Updated: Sep 10, 2022
In the previous blog post, I discussed how I built a regular discipline around preparing to connect with my family. In this post, I’ll be talking about the unexpected benefits of this activity.
As I started to work on this regular connection with my kids, it was a little lame at first. It’s one thing to ask your kids, “and then what happened”; it’s another to make it all up on your own. The first couple of mini stories fell flat, not because they were “bad,” but because they were a little forced. I was trying to drive a profound message into what was supposed to be fun. However, even that was a good thing, because for every “Daddy I don’t understand, or that’s silly Daddy,” I was given an opportunity to connect with my kids at a deeper level. It also helped me refine my own thinking on the concept I was trying to share with them.
That wasn’t just around my storytelling. As I looked for fun facts for my kids, I learned about things that mattered to them. For example, one of my sons was into building things and robotics. Over time, those fun facts built up a shared interest in robotics that ultimately led to us spending a lot of time together in the Power Surge Robotics club. I had similar experiences with my other children as well. It just took five to ten minutes a day to be thoughtful about how I would build connections with them, despite the distance between us.
Those minutes didn’t seem like much at the time, and I had no idea where they would take us. But I knew if I was to prioritize being a great father over being a great man, I needed to put in the effort daily. It provided much-needed life support for our relationship, as I spent weeks on the road. But it also helped me focus on keeping the main thing, the main thing. So, when the opportunity did come up to take assignments with a higher chance of spending time with the family, I was able to spot them, and land them in a way that if I was just focusing on getting my job done, I might have missed.
Over time, that focus led to a long-term assignment and a move for the whole family that kept me mostly off the road for a few years. However, the discipline of keeping my kids top of mind was still imperative, because while I didn’t have a crazy travel schedule, the job was still very demanding. It wasn’t easy to put in the time EVERY day, and I definitely wasn’t a perfect father. However, I felt that when push came to shove, if the choice was to be a great man or a great father, I prioritized being a great father.
The hardest part about being a father is you never know. I have friends who have spent every free minute with their kids, only to have them end up completely estranged over what started as a minor misunderstanding. That’s why last summer, when my daughter was getting ready to get married, I was so surprised and blessed to get the “Cool Dad” award. While the award itself was super fun, the card that came with it was the actual award. The card was titled, “The most important things I know about life, I understand because of you.” I’ve received many awards in my life, but none will ever be as profound as that.
To be clear, while I know I put in the time to make that real, it wouldn’t have happened without a series of mentors, accountability partners, and the grace of God. I feel a deep sense of responsibility to share my lessons learned with other fathers who might be struggling to connect. In my next post, I’ll share some specific actions you can take to connect with your family.