Yesterday Facebook reminded me of an experience I had four years ago and it was a good reminder for me as a dad. The year was 2012 and I was running the Tucker Creek Walking Trail. And yes, even though it’s called a walking trail I still was bold enough to run on it. That’s just who I am.
Actually, this walking/running/biking paved trail was right by our house so the 3-mile there and back route was perfect for someone looking to maintain their body shape as I was and I would try to be on it a couple times a week. Since it was the only walking trail of its kind in Conway, Arkansas there were always people riding their bike, walking their dog, taking a family stroll, or if you were the kid that lived across the street from us, wading neck deep in the creek pulling out snakes. He was always bringing snakes of various sizes and colors back to his house, which with my four kids playing outside all of the time, would inevitably be brought over and placed in my yard to slither around in my grass. I’m not a wee little man like Zacchaeus was, but when snakes are involved I do share his passion for climbing trees. I want to be as far from them as possible.
Anyway, as was common when I would run the walking trail, there would be little kids out there riding their bikes with their parents in tow behind them. On this one particular day, a little boy decked out in helmet and elbow pads, comes riding by and since he looked way too young to be out there by himself I looked past him to see where his parent was. And sure enough, his dad was about 20 feet behind him. However, his dad wasn’t running or riding a bike behind him. His dad was riding in a wheelchair.
Since I was familiar with the trail, when I passed them I calculated that this dad had wheeled himself a little over two miles and had another mile to go to get back to where they started. Here he was, confined to a wheelchair, yet out here teaching his son to ride a bike and enjoying something most of us would take for granted…going on a bike ride with one of our kids.
The rest of the run I kept thinking what a cool dad that was. He did not let his disability give him an excuse to not get out there and be actively involved in his son’s life. Even now I find myself coming up reasons to get out of throwing the football with my son or taking a walk or bike ride with one of my girls. “I just need to finish one more thing then I can.” or “I have to get this project done on the house before I can play.” or “I spent all day yesterday doing stuff with you and now I need my own downtime.”
Don’t get me wrong, we have jobs to do, things do actually need to get done around the house, and it is always nice to have some personal downtime, but after being reminded by Facebook of this memory, it brought back two thoughts I want to keep at the forefront of my mind when it comes to engaging with my kids:
I can’t even begin to imagine what that dad would give to be able to run around the backyard playing tackle football with his son. Or to step onto a baseball field and throw pitches from the pitcher’s mound so his son could learn to hit. I take that for granted and go as far as to not want to be inconvenienced by driving five minutes to a nearby football field so my son can kick field goals, which he loves to do.
Second, if he could wheel himself for three miles to go on a bike ride with his son, I have no excuses for not fully getting in the game and engaging with my kids.
What about you. What excuses do you allow to get in the way of spending time with your kids? Are those reasons good enough to supplant taking time to play and invest in your kids?
The father-son and father-daughter relationships are arguably the most important relationships, especially in their foundational years, and I want to encourage you to make time with your kids a priority. The house project can wait 15 or 20 minutes while you throw a ball around for a little bit and the work emails will still be there tomorrow. But the investment you can be making in your child’s life will have a lifelong – and eternal – impact. So get out there and engage! You’ve got this, dads!