by Ken R Canfield, Ph.D.
I join with many around the world this week in mourning the lives lost in the tragic helicopter crash in California—NBA great Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others. While all nine people deserve to be memorialized, it makes sense that Bryant and his daughter have drawn the most attention in the media.
Based on many accounts that have surfaced, Kobe was a devoted father. His friend, former baseball star Derek Jeter, wrote that, compared to any of his accomplishments on the basketball court,
[Kobe] cared much more about being a husband to Vanessa and a dad to his girls. He loved his family — he was his family. That’s what was important…. Kobe just loved being a dad.
Inspired by his memory, many men are talking, posting and tweeting about the privilege of being a “girl dad” (#girldad). Some have even stated that perhaps the biggest loss in Kobe’s death was all the attention he would have surely brought to women’s basketball through his support of his daughters as they grew up and played.
The tributes will surely continue in the coming weeks and months—for Kobe, Gianna and the others. And for all fathers it’s appropriate to spend time reflecting, ask ourselves lots of “What if …?” questions, and possibly even make some “seize the day” commitments.
What I have in mind for this is pretty simple: think about the time you spend with each of your children. That’s perhaps your most valuable fathering resource, your most precious gift to your children, and as a man who now has twelve grandchildren, I can testify that our time is fleeting.
And of course we aren’t guaranteed a tomorrow, so we have to make sure today counts.
So today, right now, in honor of Kobe and other committed dads who have come before us, I challenge you to start a new tradition.
Set aside time each day—whether it is five minutes or thirty minutes—to spend one-on-one with each of your children. Give your time together a silly name, like “Pick on Daddy Time.” Turn off your phone, your computer, the TV, and any other distraction.
Then protect that time at all costs. Don’t let anything take you or your child away.
Let your child decide how you will spend your time together. Perhaps you’ll wrestle with your four-year-old son. Maybe your teenager daughter will share her new favorite song with you. Regardless, if you let your child take the lead, you will build lasting memories.
One last note: Be sure to protect this time each day as if you will never have another day with your child. Someday, you might be right.
If you have any stories about finding opportunities to build strong bonds with your children, be sure to leave a comment on our Facebook page.
Remember: Have a sense of urgency about this and don’t put it off! Make sure that when you do die—whether it’s tomorrow or fifty years from now—your children have many memories of special time with you. You never know how much time you have left with them.