Saturday, September 11, 2010

Dad and Child - Together!

Long before my children were born, I decided that I wanted their biggest influence to be ... ME – not their friends, the drug users, the drinkers, the kids who never tried to succeed in school, etc., but their greatest everyday influence was to be their favorite DAD!!

So, as a part of my journey toward becoming their biggest influence, I decided that, whenever I ventured out of the house to run an errand, I would ALWAYS take at least one child with me. In this manner, irrespective of what might be happening in the hustle and bustle of everyday life in the home, I could always escape with at least one child for a focused conversation, lesson on life, or just listening to the tales of their trials and tribulations.

One day I needed to travel to the local hardware store, about a 2 minute drive from our house. As I gathered up my oldest son (about 8-years-old at the time) to make the trip with me, I was looking forward to the isolated time together, the conversations that would ensue, and the possible lessons that my son would learn from me, including shopping for the necessary part and interacting with store employees.

However, as we were about to leave the driveway, I noticed that he looked a little concerned about something. When I asked him if all was O.K., he told me that he was fine. But, the look on his face told me otherwise.

I made a quick decision to bypass the local hardware store for the 2-minute drive and continued to the chain hardware store about 15 minutes away, thereby allowing me a total of 30 minutes of focused drive time to delve into my son’s obvious annoyance with some issue.

During the trip to the store, we talked about a variety of topics, including his upcoming baseball season, the Detroit Tigers, school, etc. He was quite chatty, but it still appeared as though something was bothering him. We arrived at the store, did our shopping for the needed part, and then got in the car for the ride home.

As we closed in on the 10-minute mark of the 15-minute drive home, my son suddenly asked me, “Dad, would you ever get drunk?” Well, somehow I managed to keep the car on the road as I told him that I would never allow myself to become inebriated. Of course, I then did the obvious. As this question came completely out of the dark with no lead-in or even an iota of purpose to me, I asked him why he would ask me such a question.

He then told me of his friend Mike (not his real name) in his 3rd grade class. Mike had told my son that his dad regularly gets drunk, beats up the mother and kids, and then leaves the family for a few days at a time. They never know if he is coming back!! Mike also told my son that ALL DADS do this, so he should be careful about me. To say the least, my son was conflicted, as he had been living in a loving home, yet his friends told him that ALL DADS do this!

Ah ha!! So I had my answer as to my son’s obvious concern about something. I then turned our drive home of less than 5 minutes into a few more errands that took over an hour, just so we could be alone to discuss this important topic. I assured my son that I would never be drunk, that I would never beat up our family, and that I would never disappear for days at a time. My reassurances did wonders for him, as his mood became brighter and he even suggested that we stop for ice-cream (a favorite activity in our family!). I also told my son that I would try and get help for Mike and his family (more about this in a future post – all is now well with Mike and his family!!).

Now - and here’s the big point - if I had just traipsed off to the local hardware store alone (which, by the way, would have been much easier and faster), I might have never heard about Mike’s story and my son’s concern that it could happen in our home. But, by consciously seizing every single possible moment to spend time with my kids, the situation allowed for the comfort zone in which my son could tell me of his concerns.

If I had not had those moments alone with my kids, it is possible that a stronger influence in his life (a friend, perhaps?) might have confirmed the story and confirmed that my son had better watch out for his dad!!

But, by being the strongest influence in my son's life, he knew where to go to find the truth ..... HIS DAD!!

How about you? Please pass along your suggestions as to how you have become, or plan to become, the strongest influence in your child’s life. After all, if you’re not the strongest influence in his/her life, somebody else will be!!

Hang in there and spend quality and quantity time with your kids!!

Paul W. Reeves

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