There are many days on this journey of fatherhood that I don’t feel like I am good enough, tough enough, kind enough, compassionate enough, understanding enough—fill in the blank for yourself. Fathering children is tough work. Sometimes we can’t tell whether anything is actually sticking in those little hearts and mind. However, today is one of those days that I can call a win.
As I write this post we are bringing Good Friday to a close. This is one of the most difficult and beautiful days of the Christian calendar. We remember the death of Jesus and anticipate His resurrection. There is fasting, prayers and possibly the most challenging part—no beer or meat. It is a tough day for dad.
Teaching our children our faith is a top priority for my wife and I. Like most things, teaching kids about faith can be tough. There’s lots of ways to go about teaching your kids about faith, and like anything else you really want to stick in your child’s head—you have to set the example. My wife and I intentionally pray in front of the kids so that they can see that as a norm. We try our best to lead them in prayer before meals, after meals, before bed and in many other ways.
Our seven year old, Claire is not super excited to pray. Often enough she complains and argues. Sometimes Claire joins in family prayer because she has no other choice. Thats fine with me since going to school, chores and not eating candy whenever she wants also follow the same principles of, “you do it because it’s good for you and I said so.” For the most part the kids are compliant and we get through family prayer with very few issues. However, after its all said and done I always wonder how much are the kids really understanding, and if whether or not they see the importance.
Today, Claire surprised us.
The image above is something Claire organized herself. Claire decided that she wanted to lead our family’s Good Friday prayers. Claire got one of her illustrated bibles and an easel to support it and set it up on our coffee table. Then, she set out coloring pages of Holy Week she colored with her sister earlier that day. Claire laid them out with a candle and a home made “bible” she made. Claire asked that we get one of our crucifixes off the wall so that the table could be complete.
For the next 5 minutes or so Claire lead us in singing a praise and worship song she had written as she played her terribly out of tune toy guitar. Claire read the passion narrative out loud for us, and asked us to write in her “bible” what we were thankful God had done for us. We ended with a spontaneous closing prayer led by Claire.
I share this not because I want anyone to think that my wife and I are these mighty parents that naturally create holy children. My kids can be little devils. You should see our night time routine—there is nothing holy about it! Today was one of those days where my wife and I were able to see that what we are trying to impart onto our kids is actually taking hold. Claire put all of this together on her own. Claire knew this was an important day and that something unique was happening.
They do listen. They do understand.
As a father, todays prayer service was a great moment of hope in my child, but also for myself. I don’t always get it right or know if what I do makes a difference. Moments like today fuel the fire within and keep me going. I am able to see something tangible that confirms that my wife and I are on the right track. We all need that every now and then.
Tonight I go to bed remembering the death of my Lord. Remembering how His death has brought me to life. I go to bed with a smile on my face for the gift God has given me in seeing my daughter recognize His sacrifice. Tomorrow I may wake to a moody child who yells at me because her sister has more chocolate chips on her pancakes than she does. Tonights smile might turn into a frown tomorrow. However, today is one of those days that I can call a win.
Several hours later we moved a bunk bed, a twin bed and rearranged multiple pieces of furniture in the girls former and new room. The outcome was one room with both girls and a guest room/office/future nursery. The nursery part will not be needed anytime soon.
The girls were so excited! You would’ve thought we told them we were going to Disney (which is currently closed). Both girls kept coming into the room to sneak peaks at what was going on. They were planning what they would do first when the room was complete. “We can sit and read in the corner” said, Claire. Cecilia wasn’t as excited—it was her room we were rearranging. Once Cecilia saw the big bunk bed her face lit up, “I sleep upstairs?!” Cecilia wants to sleep on the top bunk. Unfortunately, Cecilia can only go up the stairs—like one of those cows kids used to prank school by walking them up the stairs of the school building (I am told cows can’t walk down stairs).
Our daughters excitement was really fun to experience. It was nostalgic in some sense. I remembered when my brother and I got bunk beds. Similar emotions and thoughts went through our minds as our parents set the bed up. Here we are now. My wife and I watching our babies take this new step towards becoming big girls.
The paradox of our families joy and children’s excitement in conjunction with the craziness of what is going on in our country and the world does not escape me. Outside people are sick, dying, losing their jobs, businesses are closing and everything in between. At home we are smiling, and enjoying this wonderful moment of two little girls moving in together.
There is much to be depressed about right now. Yet, there is so much to be grateful for. So much to smile about.
COVID 19 has struck and many of us are working from home for the first time. I don’t know about you, but this has definitely been quite the experience for me. Heres a short video on my take so far. Please stay safe!
The last six years have gone by so fast! It is hard to believe that six years ago my wife and I had a baby girl that would change our lives. That “baby girl” is now six years old (Claire) and we have a two year old (Cecilia). Life is simply awesome. There have been challenges for sure. However, most of these challenges are insignificant compared to the blessings we have received from being parents.
I try to reflect on life as much as possible. We all know from experience that if you don’t pause and take time to reflect you let too much go by. Whether good or bad we need to process what life throws at us.
Here are six things that I have learned on this journey so far:
Just Let it Happen: Honestly, this is one I am not exactly comfortable, nor good at. If you have read any of my posts you know that I am a bit of a control freak and “letting things happen” is not necessarily part of my mission statement. Six years in I have learned that you just have to go with it sometimes. If the six year old decides to make you dinner you really shouldn’t blow up on her. Sure the kitchen walls are no longer the color you painted them, but it’s just paint…right? The two year old decided to potty train on her own and is super excited that 25% of her “deposit” made its way into the toilet. Maybe the other 75% will come out of the carpet…eventually.
No Perfect Moment: I’m still waiting for that perfect moment when I do something super fatherly that my children are transformed by and respond, “Daddy, you were right. You are so amazing!” What I have found over and over again is that every moment counts. My daughters will become great, and develop virtue moment by moment. So will I. Little by little we move in the right direction. All those little moments I chose to love, respect and not be overwhelmed by the minutia of parenthood will create a life filled with moments that when stringed together paint a beautiful story.
Speak Clearly. Pause. Repeat. Any Questions? My six year old tests my patience. Every. Single. Day. Often times my frustration is my own fault. I assume my daughter knows what cleaning up her mess means. I assume that she understands what eating all her food means. I assume she understands that quiet time literally means you don’t make a sound. We all have expectations for our children. This is a good thing. However, I have found I don’t always communicate this well. Six years in I am learning to be a better communicator. Speaking clearly and in simple terms is a must. Pausing to let the child process is a must. Having the child repeat the information back to you is a must. Asking them if they have any questions is a must. Get the point? Well…I don’t always get it and that leads to a frustrated child and father.
Waste Time with Your Children: This is something Pope Francis once said to fathers in one of his addresses. The whole idea was to understand that being with your kids doesn’t have to have an agenda. It doesn’t even have to be “productive”. Just be with them. The Popes statement has stuck with me and really has helped me to see time with my kids in a different light. The games my kids play are not always fun, they don’t always make sense and that is okay. What matters is that I just spend time with them.
Change in Priorities: It is no secret that having kid’s makes you look at things in different ways. This is necessary. Money for my wife and I has been one of the things that we are looking at in a different light. We made the decision before we had kids that we would not send them to public school. There are many reasons for that which I will not get into here. The point is that sending our kids to a school we have to pay for is hard. Money that we could use for paying off debt and other items goes towards our kid’s school. It is a worthwhile investment for sure! However, this investment changes the way we operate. Whatever your priorities are they require change. That change can sometimes be uncomfortable, but in the context of my kid’s current education it is well worth it. Claire has learned so much from being in a Montessori school. The learning and experiences she is having make this a solid, set in steel priority for us—no matter how much it hurts.
Traditions Matter: One of the things I dislike about our modern secular culture is the lack of adherence to traditions. There are so many amazing traditions both religious and non-religious that we seem to have just pushed aside. Unfortunately, I didn’t grow up in a household with traditions. This makes it difficult to pass or establish any with our kids. However, we have a few that we have implemented: celebrating the kids Saint Feast day, celebrating their baptism dates (and future dates they received their sacraments), praying as a family, Advent Tree, reading books before bed, and playing lots of board games. These are just some. Traditions anchor us. They are moments with meaning that remind us of who we are, where we have been and where we are going.
This list could be a lot longer. All in all these have been the six best years of my life. Lots of surprises, frustrations, laughs and some tears. All incredible.
One of my absolute favorite things to do with my family is play board games. Im not sure when or how I was introduced to board games, but I love them. There is something so exciting about sitting around with my kids and introducing them to a game that they want to come back to over and over again. I love hearing, “awww…just one more game daddy?”
I know I’ve got them hooked.
My wife and I have more board games than we can count. I’m not sure how this became the go to gift for us, but it has. Every birthday or Christmas someone gets us a new one. We don’t mind it, but storage is not as readily available for these rectangular friends as it used to be. We still figure out a spot for them and keep on playing.
We first introduced our oldest, Claire, to board games at the age of two. Having her mommas brain allowed the kiddo to pick up rules pretty quickly. We have a Disney version of Shoots and Ladders that she got the hang off right away. As the years have gone by we have evolved to more complicated games that require strategy. Some of these games are pretty complex (for example, Settlers of Catan) however it all depends on your kid. We know Claire can handle complexity so we introduce her to more complex games. Cecilia is not quite there but she picks up on the excitement in the air and “plays” with mommy or I.
Playing board games have many advantages. Here are my top five reasons why you should play board games with your family.
1.) Strategy: Board games require you to use your brain. Strategy is something that even the most basic of games require and this can only occur by thinking. I love seeing my daughters rethink their strategy because the plan they thought was going to work is now not a possibility. This fires up those synapses and the the brain tries to figure out a new solution. Your kids learn via board games to think in a way that most classroom activities cannot teach.
2.) Winning and Losing: Personally I think we are living in a candy-ass culture that is absolutely out of touch with reality—especially when it comes to what is “fair”. Young people and grown adults pout over not getting “what they deserve”. Board games have clear winners and losers. This is very important. I love seeing my daughters confidence grow when she wins. I also love it when she loses. I love it because it gives my daughter the opportunity to grow in virtue, temperance and just being a good person all around. Letting our children learn from their loses is one of the best things we can help them with. Board games create a simple environment that can teach winning an losing. I think this is really important. If your kid doesn’t win a race or soccer game there are some real emotions attached to that. Personally, I believe that playing board games preps our children in an objective way that helps them to deal with their emotions and ultimately come to grips with the reality that sometimes you win some, and sometimes you don’t.
3.) Being patient: Daddy really struggles with this one. I have a very strategic mind which means I calculate moves two to three steps ahead. My wife takes forever, which leads me to say unhelpful things such as: “are you still playing?” “Do you need an assist?” “Hey, we want to put the kids down to bed before midnight”. My daughter Claire will usually respond with, “Daddy, be patient.” Claire has some of her daddy’s genes because she gets very excited especially when she sees that the next move could bring about a win. She will often times go out of turn and celebrate victory a little too soon. We have to remind her that it wasn’t her turn and this frustrates her. Daddy usually responds with, “Claire, be patient.”
4.) Quality Time: I know there are lots of ways of creating amazing moments for quality time. For us playing board games is one of those ways. When ever we finish playing a game there is this sense of bonding that has occurred. We immediately begin talking about that awesome move someone made, or how close so and so was to winning. There is a real satisfaction that comes about from playing board games. It is palpable and you know it has filled up your family’s quality time tank.
5.) It is fun: Yup, this is probably the top reason why you should play board games. They are just plain ole fun!
To close out this post I wanted to share some of our families favorite games. We definitely have some individual and family favorites. These are a lll games we play with as a family. Claire is now 6 and can handle all of these. As mentioned before, Cecilia (2 years old) “plays with mommy and daddy”. Cecilia doesn’t quite have the capacity that her older sister had at two years old. It is what it is, but Cecilia can spin things, roll the dice and move pieces.
Here’s a list of our favorite games to play as a family: