The Best Advice for Dads…Ever

The other day, a new father asked me if I had any advice for him on parenting and fatherhood. I did not really think I had any unique words of wisdom. I mean, he had probably heard anything I would think to tell him. You know:

·     “Spend time with your kids now; they’ll be leaving for college before you know it.”

·     “Kids spell love T-I-M-E.”

·     “Have a date night with your wife on a regular basis. The stronger your marriage, the more secure your children.”

·     “Have fun with your kids. Build lots of happy memories with them.”

You know the advice. It is all good advice—important advice. But I’m sure he has heard it all before and I did not feel the need to beat the same drum over and over. So, when he asked if I had any advice, any words of wisdom, I replied, “Nothing out of the ordinary. You probably heard it all before.” His question did make me think though. What is one of the most important things I have done as a father? What would I definitely do again if I had to do it all over? After some thought, I went back to my friend and told him about one thing I found especially meaningful in my experience as a father. I would suggest this to every father, whether your children are young or old. My wife and I happened upon this jewel by accident; but I would not give it up for anything now. What is it? A “Daddy Night.” 

My wife works one long day a week.  So, starting when my oldest daughter was about one-year-old, I had the opportunity to care for my children solo one day a week.  My wife was not home, so I got to do it all. I enjoyed bathing them, feeding them, playing with them, getting chores done with them, and going through the bedtime routine with them.  My children and I developed our own routines…routines slightly different than the routines my wife had with them. She planned activities, we did more spontaneous activities. She played delicate games, we rough-housed. She really disliked playing Barbie, we played Barbie (much to my daughter’s dismay, Ken always tried to fly). Those routines changed as they grew. Over time, my daughters and I developed interests we enjoyed together. We went on outings together. We hung out at the house together. We had picnics, fancy dinners, cold pizza…you name it. We went to outdoor concerts, movies, parks, coffee shops…whatever. We had great times…and some not so great times. Either way, we had those times together.  I learned so much about my children by spending this time with them…and they learned about me. We shared so much.

I love our “Daddy Nights.” Amazingly, they do too—in spite of what they consider my “immature-boy-behavior” at times. In fact, they continue to shape their schedules around our nights together, even in their high school years. My oldest daughter is going away to college in the fall. We have enjoyed “Daddy Nights” for 17 years! This summer, she still plans to schedule around “Daddy Night.” My youngest daughter will go into her sophomore year of high school in the fall and we plan to continue our “Daddy Night’s.” Really, I think I’ll miss “Daddy Night” most of all when they are both gone.

My advice to fathers everywhere…dedicate one night a week as “Daddy Night.” Send your wife out with friends so she won’t be tempted to step in and take care of things. Spend the time with just you and your kids. You plan everything…until your children are old enough to share in the planning of course. Spend the evening together. Enjoy your time together, just you and your kids. The time will prove precious and the memories priceless! 

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