A few days ago, I wrote about my eldest's son Simon's twelfth birthday in The Daily Scroll.
It's easy to be a dad. In fact, for many men, it's so easy that it can even happen by accident. However, being a good dad takes constant effort. It means putting in hours and hours of work outside of regular work hours. Being a good dad is hard. The continual renewal of one's commitment to the identity of the family man is crucial. It takes turning off screens, putting the phone away, and making what is important to them important to me. Being good at dadding takes being 100% present in the moment, not just superficially. It means finding the time to switch off even though our family income and project financing comes from our connection to the world outside of Guatemala.
I often feel I fall short on all those marks and want to write a bit about my relationship with my kids, specifically with Simon. As the oldest, he is the trailblazer for the rest of them. (Bless his heart.) .
So, his birthday.
As parents, Christina and I have a tradition of one of us taking our birthday boy or girl out on a special one-on-one date that day, either for breakfast or lunch. We reflect on the year gone by, write down goals for the one to come, and make a roadmap of the steps needed to achieve the goals. It was Christina's turn to do this with Simon for this birthday. She also asked him about the areas he felt we could improve as parents. Although he gave us both great "reviews," there was an area that stung to know he thought I could do better in.
"It's hard to talk to him about certain things." He told his mom over his birthday coffee. (Yes, she let the young man have a good strong cup of café de Guatemala with his dessert!)
Christina and I talked about the goals and conversation once the kids were in bed. Now more than ever, Simon, 12, needs to know that I WANT to spend my time with him. He needs to know that he is worth my time and has an opinion worth listening to.
Listening well does not have to mean that I agree with everything being said. There is no need to interrupt. There is no need to immediately correct. There is always time for that later. For me, establishing myself as a safe person to come to with problems is a priority in this day and age of social media, easy internet access, cyberbullying, etc.
Fathers and husbands know of the genuine possibility of children and wives taking something completely different away from a conversation or moment than they did. Miscommunication between people that speak and often feel differently is unfortunately very typical. It's all because of love languages. While one moment of good snuggling can fill one child's heart, others may just need some good old playtime or, for another, a good chat with a hot chocolate. It really depends on each child. We are all unique in our tastes, and we can all walk away from the same place feeling quite different.
As I slowly grow and mature as a father (and husband), I realize how invaluable those check-ins are after a conversation or experience.
"Are we on the same page?" "Did that fill your heart like it did mine? If not, what can I do for you?" Like I said, it's a lot of work but a well oiled machine is a happy machine.
A day or two after Simon's big day, we went on a hike with his brother Royal and another couple of friends of ours, Alliey and Jason. We have been doing a trek regularly that requires waking up at 3:30am to get to the summit before dawn. Drinking coffee and eating stale sweet bread while watching the sunrise after a very steep two-hour, 4:00am hike with my kids is pretty much the best way ever to start a day. The vast lake, volcanos (one erupting), cities, and towns scattered along the shoreline. We took it in and noted the wee boats cutting up and down the calm lake like little zippers. The worst, most taxing couple hours of early exercise rewarded in full. After a good "check-in" at the bottom, I think we all had a wonderful time with some good chats. Hopefully, much more of the same to follow.
Finally, in keeping to the theme of fatherhood and fatherly advice, I'm gonna leave just 4 pearls of wisdom. (From my grandfather, one from my father, from me, and another from my son. You do the guessing which came from where.)
You can't push a chain uphill.
Time is precious, don't waste it.
Better to be a smart feller than a fart smeller.
A well-oiled machine is a happy machine.
I am Owen Dargatz. A father of 5, husband to 1, so happy to be living this life here in Guatemala. We have a Daily Journal where we document small stories and short anecdotes during the weekdays. It's called The Daily Scroll, and we invite you to check it out! Also, please look into what we are doing as a family with the weekly kid's club. If that is something you can get behind financially, please click here! Even 5$ is a huge help, so what are you waiting for?!
A big thanks to everyone that is now part of this adventure, together we are little by little creating stability within this project. That is allowing us to focus more and more on the actual work beyond the fundraising!
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