Be ready, dad. When chances come to spend time with your teenager, don’t miss ‘em.
Roy had a thirteen-year-old son named Sam. As you might expect with a father of a teen, satisfying connection times were hit-and-miss, and often it was “miss.” Both of them were busy and involved in different pursuits.
But recently Roy had a breakthrough.
He was up in the middle of the night during a loud thunderstorm, making sure everything was secure, and ended up falling asleep on the couch. Very early in the morning, after the storm had passed, Sam came down and woke up his dad with what seemed like a hairbrained idea: “Hey, Dad, can we go outside and watch the sunrise?”
For several weeks, Roy had been leaving very early to go to the office, and it became clear that mornings were times when his son was open to hanging out or doing something together. So that morning, before the rest of the family woke, the two of them watched the sun come up, tossed a football for a few minutes, then cooked up some oatmeal for breakfast.
Several days later, in the evening, Roy suggested that he and Sam go hit tennis balls. Now, almost every day when Roy walks in the door after work, Sam asks, “Dad, can we go play tennis?”
Roy is taking advantage of windows of opportunity.
He’s ready to say yes when his son wants to spend time with him, and a few yeses have turned into more opportunities. Gradually, that voice telling him that he needs to make up time with Sam is getting quieter.
A three- or four-year-old is almost always eager to play and do things with his dad, but that eagerness doesn’t last. So, dads, we have to be watchful and ready to jump when those times do come. It could very likely mean stretching ourselves and agreeing to do something new or something we don’t love doing. And it will almost surely come at a time when it isn’t convenient for us. But we love our kids, and that should be enough motivation.
Sure, not very many teenagers—nor many dads—are eager to get up at six o’clock in the morning to watch the sunrise. It’s more likely that your teen will ask you for something late at night. But if you stay involved, you’ll get your chances. Sometime this week, your teenager may need you to go to the store, or need you to help with the car, a confusing school assignment, or a frozen computer. (Or you might need his or her help with a computer.)
Be ready, dad.
Those experiences—tossing the football, watching a sunrise, cooking a meal together—will create positive lasting memories … for you and for them.
Our kids’ teen years can be challenging for dads. Chances are, both of you will need some good times to think back on as you navigate the ups and downs that often come during those years.
Action Points and Questions for Reflection & Discussion
- How were things with your dad when you were a teen? Were there things you wish he had done with you? How did you make the relationship more difficult? What insights about yourself as teen can help you understand your teenager better?
- Ask for your child’s help with something you’re doing. Or invite him to join you in something you enjoy.
- Ask your child to tell you about—and show you, if possible—something she is passionate about.
- Try to make an attitude change about requests your family members make of you. Be eager to put down what you’re doing, if at all possible, to help with something or just spend time together.
- Have you had a “breakthrough” in your fathering or picked up an insight that made a big difference for you? Share that with another dad … and ask about his key insights for fathering.