With the new year solidly underway, it's time to make some changes. Not random, willy-nilly changes, mind you, but careful, thoughtful and rational changes.
They might sting a little bit in the beginning, but they're worth it in the end.
Change #1: Your time
You want to be a better dad. We both know this. But there's a difference between wanting and doing.
You can want all day long (and thrice upon the weekends). You can want until you've wanted all you can possibly want. And at the end of it, all you'll have to show are your want-to-be's, your could-have-been's, and your if-only-I-had's, which add up to a lot of nothing.
This year, I challenge you to be a better dad instead of just wanting to be one.
If you're going to make that happen, then you have to choose different things than you chose in the past.
You can start right here, right now, with just two dimes. Yes, I mean two real metal dimes. Not a quarter or a stack of pennies, but two shiny dimes.
Those dimes are 20 minutes of your time that you're going to spend with your kids each day.
Put them somewhere that you'll see them every day. Tape them to your mirror. Put them in your pocket (no, the other pocket -- the one without your regular change in it).
Every time you see those dimes or run your fingers into them, ask yourself if you spent two dimes' worth of time -- 20 minutes -- with your kids yet that day.
If you did, that's great. And if you spent more time than that, it's even better.
But if you didn't spend the time yet, don't beat yourself up about it. I repeat: Do not beat yourself up about it. No recriminations; no yelling. That just wastes your time and energy.
Instead, do something. Choose 20 minutes to spend with your kiddo (or kiddos), and then do it. Make it happen (No, just choosing to do it isn't enough. I'm not going to let you get away through an easy loophole like that!).
If you don't know what to do, just try something. With younger kids, join their imaginary play or fiddle with one of their toys. They'll join you, and when they do, be with them. Focus on them. You can do this. It's only 20 minutes (But you might get hooked, you know.).
For older kids, try one of the many board games we talk about in here. Pick out a movie together. Take a walk.
Be with them. Focus on them. You know the drill.
The next day, look at your two dimes and think about your 20 minutes of time. From there, simply lather, rinse and repeat. You've got it nailed.
Change #2: Your Patience
This might not seem obvious (at least not at first), but your time and your patience are inextricably linked. That's one reason I'm bugging you about spending 20 minutes of your day instead of a whole hour or two.
Before spending time with your kids, do a quick check of your patience levels. Are you low on patience? Feeling harried, harassed, or helpless? If so, pack up those troubles in your ol' kit bag and sit on it for a while.
Just so you know, I struggle with this almost every night. My patience level starts declining around 8 p.m. By the time the kiddo in my life is ready to hear a bedtime story, my patience is mortally wounded and heading for an overly-dramatic death scene.
Being aware of those feelings is the first step. Choosing something different is the second.
Whatever you decide to do during the 20 minutes with your kids that day, pick something that works for your patience level. Don't fall into the “I can do it all!” Superdad trap. None of us can do it all -- especially on an ongoing basis.
Your kids regularly need some fun, calm and warm time with you. Start giving it to them this year, two dimes a day.