Maybe you heard it recently from the grandparents or other extended family: “My, how the children have grown!” Maybe you saw some old photos or home videos and were stunned. “Were they ever really that little?”

It’s true, isn’t it? “They grow up so fast.” Are our kids really growing up that fast? You bet. But part of it could be our perception, because we haven’t fully tuned in and savored every moment with them. As fathers, we must make the most of every opportunity we have.

Consider this idea one of our trainers adapted from an e-mail circulating some time ago:

  • Step one: Think ahead and come up with a date in the future when your child will no longer be as available to spend time with you—maybe when he will graduate from high school or leave for college. Get out a calendar and figure out within a week or two when that will happen—five, ten or fifteen years from now. Then calculate how many weeks are left until that day. Do this for each of your children.
  • Step two: buy a bunch of marbles. That’s right, marbles. Find a clear container for each child and fill it with the same number of marbles as the number of weeks you calculated for that child. For an eight-year-old, that will be more than 500 marbles. Put the containers in a place that you’ll see regularly.
  • Step three: once a week, take one marble from each container and throw it away. For this to really be effective, you can’t keep those marbles—you have to toss ‘em. That will remind you that, even though you may have hundreds left, another week of your life and your child’s life is gone forever.

Do that every Sunday night or Monday morning, and it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll soon begin to refocus your priorities. You’ll start to ask yourself, “What did I do with the opportunities I had to connect with my child, demonstrate love, show encouragement, and teach him about life?”

Now, your family may think you’re losing your marbles, but it’s worth it if you take the lesson to heart: In today’s world, we need reminders that each day—and each moment—is precious.

Too many dads are working long hours, chasing higher salaries, looking forward to some “tomorrow” when they’ll settle down and connect with their families again. But those tomorrows seldom happen like we think they will. It’s today that really matters in relationships. Dads, we have to prioritize those most important things in life or there may not be room for them at the end of the week. Our children should be a top priority; we can’t let the most important things in life get squeezed out.

Since we are losing our marbles, let’s make it count while we still have them. Because indeed, our children do “grow up so fast!”

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