breakfast with a little champion


Mornings in my house are the ultimate display of multi-tasking chaos.  I think this is probably the case in most houses with multiple little kids that all have different reactions to the morning and whether or not they are happy to be awake.  This morning was a little different, not just because it was a Saturday morning,.

But because I took a moment to pause.

My three-year old son woke up complaining that I had left him in the bed by himself and was clinging to my leg as I ran my endless to-do list of the day in my head.  My internal monologue was simple: “I need to give him the tablet so he can get absorbed in his shows and I can get back to my long list.”

Sad, but true.

As I was finishing my rushed breakfast on the couch, he brought the tablet back in the living room, flipped to Netflix and selected his new favorite show: Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures. (Wasn’t that a video game when I was a kid?).

Internal monologue: “Great, that will keep him busy – now I can go back to my list.”

But my son was having none of that.

“I want you to sit with me when I watch my show.”

Plan B. “Do you want some breakfast?”


So I fixed him some cereal with the intention of leaving him with his grandmother at the kitchen table and going back to my ‘very important list’.

But then I paused and remembered an experience my pastor had with his mother that he credits for playing a big role in developing his self esteem: whenever his mother served him anything to eat, she would sit down with him (even if she was not eating) and spend time with him while he ate, giving him her full attention, until he was done.

I’m glad I made the right choice today and instead of Plan B, went to Plan C.  I tossed my mental list out of my head and focused on this little marvel of a three-year old while he explained to me that a T-Rex does not eat other dinosaurs, even though he clearly asserted that it is a carnivore and ‘eats meat’.

I learned that a falcon can sweep down into the water and get a fish.  That a Pteranodon is also a carnivore and it flies into the air so it can eat other Pteranodons.

I asked him if he knew what a herbivore was and with complete confidence he smiled and said: “Yes, it eats PLANTS’.

We made faces, giggled, talked about what kind of things would be fun to do on a rainy day – I don’t want to get wet and he thinks all you need is a coat and you can do anything on a rainy day – including playing in puddles.

All the time, he was shoving spoons of cereal into his mouth and grinning widely with pleasure each time he tasted it as if it was the best gourmet food in the world.  He savored every fruit loop and acknowledged the brief moment with complete absorption.

I’m sure his internal monologue was: “This is the life!”

Our little breakfast moment was not more than 20 minutes and of inconsequential impact to whether or not I get things done today.  But to him, it was an imprint that will last a lifetime – a moment that reconfirmed to him that …

I am not just here.

I am present.

The two are very different.

letting my model be the guide

Yesterday, one of my friends sent out a group text wishing me and several of his friends Happy Fathers Day. In the same message he asked us each to share some words of wisdom about being a father so that everyone on the text could benefit.

Here is a sample of the replies he received:

“As a father to a son I strive to be the example. As he follows, he learns to walk the right path”

“walk the talk, talk the walk” the walk is more powerful than words”

“More is caught than taught.”

“Our children will learn more from what we do than what we say.”

“The more time you spend with your kids the more influence you’ll have on them”

“Your presence as a father is magical to your kids” (my contribution)

There was an unexpected consistency about the responses. I was expecting there to be a wide range of tidbits of wisdom, but instead, as the original sender of the text summarized:

The recurring theme is show and prove

I thought about this virtual conversation this morning when I caught myself doing the opposite of “show and prove”. One of my daughters was trying to tell her sister something at the dinner table but we could hardly make out what she was saying because her mouth was so full.

“Don’t talk with your mouth full” I admonished … through my equally full mouth.

I was basically saying “Do as I say, not as I do…”

During the week leading up to Fathers Day, I often reflect on my role as a parent and how it is evolving over time.  I also think about ways in which I can become a better father to my kids and guide them as effectively as I can.  The themes I get from this introspection are often things that apply to how I behave as a leader even outside of being a parent.

Show and prove is one of those themes that resonates with me on many levels – especially with how it ties back to the theme I set for my family this year:

Be the change you want to see.

In order to effectively lead others, I need to combine sharing vision and motivating others with modelling actions.  Becoming more consistent with this blog is one of those actions that is important for me to master because I find myself talking more and more to others about creating a cadence with which they ‘ship’ – but then find myself in the situation I was in this morning with my daughter when I am not following through on my own instruction.

Its all a process though, and I can already tell that I am getting better. (Both with the parenting and the blogging).

watching my daughter grow up

From the first time I laid eyes on my first born as the doctor helped her out of the womb, I knew that I am one of those fathers who is completely ‘whipped’ by their kids.  As I watch my two year old slowly figure out the world around him, I know that these moments have to be cherished because they cannot be re-lived.

I’m slowly accepting the reality that I only have one little girl now (not two).

Earlier this year when my oldest turned eight I began feeling a sense of loss that I have not yet shaken off.  I know that she is no longer a ‘little girl’ – and the days are coming soon where there will be a whole litany of topics that she can only discuss with her mother.

And as much as I want to avoid it, the topic of ‘boys’ is right around the corner.  The comments about the Justin Beiber-obsessed friends at school pretty much assures me we are on that horizon.

So how am I helping myself deal with my emotions?

I think I have two coping mechanisms for dealing with my emotions around this.

One: Cherishing the ‘little girl’ moments I have left with my five year old.

The middle child is still very much a little girl who gets a kick out of being picked up or cuddling with her daddy. She still sees the world very simply and often cracks the whole family up with a very well timed and pithy comment about a situation.

Even the things that should annoy me more – like her inability to clean the sink properly after brushing her teeth. Or the way she completely shuts down and can’t function when she is hungry.

These things are all ‘joys’ for me to experience.

Two: Creating ‘male bonding’ moments with my son.

The second way in which I am subconsciously coping is the great satisfaction I get from hearing my son ask for the basketball game to be turned on for him to watch.

Or how much he relishes imitating Biz Markie’s beatbox with me from Biz’s Beat of the Day.

He even has the hip hop finger wagging down and I didn’t teach it to him.

While my five year old is helping me deal with my sense of losing the innocence of my older daughter, my son helps me deal with the sense of losing some portion of her experiences that her mother will relate to better with her.

There is comfort in know that there will be some exclusive experiences that I will share with him as he develops into a man.

This all leaves me with one question though:

“What will I do when the five year old turns eight?”

10 things I have learned in the past five years of fatherhood

One of the most vivid images that come to mind as I think about Fatherhood is the reception I get every evening when I get home.  As I turn the key in the door, I hear little screaming voices and the thumping of little feet as my two little girls run around the house to celebrate my return.  Some evenings, they run right up to my legs and hug them feverishly in absolute delight.  On other days, they decide to ‘surprise’ me, so what I hear as I am turning the key is ‘Daddy’s here, HIDE!!’

So of course, I play along and pretend I don’t know where they are, then feign ‘surprise’ when they jump out and proceed to hug my legs.

The delight and joy is so genuine and unforced that regardless of what kind of day I have had, they manage to put a big smile on my face and bring my spirits up.  There are few places that this type of unconditional love and adoration can be found and as a father, I don’t take it lightly.

10 Things (out of possibly a million) I have learned in the past five years of fatherhood:

  1. Raising my voice does not necessarily mean I will get the desired result; sometimes, I have to deal with a problem through negotiation and active listening because this will lead to more long-term change when I address the root cause
  2. Raising my voice is sometimes the right thing to do (when used sparingly); the puncuation of raising my voice gets immediate attention, which is important it two types of situations: when my daughters may be endagering themselves and when it is clear the root cause of the issue is pure disobedience for the sake of disobedience
  3. Little girls find running a much more efficient way of getting around than walking … regardless of how many times you tell them to walk … maybe they are right
  4. A well timed hug of affirmation speaks volumes and will melt even the hardest of attitudes
  5. Routines are very important to young kids because they provide a safe environment for them to figure out how the world works: for example, if you usually tell a two-year old to say EEEE when you are brushing her teeth, if you don’t say EEEE, she will insist that you ‘DO EEEE!!’ before she considers her teeth clean!
  6. Kids are much more perceptive than you might imagine and they take in every little detail … they even notice when you have been home for 10 minutes and haven’t hugged your wife yet!
  7. When a little girl loses her two front teeth, that is the most beautiful smile in the world
  8. Some words we take for granted are really hard to explain to a five year old!
  9. It is very important for clothes to match … you can’t get away with ‘sort of match’
  10. Little girls brighten up in a magical way when you tell them they are pretty; this becomes a virtuous cycle because you will get addicted to that response and tell it to them as often as you can so you can see them brighten up … I think God designed it this way

The Most Significant Change

Perhaps the most significant change in my life that has come from being a father is that I have to think in terms of legacy … what I do today impacts what my little girls will be able to do tomorrow.  There is no way to get around this and I have seen plenty of examples where there is a ‘Fatherhood void’ and the struggles that come with that.  The gravity of this responsibility is very humbling and impacts almost everything I do on a daily basis.

When I feel those tight hugs on my legs when I come home in the evenings there is a joy that wells up in me and a little voice that reminds me:  ‘This is why you do what you do …’