It doesn't need to be a regimented, tightly scheduled activity or last for hours, but it can if it's what the family enjoys. The important thing is that it happens, as regularly as possible, and is mutually enjoyable. It's mostly about spending time together and enjoying one another. Many skills just come naturally through these kinds of times spent together for Dads and kids.
In our family, with our current circumstances, Dad works from home but also travels for work. He works when he has a chance, whether that is first thing in the morning before anyone is awake, or when its quiet in the evening, or after (most) of the kids have gone to bed. He does help me or the kids if we really, really need it during the course of the day and often when he has a work assignment that must get done on time, we do what is needed to allow him time and quiet to get his work done. Sometimes he is away for extended periods of time, anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. It's a team effort, absolutely, to live this lifestyle and most of the time we are learning how to do this as we go. Patience and faith are integral to making this a positive and enjoyable way of life as a family!
Today, he was doing yard work during the day while the weather was nice. He had our oldest son outside assisting him. I was resting with the baby and our 3 year old daughter came in the room and needed some attention from me, which I was just not able to give at the moment. Dad ended up having her go outside and play while he worked.
Unfortunately, her crying had already woken the baby up (who needed that nap! She is cutting a big tooth right now....), and any time I might have had to myself for a minute to write a blog post, or do some quiet reading, evaporated. Sometimes it's just like that. I was already tired from this morning from laundry, dishes, cooking, taking a walk to the park, feeding more kids, cleaning up, more laundry, and I just needed a break! (Can I get an 'amen'??) And I got about 25 minutes. So. We go on.
And just so no one thinks Dad being around means I have a 24/7 on-call helper, there is another side to this lifestyle people do not see ;-) ............
There have been plenty of worse moments, like when my husband was out of town and I was at home, unpacking from a move, and some of the kids were sick, and my oldest had a seizure at nighttime (he has epilepsy). I had no one to help me at that time. I was completely exhausted and overwhelmed and had no physical help. There are a lot of moments like those, and they teach me a few things. My closest friend is God, who can always hear me and will always send me aid, whether that is clarity of thought to call a friend from church to lend me a hand, or the quiet determination to just do what needs to be done to get through the night until the morning light appears. I am a lot more capable than I realize, and especially with the Lord behind me, encouraging me along the way.
But there are also the moments when things go smoothly and everyone is happy. Those are the ones that make the tricky or traumatic moments worthwhile. And a lot of our happy moments have Dad at the center.
My husband is a tech savvy guy. It's his hobby and his profession. He and the boys play a variety of video games and computer games together often. I am grateful for my husband who is very consistent about choosing the types of games that are appropriate to play and avoiding ones that are not. He also teaches the boys about how to choose games, to understand rating systems, and we teach them as a couple about internet safety.
He also understands balance in use of time, while respecting their interest levels. That's really a gift. Since the nature of his work is creative, he often will plunk down and work, work, work until that creative flow has passed and the work is done, or he'll be working on one or two different ideas, and have a game going simultaneously. He understands that you can get caught up in what you are doing and that's okay sometimes.
Communication and trust is key because there certainly are times when we need to switch things up, like encourage a child to take a break and take care of their needs or do something as a family.
Here are a few more activities that my husband does with the kids:
- Wrestling and rough-housing. He definitely is the go-to parent for this. The kids love it when he tosses them onto the bed or rolls around over them like a log. They play all kinds of rougher games than I have patience for, and the kids never get tired before Dad does. They have some great memories this way and it breaks up any tension in the house pretty quickly. Even our daughter would request this kind of play with Dad, when she was 2 years old "Westle! Westle!"
- Playing video and computer games. I have to say, there are SO many things they learn this way, and it's beyond just reading and math skills, which they do pick up with gaming. Communication skills, strategy, networking, goal setting, stamina and mental endurance, learning their limits, and patience with slower-players as well as learning to teach other players are just a few skills they've all gained, even the 5 year old. Most of the time the kids shut off their games and get something to eat, or take a break, when they need to with little interference from Mom or Dad. We believe it is because this has been modeled effectively for them and because they have been trusted by us.
- He likes gaming in general and has taught the kids to play a few board games, including strategy-types like Settlers of Catan and others. He also took our oldest to a convention for gaming and they played some games with other attendees and friends there. What a unique opportunity! But the kids like most playing games with family or friends at home. This is not something that comes naturally to me, but I do enjoy a good game and they are a good way to connect and learn and make good memories.
- Hiking and camping. There are so many places the kids have gone because Dad planned it out and took them there. Sometimes he went with extended family members or with a scout group or church group, but there are lots of times where he would gather the willing kids who would fit in the Jeep and take them on a drive or an overnight camp out. It's been great for all of us, and a learning opportunity on many levels. It also gives time for the kids and Dad to talk to one another about the things they have questions about or just get to know each other better in ways that happen best out of the usual home environment.
- Building things, whether that is block towers, a zipline platform in the backyard, a ramp, a Lego Minecraft robot, or Lego sets, Dad shines in this area.
- Cooking together. My husband enjoys time in the kitchen, whether it's concocting special soft drinks or creative chip dips or entire meals. He usually will ask a child to come and lend a hand. Our oldest is pretty good at forming patties for sliders now and the little ones even get to have jobs, like frosting cookies or shaking on sprinkles.
- Playing music on the piano and guitar, singing church songs as a family, and listening to a variety of music. He was a music major for a short time, but an all-around lover of all good music for life, so he's got a lot to share in this regard.
- Praying and giving blessings. There have been times when someone in our family needed a blessing of healing from sickness and my husband was able to lay his hands on the head of the person and offer a priesthood blessing. Other times, he has led our family in prayer (and many times at Mom's request). He shows the boys it's possible to be manly and spiritual, even if it's usually in a quiet, non-showy manner.
- Doing good for others. He has taken the kids with him to offer service to neighbors or other church members, and that has been a wonderful opportunity for the kids to see love in action in a simple way like helping someone move into their house. They understand that service is something that can fit into everyday, normal life.
|A stop along the way on a family road trip in 2009|
Not only does my husband's influence bless our children for a lifetime, it also is helpful in our home education life style. He supports them in their interests and shows interest in them. When they need help with a subject or problem, they more easily approach him and request help because they know he will respond to them and listen, most of the time. My husband has so much to offer and is a blessing in our home. I feel really fortunate to have a partner like him to raise our kids with.
Dads are Terrific!
When Dad spends meaningful time with his child(ren), it really boost the child's confidence. These experiences are cumulative, that means, they come over a long period of time. They stack up and become part of the family culture and what is normal, and also they add to our children's sense of self and how they see themselves within the world. They know they are loved and they know they can count on their Dad to be there for them when Dad chooses to spend his time with them.
Mom's Encouragement Counts!
Men have something special that is all their own to contribute and that their child really needs. Moms, we are vital to help this occur within the family. It's been a work-in-progress to partner like this for my husband and me and none of it has come easily over the years. Please don't be discouraged if the Dad in your house doesn't seem to measure up to what you'd like. My encouragement is that if you want positive changes in the ways your husband is included in the family, it can happen in your homes (to the degree that works for your family), and it takes effort, patience, prayer, diligence, and encouraging (sometimes repetitive and bold) reminders from the wife :-)
First, see the good in him and pray for him, and support him the best you can in the good he does. And keep in mind, whatever you water will grow, so pay more attention to the good things he does, and that will grow over time. Consider taking the steps toward the reality you wish to have and invite him along at the pace he is comfortable, especially as it regards homeschooling. Be humble and teachable yourself and seek learning from reputable sources and people you admire. Receive support from those who are living the kind of life you want to live. Be confident and cheerful. Respect his ideas and ways of doing things and give him the space he needs to lead in the ways he shows interest in. And, when you doubt or fear, pray. It gets better. I could say more about this topic, but that's another post for another time.
What role does the Dad in your family have to play in your family life or homeschool? Have you expressed gratitude to him or encouraged him to be involved lately? What is your child's favorite ways to spend time with their Dad?
*Note: I do realize there are certain family situations and life circumstances that may be different from ours, so do read and use wisely the parts that might benefit your family with your own unique needs in mind.