Juggling Sheep
Welcome to Juggling Sheep, Jay Perry's blog about time management and personal productivity for pastors. Learn to balance work, life, family, and personal spirituality.

Share your best practices, tips and tricks, processes, sermon planning ideas, and resources. Feel free to email me: jaylperry[at]gmail[dot]com.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Fully Present - Fatherhood

One of the greatest gifts we can give to anyone is the gift of being "fully present."

You know the "fully present" person. He makes you feel like talking to you is the single-most important thing he could be doing right now. She makes you feel like everything you say is interesting. You feel heard. You feel valued. You feel... loved?

You know the other people, too. You're talking and they're glancing around. You're asking for input, and they make you repeat the question. They're looking at their watch, waiting for the next thing. Or they're nodding their heads, waiting for you to be quiet so they can make their point.

All too often, I'm one of the other people - I'm the one looking around, checking my watch, nodding my head, waiting for you to leave. I'm task-oriented, not people-oriented. And I've used that as an excuse long enough.

Last summer, we had a guy come over and give us a bid on sodding our front yard. I was the one at home taking care of my son. And the guy asks, "you got the babysitting duty today, huh?" I said, "yeah, I get to hang out with him in the afternoons."

The more I thought about what he had asked, the more rankled I got. I really should have blasted him: "I'm not babysitting. I'm fathering. I'm being a dad. I'm doing the single-most important thing I could be doing right now - spending meaningful time with my son. It's my singular focus to pass on my beliefs and values to the next generation, to help my son grow up into a mature, responsible, productive, godly man!"

But I didn't say any of those things. I only thought them later...

But over the last few months, I have come to realize that I have not been as "fully present" as I would like to be for my son. I have not been so fully engaged in the "single-most important thing I should be doing right now."

Too often, I'm content to plunk him down in front of the TV to watch Praise Baby! or Muzzy auf Deutsch (hey, they're inspirational and educational, right?). Or I'll spend an afternoon surfing the web (or writing this blog), hoping he doesn't bother me too much or require a great deal of my attention. He comes over to play, and I catch myself shrugging him off...

But I want to be "fully present." I don't want to be the (physically present) absentee father. I don't want to be another parenting statistic. So I've resolved to blog only when he's napping. I've decided to keep a @Play list of ideas for meaningful things we could do together.

How do you intentionally make yourself "fully present" for your kids?


Todd Stanfield said...

I like the @Play gtd context idea.

Anonymous said...

I often interpret that expression "task oriented" as "too busy to have time for you". Think we are often not "fully present" with God, either?

Waleed said...

I understand and agree with your perspective entirely.

My son turns two today.

What I've noticed is that he will want my time, then his own time, then some running around time, etc. Basically, a bit of everything in turn. So I can be there with him and give him space too.

All the best mate.

Paul said...

This is a great post and I agree with your comments completely. But in order to make time provide that "fully there" attention I often think of Fathering as Juggling Sleep, not Juggling Sheep! ;-)

Paul in CO said...

I've been working on a blog post with the same idea. My experience has been that, if you're fully present, you'll enjoy your time with them much more than if you're distracted by wishing you could be doing something else.

As your kids get older you'll be able to get them to participate in activities more interesting to you.

Another way to look at the time you spend is that it is a priceless investment in your relationship with them. As they get older, your relationship will change but you will always have those early years no matter what happens. And, hopefully, the quality time you spend with them before they're a teen means less trouble when they do cross the threshold into madness!

Dr. Remulak said...

You are exposing one of the myths of an earlier generation: quantity time is quality time.

I don't care if he is learning, growing, changing or anything; if I am there and as you say fully present, then I am being a good parent.

Anonymous said...

I too agree with your post, but not with feeling that you had to blast the other guy. He made a pretty casual and innocuous comment. No need to take yourself so seriously.

Not that I don't ;)


Kevin T. said...

As a first-time father, your thoughts will definitely come in handy as my six-week-old daughter and I continue to learn and grow together.

Jay said...

Thanks for all your comments. It's still a challenge to be fully present as a father. But believe it's one of those things that will only improve as it continues to be on my radar screen over time.

That, and having good time management skills (of course).

Anybody have any good ways of being intentionally present with your kids?

Dr. Remulak said...

One of my favorite "fully present" moments came a while ago. My son set out the rules for our next sword fight: I get no armor, no helmet, no sword, no dagger. He is St. Michael, wings and all.

I asked him, "Am I going to lose?"

He looked at me very seriously and said, "Yes, Papa." I proceeded to lose.

In his world, I win. I tell him to clean up, he must. I tell him get ready, he does. But in fantasy world, he can win big.

I am willing to have my head "pooped" on, to get wrestled to the ground, to be out smarted, to dance in public because he needs it.

In the end, of course, I love it.

kaptaink said...

Good for you, I feel like any parent that actually takes the time to think about parenting is better than the one who doesn't. I've also learned that it is also a good idea not to be too hard on ourselves.

I've always thought that the biggest blessing my daughter brought to my life was the notion of just sitting and doing nothing. Of laying on our backs and looking up at the sky. And doing nothing. We've had the best moments when simply hanging out like that. So while I'm a big fan of GTD, I'm not so sure the @Play context is really the point. Our kids like us when we forget all about our "lists" and "things to do".

Good luck, and have fun!

Jay said...

Great point, Kaptain!

In my Fully Present and GTD post, I think I addressed that more fully.

I find that I can't be fully present with people if I'm carrying all my stuff around in my brain and worrying about it.

So to me, GTD is less about having a list of what things to do to act fully present (although the @Play list has come in very handy) and more about making sure I can be clear and present and focused on whatever (whoever) is in front of me right now.

AdventureDad said...

I think it's all about attitude. I've seen the whole spectrum of how fathers approach time with their kids and if you're not "really there" it's kind of a waste of time.

I have two young kids, 4-year old boy and a 18-month old girl, and so far I've taken 13 months of paternity leave to be with them (and I'm planning lots more). That means no phone calls from work during the day and a total focus on the kids. I have occasionally made some trips into work (without the kids) as a favor and it has worked out fine.

I do check mails and do other stuff during naps but if you're a full-time father you also know there are many things to take care of during these "breaks" (cleaning up, laundry, preparing meals, etc.)

No one has ever called me a babysitter and I would slap them if they did. But of course things are different over here in Sweden, where fathers rarely decide to be weekend fathers and are taken as seriously as a mother

The secret is attitude. Approach each day with the kids as a Wimbledon final, nothing less, and things will turn out unbelievably well. My relationship with the kids is amazing now but I think the greatest difference will be in 10-15 years when we'll be able to talk about anything.

(Sorry about the long boring post)


Mike said...

nice post, it came at a good time as son number three arrived this month and my other two boys (5 & 2.5) are feeling the juggling themselves and have been absorbing a number of hours with the tv more than me.

As my wife tends to our newest son I try to balance time with my two boys, work and life. This is no easy task today because we want to be involved as fathers and nothing less than quality time creates some form of guilt, even if it is when you tuck your kids in bed at night and think of what you could have done better.

I don't know if I will ever be the perfect Dad but I know I am trying when I can but your point of quality vs quantity is a good way to go about it.

Daisy said...

As a mom it makes me so angry when they ask my husband if he's on 'babysitting duty'.

We're both parents, why would it be babysitting for the man, and just plain being 'mom' for the woman.
Worst is, that it's considered a normal way of wording it.

It's an insult to fathers. And an assumption about the mothers.

Anonymous said...

I recently got divorced, and lost my job at the same time. I didn't go back to work for several months, but rather focused on spending time with my two young sons and fixing up our home. People (mostly men) occasionally would ask me "What exactly do you do, David?", even though they knew how I spent my time. What they meant was, "When are you going to get a job?" Eventually I came up with the appropriate reply: "I'm a homemaker." I'm working part time now, but still regard homemaking as my real job.

Michael Rose said...

The term 'babysitting' is functionally inapplicable to a father and his own child. What dads do is 'parenting.' We've tried hard to make the distinction in our family, sometimes maybe a bit more stridently than was absolutely necessary. :-)

It makes a big difference to moms, wives & partners when 'babysitting' is reserved for other people, not for Dad. You're saying that for better or worse you're going to be as much of a parent as your spouse is, not a temporary caretaker.

Good for you.