Life is a journey. So is being a Dad. I know so much more now than I did when my children were young, but I am still learning.
People often say, “How did you raise such great children?” My wife and I look at each other with a look of amazement because we both know the many mistakes we made as parents. We reply quite seriously that our children make us look good. We are not kidding. It’s true and we are glad for it.
As I continue on in my parenting and fathering journey, I keep trying to figure out exactly what we did do right and how we can possibly explain it.
The one phrase I keep coming up with is ‘Presence Based Parenting’. What is presence based parenting and how do you do it?
The simple answer is that you just ‘do’. It’s a bit like the Hebrew description of God in the Old Testament. His name is ‘Yhwh’, which literally means ‘I am that I am’. When Pharaoh had all those Hebrew slaves and Moses was asked by God to free them, Moses was pretty scared and asked God a very legitimate question, “Who shall I say sent me?” God answered the question, “Tell Pharaoh that ‘I AM’ sent you!”
We as Dads need to take a leaf out of this story and become the “I AM PRESENT IN YOUR MOMENT FATHER” to our children.
When my boys were young and interested in skateboards I dusted off my old timber laminate skateboard and started to practice my moves. I could never perfect an ‘ollie’ but that didn’t stop me trying because I wanted to be in the moment with my children. Skateboarding is what they were interested in, so I decided to ‘do’ it too. I almost broke a few bones doing it at times but “them’s the risks!”
Several years later, whenever we would tour our nation as a musical family, we made a habit of visiting skate parks all across Australia in between gigs. The reason remained the same. My boys were interested in skate parks through their teenage years and so I developed an interest too because I wanted to be in the moment with them.
I can remember watching endless skating videos and being astounded at the ability of modern skaters, but more importantly, I was practising being in the presence of my children and connecting my ‘I am’ to their ‘I am’. The same applied to music, break-dancing, soccer etc.
My children are grown up now and they have all left home. They don’t ride skateboards so much anymore, but I still enjoy being in their presence and sharing the ‘I am’ experiences.
Last Father’s Day eve was one of those special moments with the family for me. We gathered to celebrate and farewell my wife’s mother and grandmother to our children. She had died the week before. Joan was 95 and a great inspiration to all our family. She was a woman who always had time for you. After the funeral the whole family went to the Mittagong RSL club to celebrate Father’s Day even though it was the evening before.
We positioned ourselves right next to the play area and it was great to hear the voices of my children and their spouses. It was beautiful to enjoy their presence and listen to their conversation. Our eight grandchildren loved the fact they could run riot in the play area in between mouthfuls of food.
When our children lived at home we used to celebrate Family Dinners on Monday nights and the conversation would always flow thick and fast. We all hated to miss our Family Dinners and we would equally complain if we did miss it.
Why did we all so mutually enjoy our pre_Father’s Day eve get together so much? I believe it was because over the years my wife and I have practised ‘Presence Based Parenting’. At Family Dinners I would often struggle to get a word in edgeways, but it really didn’t matter because they were special ‘I am’ moments. I was with them and they were with me. Nothing else really mattered.
Sometime ago I was reading an email from Kelly Wendorf, editor of ‘Kindred’ a parenting magazine which she had to close down due to lack of funding. Sadly, we know the pressure well. Towards the end of her farewell email to her readers she said something incredibly profound. Kelly’s words burned deep, “Thank you for your presence in my life. Our unharried, undistracted, fully incarnated presence is the greatest of gifts we can ever bestow upon our children, our family, on one another.”
The challenge to ‘be in the moment’ is the greatest challenge we face. We will always fall short of the mark. Parenting is a spiritual experience, to which Kelly Wendorf alludes. Fathering is no less spiritual.
Enjoy the ‘now’! What more can I say?
For us men, one of the hardest things to do is to be in the moment because we are usually thinking of the next moment. For our children, the next moment is too far away.
Find your children’s moments and live in them, with them, for as long as you can. You will bring life to your children.