m a good dad but I try to raise my game to your level every time I have my son.” That got me thinking how lucky I am. I have an occupation that allows me to be home at night. I leave for work between 0430 and 0630 every morning so my kids will be lacking any memories of breakfast with Dad but overall, I am involved in their lives and around a lot. So basically I know I’m a good Dad….but when I listen to Cats in the Cradle, I want to cry. When I read The Giving Tree, I want to hang myself. It’s so SAD!
I first heard Cats in the Cradle when I was a kid. When I was serving in the military in the Middle East, my rack mate, was a young man from Georgia who had a thing for this song! He would listen to it all the time! And if he listened to it while drinking he would become down right belligerent. His father was a much decorated major in the U.S. Army and was wounded several times as a member of a very elite unit. He was all a man could want and achieve in a military career or the kind of man a young boy would look up to in absolute awe but their relationship followed Chapin’s song very closely.
When I look at my relationship with my own father, the pattern is evident although less pronounced than my friends. In this rambling account, all I strive to say is BE a better father! Be more present! Be a real man! Be a warrior! Be a sheep dog that takes on any challenge with gusto! I’ve certainly come home after 12 and 15 hour days and wanted nothing more than a cold beer and a good TV show, but it’s not about you.
I’m a good dad but I’ve become better! I’ve faced challenges with my health that has included several hospital stays! My most recent setback 13 months ago was an epiphany for me. I had tubes running up my nose and down my throat. As I spent three listless days lying in that bed, I vowed that I would never say no to my kids again. I thought to myself that at that moment, I would give anything to be hugging my son and daughter, to be playing ball with my son or braiding my daughters hair (a real man, an accomplished man, a self taught man goes on YouTube and finds hair braiding videos and learns).
I’m a great Dad. I’ve been told I am. But I thought about the countless times I had told or yelled at my son to go in the other room. Daddy’s watching TV or the game or daddy’s tired or any other weak excuse! Certainly, many of those are true! I was watching the game or I was eating my dinner but if God grants me twenty more years on this earth and I see my son grow into a man! What’s going to be more important! That game of catch or wrestling on the bed or reading the book or my memories of watching Matt Schaub throw his latest interception? We all know the answer.
It’s not easy to say yes every time but I have come up with my own rules for it with the long term goal of passing on good values and raising my children well but it works…it’s a real challenge and there are gut checks someday but a real man and a real father takes on a challenge head on.
My simple solution is that I have breakfast with my children once a week. I take them to ice cream once a week. I have a super fantastic Daddy Funday once a week so Momma can have some time to her self (happy wives that have been recharged hanging out with their friends come back to bed recharged as well gentlemen). I wrestle with my kids for five minutes on the bed every night they want. They understand and I set my iPhone timer for five minutes and we go all out. Timer goes off and they go in the other room…but five minutes a night is a reasonable amount of time and the good memories.
I try my hardest, and this has been the hardest to keep, I spend 20 minutes a day of 100% undivided attention with everyone I love solely focused on them. I spend 20 minutes with my son doing whatever he wishes to do…play, eat, read, wrestle, talk about dinosaurs etc. I spend 20 mins with my daughter and we usually end up watching My Little Pony or doing something surrounding My Little Pony. If Harvard’s application process solely covered My Little Pony, my daughter would be an early Admission and graduate Summa cum laude.
And then finally most importantly and the intro to the second part of my post, I spend 20 minutes focused solely on my wife, the mother of my children doing whatever she wants to do. I usually rub her feet and listen to her day and it has become a very important bonding portion of our day. Some days, it’s the only time we spend alone together. But one of the greatest gifts I give to my children is–to honor their mother. Then Harry Chapin comes on again!
Remember your children! Especially your sons. They are going to grow up exactly like you someday! Who do you want them to be?