As a father with young children, I can't help but notice that the nuclear family seems to be under assault. Whether it's the decline of the family meal or the absence of quality time spent together, the demands of everyday life seem to pull us in different directions on a continual basis, and it is the family as a whole that suffers.
This makes it all the more important for parents to work hard to spend quality time together. While it is essential for us to take care of practical matters like making a living and advancing our careers, being there for our family should be valued just as equally. Time spent together helps to strengthen family bonds, and as cliché as it may sound, you can never have the time with your children back.
With this in mind, I'd like encourage fathers to step up to the plate and make time for their families in a way that might speak to them — by coining a sports analogy. Parenting is the ultimate team sport, and to make families strong, dads can approach it as team players. Here are a few ways how to accomplish this:
1. Watch Your Teammates' Backs
In other words, be supportive. Teams achieve success when players don't have to worry if their teammates are doing their jobs. As a father, it means that your wife and children know that you'll be there for them.
2. Acknowledge Good Performance
Be aware of when a family member is working hard, and let it be an inspiration for you to follow suit and work as a team. Acknowledging their efforts (a simple thumbs up can do) will always be appreciated, especially if they worked hard at it.
3. Have Fun
Just like in sports, working hard doesn't mean it can't be fun. Children cherish the fun times they spend with their fathers, and mothers appreciate what a man brings to the interaction while creating a lifetime of memories.
4. Be a Team Player
Success on the field is all about working as a team, and that requires some sacrifice for the good of the whole. It takes a special father to look past his own needs to do what's best for his family.
The key to any successful team endeavor requires constant communication, not just in terms of coordinating activities, but also in order to ask questions, voice needs, concerns or problems, and offer constructive feedback.
6. Teach and Be Taught
It is important for parents to bestow kids with their wisdom, but that does not mean that they are above learning themselves, especially when it involves their family's wants and needs.
7. Learn From Your Mistakes
As any coach or parent will attest to, it is good to avoid making the same mistakes. This requires adaptability that stems from being able to admit when you're wrong and to learn from your mistakes.
8. Take Note of What Works
The flip side of learning from your mistakes is realizing what works. Figure out what works for both you and your family will and work diligently towards that end.
9. Be Emotionally Available
It is acceptable for men to display emotion and vulnerability on the playing field, so it should be equally so at home. By displaying their true emotions, dads send the important message that it's OK for guys to be sincere.
10. Be Genuinely Engaged
When players are distracted, they are letting their team down. The same is true for parenting. Give your family the attention they deserve; don't simply go through the motions or be distracted by smart phones and the TV.
11. Be Flexible
Games evolve continually from beginning to end, and being too rigid will work against you. The same is true for parenting, so be flexible when things don't go according to plan — because they never do.
Sports hold an important place in our lives, and rightly so. They teach values such as teamwork, perseverance, and pride. We learn important lessons about winning and losing, triumph and disappointment. However, it is important to keep in mind that unless you're a professional athlete, it is just a game, really meant for fun and entertainment. When the final whistle blows and the lights in the arena go out, your teammates depart from your life and go home. In other words, the game is over.
Your family, on the other hand, will always be there for you, through thick and thin, whether you win or lose. They are therefore deserving of your time and attention — more so, dare I say, than any game or sporting event.