When I woke up this morning (at the time of writing this), I didn’t immediately want to get out of bed. Have you ever had one of those mornings? Instead, I pulled out my phone and started browsing. It wasn’t long before my oldest daughter came in and said, “You’re up. Can you come downstairs and play with us this morning?” I knew that I wouldn’t have a lot of time to spare, but after breakfast, I made sure to set aside some time to focus on each daughter. Later in the morning, I showed the two oldest girls how to fill up sandwich bags with air by leaving a small hole in the seal and blowing into the bags. The girls found this little activity fascinating. Before I left the house, Nadia said, “Goodbye dad. Thanks for showing us how to blow up the bags.” I guess being full of hot air has its perks sometimes.
Let’s rewind the tape back over the last week. My allergies have been leaving me miserable, sometimes struggling to breathe. It’s felt like I am in constant survival mode. In response, I started taking some strong allergy meds that have been knocking me off my feet. Regardless, I have been doing all that I can to help out around the house- wash dishes, sweep the floor, fold laundry, wrestle with our youngest to get her to sleep, etc. What I haven’t been doing much of is spending time with the kids- playing games with them, reading them books, talking with them about their days. When Aurora came to visit me this morning, she provided me with what I would label as a “call to action.” She was letting me know that the girls’ tanks were low, and I needed to spend some quality time with them.
For us guys, it is easy to miss the call to action. Sometimes it can be “in your face,” like when our partner tells us that we aren’t taking out the trash like we promised we would. Other times, it can be more subtle, like when she says, “The kids are wearing me out.” She may not have directly said, “Hey, I need some help taking care of the kids,” but the call to action is still there. What sets seasoned dads apart from the rookies is their finely-tuned perception of these calls and the experience to know how to respond in meaningful ways.
One mistake that dads often make is to think that, “If I can just make up an excuse now, I am off the hook for good.” Let’s go back to when Aurora told me that she wanted to play. I could have said, “Sorry, Aurora, I have to get ready for work” (like I have done in the past). I could go about my day, and that would be the end of the story. But, here’s the problem- my daughters’ needs have not been met. They still need my time and attention. Instead, of using an excuse and dropping the issue, I need to act. If I truly don’t have the luxury of meeting a need or desire right away, I can create a plan to come back to it later.
Another mistake that dads make is to give promises about the future. The future is not certain, and we are not in control of it. Broken promises, even made with good intentions, can do some serious damage to a relationship. Instead, it is wise to act when we can act, and let people know when we can’t. In my opinion, it is better to leave our family waiting for us to meet a need than to let them down by failing to meet the need when we said we would.
I believe that, the better we get at picking up on these calls, the less shame and frustration we will feel at home. Our children’s emotional tanks will be filled. Our partners will know that we take their needs and desires seriously. When we are intentionally seeking out opportunities to serve, to show our love, then the nagging and complaints from our family won’t be needed. It’s okay if we don’t always know how to respond to a call. There’s nothing wrong in asking, “How can I help?” or “Do you need something from me?” In fact, most times it is best to gain clarity about how to meet a need or desire before we act. It’s the times when we know what is expected of us (usually because an issue comes up often) that we can act without checking in first.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that you have to do everything that is asked of you. That’s just not realistic. However, I would encourage each of us to use discernment concerning how we prioritize the resources that are available to us: our time, money, energy, etc. With wisdom that comes from experience, we can learn where to best invest these resources. As a tip- I try to make sure no area of my life stays on the backburner for too long. If I notice that something hasn’t had my attention for a while, I try to get something on my calendar and in the front of my mind. So, for this week, I have two challenges for you and me: 1) listen for those “calls to action,” both obvious and subtle; 2) practice asking how to help and how to set aside our resources. Also, in the comments section, tell us what calls to action you have been experiencing lately. How have you addressed them?
Until next week- stay Rock Solid, dads!