My Dad often traveled for his job when I was young. His work required a lot of speaking and out-of-town meetings. As a kid, though, I just knew Dad was gone and didn’t really know the reason why. Along the way Dad decided that enough was enough, and put a yearly limit on his overnight trips. Once he reached 100 scheduled nights away from home in one year, he capped it, and people would have to schedule things for the following years. As a national and even international speaker and writer this was a great career restriction not many would make, when the average for his peers was 150 or more nights away.
Even with that travel cap, I would of course miss Dad when he was gone. Mom was always there, rarely leaving town without me, and so for a kid it was hard to see why Dad would have to leave. It was hard to go to bed without Dad reading a story at night.
Being a nice little church kid my favorite book to have Dad read was The Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes. Dad knew this of course, and one day before a trip, he gave me a cassette tape. It had stories he had read from that book and recorded for me to listen to. Each night when he was away I would pop in the tape and listen to Dad read my favorite stories as I followed along in the book.
Now, I wasn’t a completely stupid kid, I knew that Dad wasn’t there. And it wasn’t better to have the tape than the “Dad-in-the-flesh.” Why did this mean so much to me as a child? As most parents know, kids can occupy themselves without our help even if we cancelled some business trip to L.A. to spend time with them. They might spend the whole weekend playing with their Barbies, G.I. Soldiers, Star Wars figures, Pokemon’ cards or some other incarnation of their senseless and exponentially expensive toys. Don’t they know that we sacrificed for this quality time?!
The principle is one of effort. Kids want to know that Dad is making the effort to be with them, love on them, and be proud of them. Children can read a Dad’s effort long before they can read words.
So, I want to hear from other Dads out there–or those that have watched Dad’s make the extra effort. What can we do as fathers to make an extra effort so our kids know we’re present in their lives, even if it’s just the sound of our voice when we’re away?