We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
As those of us in the U.S. celebrate another year in our nation’s history, here are some suggestions for dads about our children and these “unalienable rights.”
Yes, most of us were involved in giving our children life in a biological sense, and others who are dads by adoption or marriage, or who are key father figures of some kind are also responsible for their children’s lives. Depending on their ages, their survival and ability to thrive in the world likely depends on you to a large degree.
What about their quality of life? If we’re thinking about basic needs and opportunities, most children today have it pretty good, especially compared to what we and probably our parents experienced growing up. But what about their deeper needs? Are we nurturing them emotionally and spiritually? Are we giving them lots of affirmation, so they have security and confidence as they go about their day? Do they know they can depend on us to be a consistently positive presence for them? Let’s do all we can to help them live their best life and make a difference for others.
At this time of year especially, we dads need to be helping our children appreciate the benefits of living in a free country, with benefits and rights that not all people have. Sure, many of us would like things to change in one direction or another, but there’s also a lot that we take for granted, and surely a lot that our kids do, too. Here’s much more we’ve written about this at fathers.com.
A related action point: This weekend, get your kids together with their grandparents—or with someone else who has been around a long time—to hear their thoughts and experiences related to freedom, what makes our country great, and so on.
The Pursuit of Happiness
Maybe “happiness” isn’t the best word here, because for too many of us, being happy depends on our circumstances. If everything goes your way, your relationships are positive and affirming, your boss treats you right, the economy cooperates, and everyone you know stays healthy, then it’s natural to be happy. But unfortunately, there are tragedies and diseases in the world, relationships are messy, money comes and goes, and life is just hard.
So maybe a better goal for our children is to help them learn to have an enduring contentment despite life’s difficulties and circumstances. How can we do that? Maybe that answer is as all-encompassing as fatherhood itself, and different dads will approach questions about meaning and contentment in different ways. Some would surely point to spiritual matters here. And one man believes fathers should be “guardians of joy.”
Another valid part of that answer is about helping our kids find a worthwhile calling and purpose in life, and so one of our jobs as fathers is to give our kids a wide variety of experiences. All kids are exploring the world and figuring out their place, and we can help them recognize their gifts and feed their curiosity and passion.
The good news is that we don’t have to be experts; we’re just opening doors. So we take them to concerts, museums, art galleries, and poetry readings. We walk with them through construction sites, barnyards and college campuses. It might mean buying them chemistry sets, telescopes and oil paints, or signing them up for soccer or debate team or violin lessons. If something they try isn’t their cup of tea, no problem. We move on to something else.
It might mean an extra line item in our budget, but we know one of those experiences might turn into a life calling or a hobby that brings years of enjoyment. Worst-case scenario, it’s time well spent with a child.
Keep making those regular investments, dad.
How do you try to build your kids into productive citizens and future leaders? Leave a comment and join the discussion on our Facebook page.
Action Points & Questions for Reflection and Discussion
- What are your most vivid 4th of July memories from childhood? What makes you feel especially patriotic?
- During the holiday weekend, find time for a one-on-one activity or outing with each of your kids.
- Start a regular family activity where the purpose is to think about other people and their needs, not just each person’s own desires. Maybe start volunteering at a local charity or helping someone you know who has a need.
- When in your life have you most appreciated the benefits of living in the country where you do? Tell your kids about that experience and how it affected you.
- Talk with your kids about the differences between “happiness” and “joy” or “contentment.”
- Ask each of your kids about one new thing they would like to learn or just try. If it’s feasible, start planning a time when you can do it together.