I had a sobering awakening last Father’s Day. All three of my kids were asked to identify their Dad's favorite thing to do. All three of them answered with a certainty as they uttered two dreadful words, "Watch football."
Oh, the guilt. Do I really watch that much football? Not even my wife thinks so, but somehow that was etched into their innocent 10-year-old brains as my favorite thing to do. Where did I go wrong?
I started getting defensiveand told them that I only watched about 30 minutes a week, and it just happened to be right before they wanted to watch their Saturday afternoon show. But the more I tried to debate my argument, the more I realized I was making the matter worse. Maybe I really did watch too much football for their liking.
I could not die with my kids thinking my favorite thing to do was watch football. So I started our family game night. Instead of turning on the TV, we played a different game each day for the next 40 days straight. We chose games from our messy closet that was starving for attention — just like my kids.
After a few weeks when I come home from work, all three kids raced to give me a hug. I loved hearing them say, “Let’s play our family game!”
The best part was how a small game led to us wrestling, laughing, creating our own games, playing outside, and making cookies. We didn’t watch as much TV, but when we did watch I didn't feel guilty since we had already had a ton of family fun.
Does this mean I’m a great dad? Absolutely not. I still get mad, lose my temper, get frustrated and need a break from my kids. But at least I now have some great memories to counterbalance all the football I "apparently" watched.
Our family game nights don’t happen every day anymore, more like once a week. I also started our Personal Papa Interviews (affectionately referred to by my kids as our weekly PPIs) where I have one-on-one chats with each child individually.
Through this experience I learned a valuable lesson from the viewpoint of my children's eyes — What I do speaks louder than what I say. I decided that since I will only have my children around me for a little while, I was going to create fond memories by playing lots of games and spending meaningful time with my family — a winning combination. Now, they don't have to guess where they rank. They know they are, in fact, my #1 priority.
Aaren Humpherys is a father of 3 energetic kids, an emergency preparedness expert and gardener. Contact him at email@example.com