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June 11, 2013

The Thing Most Remembered: A Lesson for Dads

Image: Flickr/Christopher Allison Photography

Image: Flickr/Christopher Allison Photography

Last week I had the privilege of spending some wonderful quality time with my kids. As a dad of a 4 and 3 year old, our time together is usually spent doing something active on the floor like rolling around or wrestling. The truth is, I am trying really hard to wear them out so that they will go right to sleep at bedtime, but it is usually to no avail. On one particular day it was like normal, I was running around “play fighting” with my son as he was pretending to be Captain America and I was the unknown, evil villain. My daughter Jordan even joined the cast of our epic “battle.” If this sounds violent to you, please don’t judge me, forstudies show that this type of roughhousing is common for fathers and can bequite helpful.

A Painful Lesson
Eventually, my son began doing something else, but Jordan and I kept going. She soon started chasing me around while she punched at the air. She would hit me in the leg a few times and I would run away. In the middle of one of our “rounds,” my attention was suddenly shifted by a text message that came through on my iPhone. I stopped all of a sudden, walked away from her and began reading this “important” message. I had taken my attention off of my daughter and assumed that she would see that daddy had stopped playing. I was wrong. She didn’t notice and she kept punching away into the air until she reached a certain area of my body. Yep…THAT AREA!
As I found myself keeled over in pain, my little girl noticed that she had hurt her daddy. In the middle of my groans and my pleas that God would grant me a semblance of mercy, I heard my daughter’s attempt to get my attention. “Daddy,” she said. Through my tears I looked at her and responded, “Yeeeesss, baby.” Jordan said, “I’m sorry.”
Her apology should have settled it, but it didn’t because I observed the look on her face. She was smiling! SMILING! In the midst of my pain, my 3 year old had the nerve to smile as if everything should just be okay. A grown man is on the ground in a fetal position! Everything is NOT okay!
The Thing Most Remembered
Jordan repeated herself to make sure I heard her. G After all we’ve taught her to repeat herself when someone doesn’t acknowledge her. Doing so shows maturity and commands respect. Unfortunately, her dad was about to behave in a very immature manner, for all I could see was the smile on her face. I interpreted her smile as proof that the situation was funny to her, so I “maturely” barked out, “It’s not funny, Jordan!” I then gingerly guided her away from me. Real mature, I know! “Way to go ScreamFree guy.”
My wife was present for this entire episode, but she was unaware of Jordan’s apology attempt. She calmly explained to our daughter the importance of not punching boys “down there.” She then encouraged her to apologize. Jordan sadly told her that she had apologized, but that daddy just moved her aside. Suddenly the pain in my inward parts disappeared and a new one emerged – the emotional pain that I had just inflicted upon my daughter by my immature actions.
What stuck out to Jordan wasn’t the fact that her dad was on the floor in pain. The thing most remembered by her was how I responded to it. This occurrence made me think back to many of the times that I had reacted emotionally to my kids. I’ve noticed how their countenance tends to fall, how their shoulders drop and how emotional they become. Now, I finally understand what all of those experts talk about when they say that fathers play a crucial role in the cognitive, behavioral and emotional development of their kids.
How dads respond, interact and love their kids has a real impact on what they do and who they will one day become. We are responsible to them as fathers for the way in which we behave. How we behave ultimately will be the thing most remembered by those “little ones” we love so much.

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