How Do You Spell Love?
by Gregory W. Slayton
For too many of us, weeks, months and even years go by, and there’s too much strain, stress and striving and too little laughter, love, lighthearted fun or quality time of any type with dad. That is really tough on our families—and especially on our children. Why does this happen? I believe that in many cases we as dads choose, consciously or unconsciously, to put something (or multiple things) in front of our family. We all choose what we focus on in life, and if we choose to put work or worry or our bank account or something else in front of our families, we will eventually reap what we sow.
Do you know how most children spell the word “love”? T-I-M-E. And fun time with mom and dad is the best T-I-M-E of all. Fun time doesn’t have to be a grand vacation (although good family vacations are not to be missed). It can just be time rolling around with your kids on the floor, watching a good movie together on Friday night or going to the park or the beach together on a Saturday. It can even be helping your son or daughter with their homework—as long as it’s done in the right way. It definitely should include occasional romantic evenings with your wife (leave the kids at home). Hopefully, it’s all of the above. Fun family time can be almost anything that gets you and mom out of the normal routine (i.e., no dishes, no TV and no cell phones) and focused on each other (totally necessary from time to time) or on the kids (they will lap it up). Not only will you have fun together (and what’s a family for if you can’t have fun together?) but you’ll also be creating warm and wonderful memories.
These memories you create will have a dual purpose. First, they will help you and each member of your family know that he or she is special . . . and specially loved. Second, over time, good memories are like cement for a well-constructed wall. They will help your family hang together when the storms of life threaten to knock you down or break you up . . . and those storms come to all of us.
Don’t worry if you’re a “long-distance dad”—you can still put your family first and have fun with them on a consistent basis. In fact, we have a whole chapter in Part Three devoted to long-distance dads. Because no matter how far you are from your family physically, they need your love, support and encouragement in their lives.
One father, a senior executive at a large U.S. company, told me, “It came down to this: Was I going to put my family first and save it, or was I going to put my career first and have a shot at becoming CEO? Well, I’m now a divorced CEO . . . and I will always regret that.” Let’s learn from his mistake.
These days you have with your family really are, right now, “the good old days.” Wherever you are in life and whatever the age of your kids (or grandkids), in 10 or 20 years you will look back on this time with one of two primary emotions: you will either regret that you did not spend more fun time with your wife and children (or grandchildren), or you will be thankful for all the fun times you had together. Or maybe, if you’re like most men, you will have both emotions—and both will be justified. But one thought I guarantee you will not have: I should have spent more time at the office.