Colin is 11 and he loves tennis. Not long ago, his grandparents were visiting, and Colin asked if they could watch him play. So Colin and his dad, Brian, got their racquets and took grandma and grandpa to the high school courts. They all had a great time.
Later, when Colin was off somewhere else, his dad Brian was talking to his father about their tennis excursion. He said, “Yeah, Colin isn’t a natural or anything, but he’s getting better. If he works hard, he could be pretty good.”
His dad’s response surprised him. That grandpa laid some wisdom on his son. He said, “Yes, but the best thing is that it’s something the two of you can do together.”
That’s a good word for all of us dads. We need balance.
Now, it’s certainly good to help our children excel in different areas of life. They are wondrous combinations of interests, tastes, gifts and abilities, and there are thousands of pursuits out there for them to learn about—sports, hobbies, music, the arts, and on and on. They develop valuable skills and learn life lessons they may not get any other way. Spending time and resources on our children to help them excel at something is a good investment.
One of the best ways to encourage and help them uncover their God-given abilities is through shared experiences. We want to expose our kids to a wide variety of experiences and pursuits, but it’s even better if we jump in to those experiences with them. It could be an opportunity to share our own expertise about something, or it could be something about which we know absolutely nothing—so we get to learn it together.
And if a child has one-in-a-million talent and dedication, he or she might play in the U.S. Open, perform at Carnegie Hall, write a best seller, grab a gold medal or reach some other high level of achievement. We never know when a child will do something truly amazing. Chasing dreams is one of life’s great joys, and as fathers, we want to instill in our children a healthy attitude about the incredible possibilities their future may hold.
But dad, even as they dream (and you dream), don’t lose perspective. Take this wisdom from Colin’s grandpa to heart: probably the biggest benefit you can bring to your children’s lives is your presence—just being there, being involved. That shows you’re interested in their lives and it builds their confidence and self-worth. And building a strong relationship will give them the security to pursue whatever they do in life without having to worry about what you think about them, or why you weren’t there for this or that game or event.
That perspective will also help you be a better dad. You don’t have to get all bent out of shape about whether your child makes first team or first chair. You don’t have to yell at the refs or coaches; you don’t have to get uptight when you’re practicing with your child. You can apply less pressure and give more encouragement.
Best of all, you can just enjoy spending time with your child. This exploring phase of life really is a great time for dads.