dads… be there whenever you can

We always read about the dichotomy between Quality Time and Quantity when we talk about parenting.  And there is a big difference.  And this is a special challenge to any of us who travel for a living.  Being gone from the household for three, four, five days a week, or for weeks at a time, takes a toll on our ability to focus on what are the simple day to day activities in our family’s life, but at the same time, these are the most important.

And many times, when we come home from a trip, we think “I’m home.  I’m with my family.  I’m making time for my kids.”  Go to a soccer match, go to Church – family time…

But the hard part is the ability to turn off the work week, and really, really be there.  I struggle with this all the time.  Expense reports, forecasts, all the things that get left for the end of the week, and maybe pushed into the weekend, so we are thinking about a million details, while we are standing by the pitch, or sitting in the pew.  It’s so hard to separate completely, so that I can look into my son’s eyes when he talks to me, or sit across from my wife at Panera Bread and concentrate on her and our conversation.

I do find that I walk around with my smartphone all the time, and although I do read e-mails as I get them from my mom, and my brothers, I do have a couple of hard and fast rules.

  • I don’t answer work phone calls while engaged with my family.  If I happen to be in my office for an hour on Saturday morning, I’ll review messages, but in my line of work, there isn’t a lot that is truly URGENT on a Sunday afternoon.
  • I don’t read e-mails from work.  I might look at my smartphone to see who sent me an e-mail, but I’ve come to reign in the temptation, to see (just in case it’s a life threatening question about whether our software can create a Searchable PDF file from a scanned image, or whether Biometric Authentication is available from any other vendors besides my company).
  • I turn off all sounds on my notifications except phone calls, and my wife’s MMS Chat posts.

I fail sometimes on my “to don’t list”, because I do find myself standing on the sidelines checking to see new messages, Facebook posts, etc. and finding some of the distractions typical of our smartphone society.

But I digress…

And now I’ll digress a bit more…

When I was growing up, obviously we didn’t have all these distractions like pagers, cell phones, smartphones, wi-fi, and the like.  But I do know my Dad had his distractions.  But the memories that I carry with me are seeing him there at my little league games (even though he often worked until 5:30 or 6:00), he always managed to get there for as much of the game as he could).  I remember playing tennis with him (even though he played in several leagues: Men’s Singles, Men’s Doubles, Mixed Doubles with my mom, he still made time to get me out on the court).

And every summer, we got away for outdoor activities, Camping, canoeing,  visiting family in Virginia or Louisiana.  When he took time from work, it was always about us.

Dad baking pies at Ricker Pond in Vermont

And I’ve managed to try to make those memories for my kids.  Even though I don’t consider us a “camping” family, we have done our share of outdoors.  I’ve hiked the Tetons with both of my sons (see my post from last year).  And my daughter and I spent four or five years going camping and whitewater rafting with her Girl Scout troop.  And we did manage one really memorable family camping trip a few years ago to Assateague Island.  But our family became a “beach” family and that’s where most of our vacation memories center around.  And we do manage to relax a lot at the wonderful home that Mary’s parents have at the Jersey Shore (no, we are not neighbors of Snookie).

So I guess the key is, Quantity (when you have the time) AND Quality (when the time is limited).  I know over the years, I’ve probably squandered opportunities to spend more time one on one with each of my kids, or fully engaged with the whole family, but the memories that I had growing up, of an engaged Dad, and true “family” activities, will keep me focused on the prize, the hope that my kids will think about their Dad in years to come, remember the times we spent, and that they will “pay it forward”, keeping their families in their hearts, and making quality time, with whatever quantity of time they are allowed.

Dad, I love you always, and look forward to seeing you again.  I hope the fishing has been good.  You were a wonderful fisherman and “fisher of men” while you were with us…  I praise God for the memories you created in my life.

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