Back when I was a younger dad with three children at home, during the summer we would often take our kids to spend a week or two with my parents at their home in Virginia. The generations would bond, and the kids got a taste of independence.
As they grew older, we’d sometimes send one child at a time. It was a nice tradition. (One of our staff members actually has a son away with his grandparents right now.)
I’ll never forget the year, probably about mid-July, when we sent our daughter Patrice to be with her grandparents. She was ten or eleven at the time. From everything I heard, they had a great time together.
Eventually I drove from Kansas City to pick her up. When I walked into my parents’ house, Patrice was back in another area and at first didn’t know I was there. My dad was downstairs watching TV, so I went down to say Hi.
In the meantime, apparently my mother told Patrice that I was there, and she came to the top of the basement stairs and looked down. For a moment she just stood there looking at me, and then she began to cry.
I said, “Come here, Sweetheart.” We met halfway up the stairs and I gave her a big hug. We stood there a minute and I just held her.
It was one of those moments that sticks with you as a dad.
Now, I know some of what was happening can be explained by the old adage, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” But there was also something more. Patrice was just glad to see her daddy. It made me realize how important I was to her and that she takes comfort in my presence. I suspect it’s the same with your kids.
During day-to-day life as you cross paths every day, things become familiar and comfortable—maybe too comfortable. Sometimes it takes a break in the routine to change a child’s perspective and show her how fortunate she is to have an involved, caring dad in her life.
And sometimes it takes something like that to keep us dads from taking time with our kids for granted.
Often, moms are especially gifted in this area, and children might seek them out first when comfort is needed. But I believe we dads also have our own special ability to comfort.
With strength comes security. There’s awesome power when a man wraps his arms around his son or daughter. It takes an open heart and a steady hand to be tender.
It may not come easy or feel natural for some dads, but the ability to comfort is a huge asset to our relationships with our children—especially after a trying time, a disappointment, or maybe an emotional outburst.
Be a dad who brings comfort to his kids.
When have you been a source of comfort to your child? Share about what has worked for you on our Facebook page.
Action Points for Dads on the Journey
- Look for opportunities for your children to spend uninterrupted time with their grandparents or other older people who can invest in them.
- Watch this recent story from Minnesota about a preschool boy and an elderly neighbor who developed a powerful, grandfather-like friendship.
- Try hugging your child, and just hold on for 10 or 15 seconds or longer. Then say, “Thanks, I needed that.”
- During a time of crisis or uncertainty, don’t hesitate to grab your child, hold him tight, and whisper in his ear, “It’s gonna be okay. I’m here.”
- Do you have a tense relationship with a child? Start doing little things that can open the door to deeper communication: listening attentively, being reliable, showing interest in spending time together, doing favors for her, and laughing together—a lot.
Carey Casey is the CEO of the National Center for Fathering, a nonprofit organization seeking to improve the lives of children and establish a positive fathering and family legacy that will impact future generations by inspiring and equipping fathers and father figures to be actively engaged in the life of every child. We encourage you to help us change the culture of fathering in America by joining the Championship Fathering Team. You can also sign up for Carey’s weekly email tips by clicking here: “Yes! I want tips on how to be a great dad who lives out loving, coaching and modeling for my children.