Dad Ears

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When in doubt, listen!  That is the lesson I have been learning over these nearly 19 years as I try to figure out how to be a good dad.  The listening comes in many ways, but there were two just this week (in the course of only four days) that need telling, so here we go:

1.  My brother-in-law, Chris, has three children and it was his middle child’s birthday.  Two little boys were at the house celebrating with him in a big Minecraft-themed party and it was time to unwrap all of the cool boy presents in the living room.  As he began to tear through each one, his younger sister became visibly brokenhearted that there were no presents for her to unwrap.  Her father quietly slipped away from the party and into her bedroom, where he grabbed several stuffed animals and a small toy from under her bed, found a box, and wrapped it all up with some extra paper.  As he entered the room and presented his little girl with this surprise gift, her eyes grew wide.  Her father held his breath as she opened the present and peered inside.  Instead of thinking these were just some old toys from her bedroom, she was jumping for joy and couldn’t believe that her father had given her such wonderful gifts!  Great work, dad!

And a good idea – I’m listening…

2.   Laura, a friend of ours whose daughter is in the same grade and school as our youngest, told us about helping her daughter with a school assignment.  The 3rd grade teacher had asked the children to read a biography and write a short essay about it.  Though her daughter is sometimes a reluctant reader and homework fan (as most 3rd graders tend to be at different times of the year), this mom was determined to help her enjoy this particular assignment.  They found a book about Amelia Earhart in the adult section of the library and read it there before heading to Starbucks to write the first draft of the essay.  What surprised this great mom was how, just by taking her daughter out of the daily routine of doing these types of assignments at home and letting her work at the library and then at a place like Starbucks, her daughter was not a bit reluctant to read or write and finished it in record time and with pride.  Great work, mom!

And another good idea – I’m listening…

When my wife and I were young parents, my aunt told us to always remember that we are, every day, raising our kids to leave home.  “Don’t EVER forget that,” she said.  She was reminding us that we are teaching our children what it will be like to live on their own someday, to have friends and family and finances and houses and yards and stress and arguments and love, etc.  We haven’t forget her priceless advice and it has made a world of difference in how we are parenting all three of our children.  An education professor once told me the best advice she ever received about working with young children when they are especially energetic and need some reigning in, “Keep all your wits about you and sit on the floor!”  I have never forgotten that wisdom and it indeed works very well.

These are just a few of the little things families out there are doing as they work hard to encourage and care for their children, things that do pay great dividends in helping them grow up and become thinkers and givers and maybe even parents themselves one day.  In a way, they are very simple things that take no more than a little extra time (if any at all in some cases) but they seem to have truly far-reaching consequences.

And that sounds to me like something worth listening for…

P.S. Below is a picture of Charlie Joe Jackson, an intriguing character by author Tommy Greenwald who could be really helpful at your house too, not in just coping with but celebrating reluctant readers.  The “Tips for Reading (if You Must)” list alone is priceless.  Click on Charlie’s picture to go straight to the website:

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Think out loud here