Something very significant happened in me as a dad on this trip.
I tend to be a “NO” dad. That’s what comes naturally – because I’m lazy (not an excuse, just an honest point of fact.) The truth is that with five little ones (and the four extra children that have recently moved in with our family) I can get bombarded with questions and requests – often at a rate of several thousand per minute, it seems.
“Dad, can we play Wii? Dad, can I have some juice? Dad, can I borrow your butane torch? Dad, why is your eye twitching like that?…”
You know what’s easy? “NO” is easy. It requires no follow-up. It requires no action on my part of any kind. There are no consequences to think through for the other 8 children under my care. And I get to remove my thinking cap and don my boss hat. It’s beautiful. NO. It’s like magic when you’re not concerned about justice and fair-play, relationship building, or taking any responsibility. It’s beautiful.
Unfortunately, the easy road most often leads to a crummy destination. If I want to have exceptional, over-the-top, love-you-like-crazy, life-affirming relationships with my five boys between now and heaven, a fair ammount of effort will be required. So it is with everything in life that matters deeply.
So we set off for Hilton Head, and I made a pledge to my wife to make a change – at least for this trip – from being the “NO” dad to becoming the “let’s see how I can make that happen for you” dad.
I thought I was making a short-term commitment to give these great boys of ours more fun on our vacation with a less-crabby father at the wheel. Truth is, I like me better this way. The kids like me better this way. My wife likes me better this way. It’s basically a win-win-win. Do I still expect the kiddos to respect my decision when I have to say no? Of course. But the truth is, I was used to saying NO way too much. Lazy.
The road to deep, rewarding, long-term relationships with my boys requires “let’s see how I can make that happen for you” effort. But that’s where we’re headed if I have anything to say about it. That’s what my dad did for me. From now on, if my boys make a reasonable request of me – one that isn’t likely to result in a trip to North Memorial or significant property damage – I’m gonna fight my nature and learn how to say… “Y… Y… I’ll think about it.”
“becoming a better dad” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.