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Advice for Dads From Another Guy Just Trying to Not Screw Up His Kids

Hey guys,

We made it. Another year. Another Father’s Day. How are you doing?

I’m tired.

Screen Shot 2014-06-15 at 7.51.31 AMI’ve now made it past the “baby slave” years and more. The kids just turned 9 and 11. I feel like we’re in the sweet spot—the kids are growing in ability, character, and independence, but not yet testing us much or so involved with friends that we never see them. We have conversations, play games, cook together, and laugh quite a bit.

But I’m still tired.

This Father’s Day, I’m pausing to reflect on being a dad, on the year that has been, and the year that’s coming. I don’t do this sort of thing enough. You probably don’t, either…

Yesterday, I was talking to my friend Chris has four kids, ages 1 to 11. At least four times, he said something like, “But who has the time?” That’s how I feel about thinking about being a dad—who has the time?

But today is the day. Generally, we’re going to be thanked. We’re going to hear, “I love you.” We’re going to get to eat what we want without criticism or concern. We’re going to be celebrated.

Today is the perfect day to step back and think about how we’re doing and what we might want to change. Think of them like Father’s Day Resolutions. Here’s some of my thinking—maybe it will help some of you out, too.

I’ve not regretted any of the time I’ve spent with my kids this year. So maybe in the coming year, I should plan to do more of this. And by “plan,” I mean, “Put it in my calendar in my phone so it tells me, and I don’t forget.”

My two offspring have started to figure out lives for themselves and demand much less of my attention (i.e. they don’t poop their pants, dump glue on the carpet, or fall into the fireplace).

So a lot of us start to coast. (Remember how tired we are?) But this is exactly when we need to focus on our kids more, to build a strong foundation of love and trust that will last until adulthood.

Also, you should probably get life insurance.

I think one of the most powerful examples we can set for our kids is to apologize to them. Not because we don’t have authority, but precisely because that shows how to use authority properly. I suck at this. Years ago at a training as a camp counselor, I heard a really great speaker named Michael Brandywein say, “Make your mistakes out loud.”

Yes, there are a lot of bad dads. Somehow, though, the portrayals of dads seem all out of whack. (There are a few dads in the media who are really great, who care, who work hard. The thing is they are usually defending their family or country by shooting lots of terrorists or something. Where are the good dads who have normal jobs?)

When I asked Ezekiel, our nine-year-old, what makes a good dad, he said, “Do things your kids want to do.” A few minutes later, his sister Phoebe answered the question the exact same way. Ouch.

I wrote this blog post about it, and it’s had the highest traffic of just about anything I’ve written.

Our kids have to see us respecting, building up, caring for, and yes, even kissing our wives. How else are they going to understand what real love is?

That’s what I’ve got so far, and it’s only 8:00 AM. What other thoughts do you have? Leave a comment.

And happy Father’s Day, guys.