Fatherhood and the Waiting Game

by Ken Canfield, Ph.D.

If you’re a dad, you know that waiting is part of the gig.

{And please note: this is a somewhat lighthearted look at fatherhood, but I don’t want to minimize the very real and difficult waiting that many couples do when they’re trying to conceive or adopt children.)

You waited months for the child to be born. And now, most days you get to wait some more. With a young child, you’ll wait for her to eat, get dressed, fall asleep, and use the bathroom.

Later, you wait for the bus to pick her up, then wait for it to bring her home. You wait at doctors’ appointments, teacher conferences, sports sign-ups, and rain delays. And sometimes you get to wait in line so you can pay someone for your child’s sports uniform, band instrument, or pottery class, all which will lead to more waiting, of course.

I have five kids worth of waiting under my belt—and even more now sometimes as a grandparent. In my more selfish moments, it seems like torture. But once again, it’s part of the picture with parenting.

And then, especially as they get older, sometimes there’s uncertainty with waiting. Where is she? Why is she late? Is she all right? Does she know how to reach me?

So, how do we handle it? Maybe we use it as a chance to catch up on email or sports scores or check the day’s stock market news. Maybe it’s a good time to read a book or some other pursuit. But this isn’t just about how to fill the time.

It’s also a time to demonstrate your commitment.

Sure, there’s some waiting involved and that isn’t fun. But being in those situations with your children gives you a regular chance to track their progress, get their thoughts on day-to-day events, and show them over and over that they are worth your time and inconvenience, and supporting them is worth exercising some patience, perseverance and sometimes frustration.

And it’s a good time to practice dealing with uncertainty. As they grow up and become more independent—which, as you know, is one of the main goals of parenting—there will be some anxious moments. One day your son will go off to kindergarten by himself—and no, dad, you can’t go with him. Your daughter will have dates or attend social events—and you can’t go with her. They will go to college or start their first real job. Maybe that’s a time to get into good prayer habits.

During those times of waiting, you’ll have moments of reflection about earlier days where you wonder if your child is sufficiently prepared for this stage of life, and you may have thoughts like: How can I prepare her better for what’s ahead? That can be positive, useful time.

Get used to it, because it never really ends. It won’t be all that long before you’re waiting for the next weekend they return from college or the next holiday when you can get together. But if you’re waiting, then you’re probably available to your children. And the waiting part might never be easy, but you can get used to it. You can reach a point of trusting that you’ve done the best you can up to that point, and you’re still just as committed to them going forward.

And maybe that’s the bigger point:

We want them to know we’re there for them, anytime, for anything that happens at any stage of their lives.

Hang in there, dad. Sometimes it’s a wild ride and at times it’s a monotonous one. But it’s all worth it.

How do you view the time when you’re just waiting on a child for some reason? Leave a comment and interact with other dads at our Facebook page.

Action Points & Questions for Reflection and Discussion:

  • Do you have regular times when you’re just waiting on a child? Think ahead and plan something productive or restorative for that time.
  • How do you feel about your child becoming more independent in certain ways? Are you ready for it? Is it hard to imagine right now?
  • Even though you may have many more “important” things to do than wait on a child,  be careful about how you talk about it. Remember: he/she is actually more important to you than those other things.
  • Make sure each of your children is very familiar with (and has practiced) how to reach you if he/she needs to.
  • When you’re picking up a child from a practice or event, ask lots of questions … and be sure to add some affirmation or encouragement.

Watch the replay of the Fathering Breakthrough Event

Join Dr. Ken Canfield and a handful of friends and partners as we give an update about our efforts to inspire and equip fathers all over the world.

There may be no more important work than turning the hearts of fathers to their children, and that’s what this is all about. We’re seeking to repair, rebuild and restore effective fathering for the benefit of children and families everywhere.

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