Almost a year ago I became the father of 3 children by adoption. To be clear, I wasn’t a father before that. In other words, I went from zero kids to three kids over night. Yes it was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. So, taking parenting advice from me would be like consulting a 6 year old who’s incredible at Legos about building an actual space ship that will travel to Mars. It’s probably not wise. So rather than advice I want to relay some wisdom about being a father that I’ve learned from my childhood.
Kids want to play. They want to play all the time. So even though my 5 year old son couldn’t catch a ball if his life depended on it, he wants to play catch. Even though I’m absolutely terrible at “playing pretend” (de mentiras as it’s known in my Spanglish speaking house) my youngest daughter still invites me to have tea with her. As for my oldest teenage daughter, well, it’s not cool to need daddy for anything; that is unless a debit card or cash is required. Well, there are the few moments here and there when she wants to play basketball. She has no idea that I’ve hated basketball since childhood mainly because I’m awful at it. They want to play and they want to play with daddy.
So what do I do? Even when I’m busy, I try to stop and play. Now, I don’t do it perfectly every time but I try to let the majority of my responses to play with them to be “yes”.
Here’s why I do that. Kids usually just want you present for a couple minutes. They’re not asking you for an hour but just a few minutes to connect with them. Though they can’t express it, they want to know that they’re important and valued. And usually after about 10 minutes they’ve decided they want to play something else anyway.
And you know what? Rarely do kids remember the big grandiose things you want them to remember. They remember the small stuff. Think back to your childhood. You might remember that one big vacation or Christmas gift that you got but I bet you remember the small stuff more. I remember the day my dad brought home a BB gun for me and we spent 15 minutes shooting some cans (don’t worry; I still have both of my eyes). I remember the day my dad pitched a baseball to me and I hit it out of the backyard. It was that day I decided to play baseball, which I played through high school. I remember the day we sat on a picnic table in the midst of the rain falling through the trees and thanked God for the ways he had blessed us. I could go on and on.
Dad, your kids just want a couple minutes of your time. You can afford that.