Forget the Tie: Father's Day Presence

Menstuff® has compiled the following information in association with Father's Day. From Judith Wright.

As we approach Father’s Day, I’d like to talk about a different kind of “present” – the gift of a father who is happier and more fulfilled, truly “present” to his family. More and more fathers are finding greater career and family satisfaction by overcoming soft addictions.

What are soft addictions? They are those seemingly harmless habits like watching too much TV, overworking, overeating, playing computer games by the hour or mindlessly surfing the Internet. All of us have such habits, and they aren’t necessarily bad in and of them selves. But when we overdo them, they rob of us our time, zap our energy, mute our consciousness, and keep us from living a meaningful life.

I have worked with hundreds of people over the years that have transformed their lives by overcoming their soft addictions. Loosening the grip soft addictions have on us makes room for so much more in our lives – including relationships with our families. I have worked with sales men who have not only quintupled their sales but also found blissful affirmation from improved satisfaction with their family. Here is a story of one father I know who has changed deep-seated patterns in his family, and, in the process, given his daughters the precious gift of himself.

Being a “Present” Dad

This year I will celebrate my thirteenth year of marriage. I have a lovely wife and two beautiful daughters, age six-and-a-half and four.

I’m very proud of my family. But my own upbringing didn’t teach me much about how to create such happiness. One of the things I remember best about my own childhood is how “not present” my own father was. Sometimes he was physically away on business. Other times, he was physically home but distracted or preoccupied, not emotionally available to me, either because he was working or watching TV. Unfortunately, the most fun I can remember having with my dad was when he was drunk. Then, after my parents divorced, he became more of a “give me presents” dad or weekend dad instead of a dad who was really aware of and present to me.

I know I have painted a fairly grim picture of my dad. Yet I truly love him for who he is and what he gave to me. Being a dad myself today has given me a lot more insight into my dad, as well as gratitude for the job he did. I see it as my job to “stand on his shoulders” – to leverage the good aspects of his parenting, and then take it further.

So I have made it my work to be what I call a “present” dad. What I mean by that is a dad who is awake and aware in his life, who is in touch with his feelings, who knows what he needs and wants and leads his family by example. For me, the path to this awareness has been overcoming my soft addictions. Here are some examples of how that effort has influenced my parenting.

We do not have a TV in our house. This is a big deal for me. As a child, my family spent countless hours watching TV, physically together but not interacting at all. In my family today, we watch movies but not TV. Without television to distract me and drain my energy, I am more emotionally available to my children. Instead of watching TV, we play board games and cards, wrestle, go outside and play.

Given that the best way to have fun with my dad was when he was drinking, I decided that I was going to be a dad who didn’t need alcohol to have fun. So I stopped drinking before my children were born. I am proud to say that I have never been ‘hung over’ as a dad.

I schedule dates with my wife and play times with each of my daughters. It is very easy for me to fill my calendar with events and work. By scheduling in this time, I ensure that I will be available for the most important people in my life – my family.

I watch how much sugar I eat, and monitor my children’s sugar consumption, too. I have noticed that I want to eat sugar and sweets when I am upset, afraid or anxious. And I notice this in my children also. Today, instead of eating more and more sweets and hiding our feelings, we try to be sweet to each other and talk about what we are feeling instead.

So, I am a present dad, and I enjoy my life and my kids more than I ever thought I would. And I thank God for the opportunity to be a dad.

This is just one father’s story and it represents a significant possibility for all families. In his case, what he wanted more of was quality time, connection, and meaning with his wife and daughters. By understanding where he tended to “go away” from his family through his soft addictions of TV, overwork, sugary snacks and other habits, this dad was able to add activities that consciously brought him closer to his family.

Each person’s story is unique. I’m not suggesting anyone become some perfect kind of father, or perfect parent, or perfect person. There is no such thing. The important thing is to wake up, to raise your awareness, to decide to live a life that counts, to create days filled with meaning, satisfaction, fulfillment, and connection. This dad made that choice. You can too.
Source: Judith Wright, There Must Be More Than This: Finding More Life, Love, and Meaning by Overcoming Your Soft Addictions

Related Issue: Father's Day

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