I recently found myself in an uncomfortable situation. I was definitely out of my comfort zone. The reason for my anxiety? Gaming. My son turned eleven and somehow managed to get a digital gaming device for his birthday and it was time for me to take a turn at it. I was given the controller and in no time at all lost all my “lives” and allowed the virtual galaxy to run amok. For some reason (age possibly?), I just couldn’t get it.
My son was quite gracious in the moment. “Dad, it’s ok. Just sit with me and watch and you’ll get it.” And so I did. I sat and watched and sat and watched. I still don’t entirely understand how to even maneuver somebody called Mario, but I’m only forty-one; I’ve still got time. Talk about life-long learning.
Another moment like this occurred with my daughter. She asked me to look through a catalog with her. “Just sit with me, dad. This will only take a minute.” She had circled a dress that caught her eye and wanted to make sure it was on my gift radar. And so I did. We sat and looked at every page until we came to the reason for our sitting down. The correct size and color were emphasized, followed by a hug around the neck and a kiss on the cheek.
So, one day after work, with a mission on hand, I journeyed to the appropriate store and rattled off the correct item, size and color to the young sales assistant. She seemed impressed at my vast knowledge. “Wow! How do you know so much about this?” I told her it came from sitting and listening. She said “Cool!”
Moments like these seem to be popping up all over my fathering landscape. Moments where I’m reminded of something called the power of presence. Lest you think I’m the greatest dad ever, rest assured that I’ve had one too many “more important” things to handle in my little world.
But kids are gracious and I’m learning. I’m learning how utterly vital it is to my children that I, the father, set aside my adult privileges and sit for a while with them and enter into their world. I don’t have to know the latest Taylor Swift song or even like hoodies; I just have to be there with them. My presence speaks L-O-V-E to them.
Things to Keep in Mind
Has it been awhile since you’ve had some “sit with me” time with your child? Whether planned or spontaneous, dates with your kids are a great way to enhance the relationship and let your presence speak love to them.
Do something different. Sure, your child likes it when you take him out for pizza. But how about getting a slice at a nearby cinema and then surprising him with tickets to a movie?
Tie into a current activity. Is your child learning a new instrument? Take her to a live play or concert where she can watch professionals play that same instrument.
Don’t embarrass your child. Be sensitive to his or her reaction to your actions. With tweens and teens, it’s easy to cross a line you didn’t even know was there.
Set a positive tone. This is a time for fun, not an opportunity to discipline or force a teachable moment. Don’t lecture.
Turn off the cell phone. This goes for both of you.
Don’t interrupt. Be open and listen carefully, especially if your child starts relating a problem she’s having. Let her talk freely, simply adding a word or two to encourage her to keep going.
This is a time to resist your proactive problem-solving impulses; tweens and teens will shut down every time you try to fix something before they feel you understand what it is.
Need some quick tips on what to do or where to go?
Date with Dad Activities
Explore unknown territory. There are many quaint little shops in Ann Siang Hill and Club Street that are interesting to walk and visit. You can also visit Singapore’s southern islands which include St John’s Island, Lazarus Island, Kusu Island, Pualau Seringat, Sisters’ Island.
Dine out. Eat at a restaurant. Dress up and make it a fancy evening.
Cafe Hop. There has been an explosion of cafes in Singapore. The best part is they don’t just sell coffee. Just do an online search and you’ll have no lack of suggestions.
Shop. This may be the only chance you have at helping your teen pick out an outfit. It also provides a great opportunity for healthy talk about modesty.
Take a risk. Ask daughters what she wants to do. After all, you’ll expect her potential dates to think of her interests as he plans outings.
© 2014 Focus on the Family Singapore Ltd.
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