7 Ways I Stay A Present Father
(To My Toddler)
Let’s get straight to business. So first, I buy a large enough box to fit in (THE BIGGER, THE BETTER). Then comes the wrapping and bow (obviously PINK GLITTER for Mackenzie…). Finally, I hop in the box and Paige tapes it all up. Totally kidding, we aren’t talking about that kind of present in this post, but that sure would be a fun (and slightly embarrassing) sight to see.
Today, I share with you something that I hold near and dear to my heart: my bond with my beautiful, crazy, fun, spastic and loving toddler Mackenzie AND the ways I strengthen that bond!
I believe that a father’s presence in his child’s life is essential to all forms of child development. One of my biggest fears in life is spending too much time on things that don’t matter and neglecting the things that do. I don’t want to find myself asking, “Did I do enough?”
Let’s flash back a few years to when I was preparing for fatherhood. I read The New Dad’s Playbook* and it changed my outlook on what it takes to be a dad. Trust me, it’s a must read. It also gave me the drive to help out my fellow dads the way the author, Benjamin Watson, helped me.
Below I describe the 7 Ways I Stay a Present Father in my daughter’s life. I hope they can help you too!
1. Set Aside Quality Time
This may seem like an obvious step, but it’s a lot easier said than done. It can be really difficult to balance your life. I often find myself at the end of each day wondering, “Where did my day go?” Sometimes the demands of life can seem so overwhelming and there are just not enough hours in the day to do everything.
That being said, I try my best to take each and every opportunity I have to be with my family, and specifically with Mackenzie. Not only does her development depend on it, but it sets a model for what she deserves for the rest of her life. Every day I am home, I make a deliberate decision to spend QUALITY time with my daughter.
I am going to be honest with you. This often means sacrificing in other areas of my life. And, although I may think that these areas are important at the time, they do not compare to the good I am doing in Mackenzie’s life. I know in my heart that when my life’s journey is coming to a close I will never regret a single second I spend with her.
Let me wrap this idea up with a single sentence. I really try to take EVERY opportunity I have to be with my baby girl and wouldn’t trade anything in the world for it. (Even, if it means missing the Superbowl…this will make more sense later on)
2. Put Away the Distractions
I am definitely not the best at this one, but I know how important it is to do this. Life is FULL of distractions, some that are obviously bad and others that you could even consider “healthy” under the right circumstances.
What’s crazy about these distractions is that most aren’t mindless activities. It could be something as simple as your work calling (sometimes it can wait). Maybe, you are trying to read the latest self-help book to strengthen your marriage. It could even be something as fun as your favorite sports team (Go Big Red!) making the championship game (One can dream, right?).
Distractions, like the ones above, cause you to miss out on spending QUALITY time with your child. Like I mentioned before, life balance can be a challenge and obviously, I am not telling you to give up everything you do. But I am saying that distractions take away from your time. And even when you are doing everything right, you are probably sacrificing some aspect of your life.
This is why it is so important to remember how short childhood really is. Is it really going to be the end of the world if you miss the Superbowl because your daughter had a cheerleading competition? (My wife tells me that this is my future…) The answer is most likely no. But will it be the end of her world if dad isn’t cheering her on because he was watching the Superbowl? You bet!
So, I have one piece of advice, turn off the T.V., set your phone aside, save your page and engage with your child.
3. Do The Dirty Work
If you have a child already, then you know EXACTLY what I am talking about. If you are expecting a new member in your family soon, I will illustrate this idea with an example. In the early months of fatherhood, diaper time was my time.
Seriously, I would just sit around waiting…thinking to myself, “Put me in the game coach.” And when that yellow strip on the diaper turned blue, it was time for me to shine and I cannot tell you how excited I was. The reward of spending quality time with her vastly outweighed the very real risk of a chocolate blast to the chest (Oh yeah, this happened…multiple times).
This is just one example of the many things that I never knew I could be pumped about until we had Mackenzie. To this day, I seek the messes because I know that in those messes are my opportunity to bond with my daughter.
4. Pray For Them Often
I like to use the quiet times in my life to pray for those important people in my life. For me, these times come in the form of morning showers and my drive to and from work. They also always include Mackenzie.
I use a very simple acronym that I learned from our church to truly connect with my faith: “P.R.A.Y.” First, I PRAISE God for giving me the gift of fatherhood and for each and every day I get to spend with my daughter. Next, I think of the faults and failures I have had as a father that day aka REPENT. I make sure to fully own these and eliminate excuses.
Then, I ASK Him for what I want for Mackenzie’s life. I ask for safety and development with the belief that He will provide. Finally, this leads me to my last and most important part. I YIELD our lives to Him and trust in His plan.
5. Be Their Biggest Fan
Childhood is full of little victories. They come in all shapes and sizes. It could be finally getting a single piece of food in their mouth (and not in our dog’s belly) or their first steps, or maybe it’s their first word (I claim Mackenzie’s was Dada, but this is a hotly debated subject in our house).
No matter what it is, I make sure that I am in the proverbial front row cheering my girl along. I believe that positive support can do amazing things for a child’s life and I want Mackenzie to be the first to know that I believe in her.
6. Earn That Smile
There really is nothing more beautiful than your child’s smile. That smile is my goal every moment I spend with Mackenzie. When she’s having fun and that toothless, gummy grin is out, I am having fun too. It does not matter where we are or what we are doing.
It’s funny to me that prior to becoming a father, I would have thought these activities were pointless and downright boring. But here’s the thing I have learned, it’s really not about me (shocking, I know). So, if you need me, you will find me on the ground playing right next to my daughter even if the “toy of the day” happens to be an old plastic cup or an empty box.
7. Put Love In Your Heart
There is no concept bigger than LOVE. Each day, I try to fill my daughter’s heart with loving words and actions. Sometimes, this is really easy, such as, after an awesome snuggle or hearing that perfect laugh. In these moments, love comes naturally, and it is AMAZING. These moments make me feel like I must be doing something right!
It is in the challenging moments, like the unexplainable tantrums or general household destruction, that require the most love. Thankfully, with love, comes patience and compassion which guides my actions. I am not saying I am perfect or that I never get frustrated; I totally do. But after a deep breath, I try my hardest to search my heart for only love and trust in its power (Even in the toughest situations).
Wow! I didn’t think I would get that sappy, but that’s what happens when I think about Mackenzie. I hope you can tell how much she means to me. The 7 Ways I Stay a Present Father make me feel connected and gives me purpose in life.
I know that when I live these ways I will bring joy to my daughter’s life and help her develop into an even more amazing person. I write them not to brag, but from my heart in hopes that I can help that struggling dad out there. For many of you, you do all these things and more. I mean, there are really some superhero dads in this world. (Any dad that chooses his child is a superhero in my book)
If this describes you, then I would love to see your comments in the section below about what you do to stay present in your child’s life. Stay tuned for updates as I develop new ways to stay present to my little toddler as she continues to grow. Check out our Parent + Child page for more fun parenting posts. Also, be sure to SUBSCRIBE to our email list to stay in touch with our latest content. Thanks for reading! I can’t wait to hear from you!