by Dr. Foster Cline
I’m 64. I’ve got grown kids and nearly grown grandkids. And if I could, I would change some things. I’d give my kids more important Father’s Day gifts, because it is always more fulfilling to give than to receive, and I would have given more. Especially on Father’s Day. I’d make it memorable if I had to do it over again. I’d concentrate on five gifts:
Money, no problem we can always make more of it. But time, the pile of time always diminishes. Yeah, I spent time with the kids, but I could have spent more. I guess I didn’t realize how precious those few weekends were. Basically, it’s about a nine-year precious period that father time is so precious. The kids only want to be with you, do things with you and they’re fun, to boot. During later teen years, they pal with their buds. It’s over then. But at about five or six through thirteen or fourteen…WOW! Those are years that fathers can revel in! Only about seven years or 370 Saturdays or so … Woosh … they’re gone. I wish there had been more camping weekends. More fishing time. More time doing things that didn’t really cost a plugged nickel, but things that they and I now see as priceless.
I admit it. I spent too much time with ‘em watching stuff. I wish that for every movie and game we saw together, I had built a model with the boys. They don’t remember squat about what we watched together. But they remember sailing our wooden boat on the lake, and the kites, and … well heck … they remember all the stuff we did together. Even hauling rocks and clearing land and shoveling horse droppings. But they don’t remember much about movies and games. I’m kinda sorry we didn’t make some really bodacious kites.
How well did I model the virtues? I’ve been reading biographies of great men lately. Most say that their fathers were the most influential person in their lives. They extol the virtues of their dads. They say that their dads were honest, upstanding, fair, caring, strong, trustworthy, and reverent. Where would I stand when my kids rated me on those virtues? Virtues seem to wiggle into more importance as I grow older. I look back at the times I lost my temper, complained about the little stuff, and became low-grade demanding when it wasn’t really necessary. I’m not real happy about those times.
Did I share my dreams? Literally? Maybe not enough. Why the heck didn’t I take those kids to work more often? They would have had fun sitting in on some of my consultations, and the staff would have loved to have had ‘em there. Dads probably ought to take a kid to work at least four times a year. And reminiscing. I could sure have done more of that. My wife has fond memories of Minnesota family tales that her dad spun. I recorded a lot of those stories, but did I tell enough? I think my kids could have helped me more with those recordings. I could have involved ‘em more. Shared more.
Winfield remembers when I marched when he practiced the baritone. Robin remembers when I was ecstatic about her art and riding. Kids need the “go for it” message. I was good at that. Encouragement isn’t exhortation. It’s not looking at what they could do better, but being enthusiastic about what they have done. Then they take care of the “doing it better” part. It’s a little paradoxical. You ask the kids with enthusiasm about what they’re doing and how they did it, and they do more and better. But you tell ‘em to do more and better, they tend to stop.
Time, Virtues, Doing, Sharing, Encouragement. Just five little cheap but priceless gifts for Father’s Day.
Dr. Cline is the cofounder of the Love and Logic Institute in Golden, Colo., and a prolific author. He co-authored with Jim Fay, several books, including Parenting with Love and Logic, Parenting Teens with Love and Logic, Grandparenting with Love and Logic and is the author of Uncontrollable Kids: From Heartbreak to Hope. Dr. Cline and his wife Hermie are grandparents, as well as the parents of three biological children, one adopted child, and several foster children. For more information about Love and Logic parenting and teaching techniques, call 1-800-LUV-LOGIC or visit www.loveandlogic.com.