I was one of the lucky kids growing up. My dad didn’t just donate sperm; he raised me along with my mother. I was blessed to have him there every morning and every night. He was with me almost everywhere I went.
However; like many dads, my dad was never there to watch me receive an award from school. He never watched me play on a sports team. He wasn’t there to see me receive my two degrees from college. Heck, he didn’t even make it to my wedding.
I can look back now and say my dad missed some really important moments in my life and it was all due to work. No matter how lame we think it is, it happens every single day.
But I’ve learned that work can wait for my children. I made a vow to always try to be there for those special moments with my children. I know it’s hard and I won’t be able to make it to every single event, but even an hour together is better than nothing.
Whenever in doubt, I look at the three things below and step my game up.
School events are special times
I try to make it to every one of my kid’s special school activities. When I do, I find I am usually one of the few dads there.
I didn’t really notice that until an event called, “Dads Take Your Child To School Day.” There were maybe four of us fathers who made it.
I heard the teacher tell her students, “We will give the dads an extra five minutes just in case they are running late.” I watched kids nervously look at the door every time it opened hoping it was their dads, but they never showed up.
As the event progressed, I noticed that other kids started to gather around my child and I. Their dads never made it so they hung out with us instead. Even though they were having fun, I could tell they were missing their dads. They would all speak about how cool their dads were just to keep the sadness at bay. Their superheroes couldn’t make it probably because of work but the reason didn’t matter.
I never ever want to hear my son say, “My dad never comes here.” Neither should you. That paycheck might abandon you for the day but the smile on your child’s face will be worth it. Work can wait for you to be that dad whose kids brag about. Show up!
Show them their efforts are worthwhile
I coach boys’ youth basketball. Every game I sit there and analyze the crowd. I look to see who’s there supporting who and notice that many dads are absent the way my dad was.
This sucks for two main reasons:
- Kids love showing off for their parents, especially dads
- Kids need to know that what they are doing is worthwhile
When a player’s dad shows up, the player shows up. The kid’s energy level is up, their behavior becomes better, and their effort increases.
A dad’s job is to support and encourage the dream. You can’t do that from home or from your job. You have to be there screaming for them, telling them “good shot” or that they are doing great. Little statements like that can change a child’s mood for the better. Don’t miss your opportunity to do so.
While you are there, take pictures. Show them that everything they are attempting is worthwhile. That their effort and time is appreciated, but most importantly that you being together means everything to you. If they feel that what they are doing isn’t worth your time, they might never do it again.
You don’t get time back
I know I know you’re tired or you need to make that extra $100 this week. I get it! We all have these other priorities that may take us away from our kids, but don’t set yourself up for regret later.
Time goes forward not backward so remember that next time you miss a school event or the opportunity to be there to support your kids.
Imagine your daughter making the game-winning shot at her game and you having to hear it from the coach or another parent. Or better yet, your child receives a “student of the month” award but all you get to see is crumpled piece of paper because you were too tired to wake up for it.
Your presence, not a piece of your paycheck, is the most valuable gift you can give a child. Still tired? Wake the fuck up and get your ass to where ever you need to be to support your child — you can sleep on the way back home.
A version of this first appeared on Cool4Dads.