I take Charisse (my three year old little girl) on a date just about EVERY Saturday morning. (There are VERY few exceptions to this.) I’ve been doing this since she was about five months old and plan on doing it until Jesus takes me off of this planet! I’ve had a few people ask me about this recently in regards to why I began doing this and how I do it…so I will try to tackle those things in today’s post.
WHY DID I START DOING IT? Two main reasons…
#1 – I really do desire to be a major influence in my daughter’s life. I want her to feel like she can talk with me (even though I know there are times she will choose not to.) I want for her to feel connected, loved and special to me…and the ONLY way I can do that is by investing as much time into her as I can RIGHT NOW! I cannot wait until she is 8…or 10…or 14 and then try to move in and assert my authority. I’ve seen that go bad WAY too many times. I want her to reach her teenage years and be able to look back and see that I’ve always desired to spend quality time with her…and no matter how crazy/hectic our lives were I always MADE time to spend with just her. She probably won’t remember the heart necklace I bought her for Christmas this past year when she’s 12…but I am guessing she will remember our Saturday morning trips to the Waffle House…and it is my prayer she will treasure those times deeply.
#2 – I want to serve my wife. Let me be VERY clear about this…being a full time mother is exhausting!!! Lucretia (my wife) was sick over Christmas and I had Charisse duty…it wore my butt out!! One of the things I see in full time mothers is that they are always tired…ALWAYS…because their job never ends, they don’t get to punch a clock and go home! They hardly ever have time to themselves. They hardly ever get to sleep in. They hardly ever have any time to relax. SO…early on I decided that I would do “date day” with Charisse not only for my daughter…but also for my wife. Saturday morning is her morning to sleep in…to relax…to read, go to the gym…WHATEVER she wants to do. Charisse and I are usually home by lunch time (because that is important to Lucretia)…but even then many times I try my best to prepare lunch for Charisse, thus trying to allow as much time to Lucretia to relax as possible.
Lucretia has told me on numerous occasions that me making “daddy date day” a priority communicates to her that I love her AND I value our family. Dads…like it or not, you can’t claim that you are truly loving and investing in the lives of your kids if you are devoting ZERO time to them.
HOW DO YOU DO IT?
Before I share my hows…let me be clear that this is something that has been in the process of developing over three years. You may can learn from this list but you really need to dive in and see what works best for you and your son/daughter…
#1 – I make the time a priority – I alluded to this earlier…but dads, if you are not intentional about it then it will never happen…no father “accidentally spends time with their kids!”
#2 – I acknowledge the awkwardness – I am just being honest, but Charisse is three and a half years old right now and it is just now getting to where it isn’t really weird. Seriously dads…it is awkward to sit with a one year old at Chic Fil A and watch them eat. You have NO IDEA what to talk about. You have NO IDEA what is going on in their minds. You can’t discuss current events with them. Dads…it’s weird…but it is SO worth you being willing to push through it because one day when they ARE able to have conversations you won’t be a stranger because you’ve always been there.
#3 – I do not allow ministry conversations to take place – When Charisse and I are out and about and spending time together I do not allow people to corner me and begin to talk to me about the church…EVER! Let me be very clear…I am a pit bull when it comes to protecting this time with my daughter and I do not EVER want her to feel second place to the church (that is how pastor’s kids wind up resenting the church!) I have literally had to tell people that I would love to chat with them about their question but that this isn’t the time because I am spending time with my little girl. Does that seem rude? I’m sure it does…but I’m either going to appear rude to the people with questions OR rude to my daughter…and I’m WAY more willing to offend others than offend her!
One more thing on this…we ALWAYS speak to people on our date if they chat with us. AND…Charisse LOVES meeting new people and even loves hearing stories about what Jesus is doing in their lives. What I am saying is that I will not get into ministry discussions about the church with her there…it’s her time, no one else’s!
#4 – I do not talk on my cell phone – dads, sitting in a restaurant booth with your kid and talking on a cell phone with someone else is NOT spending time with your kid!
#5 – I let her pick the place (and the people!) – I will ask her where she wants to eat…and if she picks it then I would say at least 90% of the time we eat there. AND…sometimes we ask people to come along…but that is her decision as well. (Usually it is one of her friends with their daddy…OR it is some friends of the family whom she absolutely loves.) Once again…I do NOT schedule a ministry meeting and somehow believe because I had her trapped at a restaurant while I discussed an upcoming event for two hours qualifies as time well spent.
#6 – I do not play DVD’s in the car while we are on the way to our destination…we listen to the radio and sing together…OR we just talk. (We do use the DVD player on long trips…but never to medicate ourselves by producing silence in our kid so we don’t have to strive to fulfill Deuteronomy 6:4-7!)
Those are just a few of the why’s and how’s that have worked for me. I am nowhere near being the perfect dad; in fact, on most days I struggle in my mind with whether or not I am doing a good job. BUT…God’s call on my life is to be a follower of Him, Lucretia’s husband, Charisse’s dad and the senior pastor of NewSpring Church…IN THAT ORDER. It is a fight to keep those things in order…but one I am willing to fight so that when I leave this planet one day those who knew me the best would love (and miss) me the most.
Dads…don’t waste those early years with your kids…SEIZE THEM!!!