I had a wonderful opportunity with my daughter the other day that I had to share because it put a lot of things into perspective. Working for a school district and being involved with education has many perks, one of them being the occasional days off. I am not counting summer months because I cannot think of a summer where I have not worked at least three or four days a week to keep the money coming in during my “summer vacation.” I am talking school holidays, in this case: Columbus Day. Before I had kids, I used these days as ultimate catch up days. I would either get caught up on the “honey do” list that has been growing and overflowing since the summer, or my golf game which comes and goes as my schedule allows. School holidays were perfect and I felt like I owned them because it was my time to get things done. This was one of the hardest changes I had to make when I had kids because these days turned from my catch up days into “Daddy Days.” Please don’t get me wrong, these new days are great and give me more time to spend with my crew. The adjustment of not having those days to myself was harder than I thought.
On this most recent Columbus Day, my oldest who is in 1st grade had the day off. My middle and youngest child still had school and instead of keeping everyone home, I had a Daddy Day with my daughter. I have done this in the past with my other two children and I find it really makes them feel special, having a day alone either dad (or mom.) It’s hard balancing the attention demands of three children and taking a few days like this goes far at building a great relationship with your child. Now the question was: What activities do I plan?
I am the type of person who needs to squeeze every second from every minute and have it be as productive as possible. Sounds fun, right? On these days, I usually drive myself nuts trying to figure out the best schedule and do as many things as possible. The danger with that, and I have experienced this first hand, is having a tired and exhausted child who does not want to do anything. This year, I took it down a few notches and remembered what my dad always said: “When in doubt, KISS it” (Keep It Simple, Stupid.) I figured my oldest would be perfect for this because she is very easy going and pretty much takes charge of anyone and anything around her.
We started the day off by heading to the barber shop and getting my haircut. At first I was reluctant to start our day like this, but my daughter was happy because she loves the lollipops that they give out. As I am sitting in the chair talking to the barber about nothing really in particular, my daughter is sitting in the chair next to me, reading her book and chiming into our conversation like a regular at the shop! When my cut is finished, she jumps from the chair and heads out the door eager for our next destination: Dunkin Doughnuts. We rarely get doughnuts in the house and I like to run out some early Saturday mornings and have them waiting for my crew when they wake up. As we are sitting in a booth that she picked out, I can’t get over the beaming smile on the chocolate covered face sitting across from me. After scarfing down two doughnuts and begging for more, we run back home for the next little test in my experiment: yard work. I have been avoiding this like the plague but just had to at least put in an hour outside doing some fall cleanup. My daughter’s reaction: “Yes! Can I help? Now let’s make sure we wear the right gloves, and I’ll get the rake…” I could not believe what I was hearing! In my mind, I was expecting the usual “Awwww, that’s boring” or “Do we have to?” We spent the next hour cleaning up the yard and having a great time. I don’t think my daughter stopped talking once during that hour! After getting cleaned up, our last activity was ready and one that was sure to please: going into the city to have lunch with mom. I knew my daughter would be excited to go, but something else made this simple trip unexpectedly a little more exciting . We live about 25 min outside of Philadelphia, and like any city, driving in and finding parking is a hassle and expensive. My wife and I usually take the train because it’s cheaper and the added benefit of not having to navigate through horrible traffic. When I told her we were heading into the city, she said “Hey Dad, let’s take the train! That would be a blast!” Now, I would have splurged for parking but it never occurred to me that a simple train ride would be fun for her. For my son, the Thomas the Train fan, definitely. I took the simplest thing for granted and what in my mind was going to be a quick trip in the city for lunch, turned into a three hour adventure that had my daughter skipping on the sidewalks in Philadelphia.
What’s the point of all this: never overlook the simple stuff. In most cases, kids want their lives simple and can make a game or adventure over the smallest of things. What we think is boring and routine, children view as the coolest thing in the world. I think most dads are aware of this but can lose sight and try to make things over complicated thinking they have to pull out all the bells and whistles in order for their kids to be happy. When in doubt, KISS it and things tend to work out fine.
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