Growing up (and still today), my dad played (and continues to play) a variety of roles. Throughout my life growing up he modeled many parenting do’s and don’ts. I am sure each of you would say the same about your dad AND your mom, too. The list may be longer or shorter in one direction. No matter what, our own upbringing paves much of the way for our own parenting journey.
One of the greatest gifts that my father gave me was his consistent presence. Whether it was a softball practice or soccer game, school presentation or dance recital, I could count on looking out into the audience and seeing him there. He was never the yelling, screaming kind of dad…which I am deeply grateful for. He was just a quiet presence. He showed up in his athletic clothes or his business attire. But no matter what, he showed up.
Now don’t feel guilty if you cannot show up at every single thing that your child does or participates in. I know I have to tell myself this. It is simply reality. It is extremely difficult to near impossible if you are working, have multiple children or a whole litany of viable reasons to be at all your kids’ stuff. BUT do not lose heart. Here are some simple ways to still show up and show up WELL:
- Put your phone away. I know there are times it is simple not an option. But if it truly is that you are being a workaholic or scrolling through social media, put it to rest. If you are at your child’s event, be 100% at your child’s event not just physically but also mentally.
- Quick connect. Do not assume your child sees you. A quick knuckles through the dugout fence or intentional eye contact from the audience is enough. Just as your child loves to be seen, they need to see that you are there first.
- Pay attention. Even if you have that laser-focused athlete who has his/her eyes glued on the ball throughout the game, your child notices if you are paying attention or not. So don’t make a snack bar run when it’s your child’s turn to bat. It’s always fun to catch up with friends on the sideline, but don’t allow the conversation to take your eyes off of who you came to see. Again, don’t be distracted by the “ping” on your phone. Pay attention to why you are there.
- Specific affirmation after. I see far too many parents telling their child how they messed up after a game or performance. I’m pretty sure your child is fully aware of his/her foibles. Instead, express clearly what you saw your child do WELL. These positive words of affirmation will convey that you paid attention, saw them and encourage them. Go beyond, “Good game” and move towards “I really like how you are watching the ball every time it is pitched, ready to swing!”
Take it from someone whose dad showed up, not in a BIG over-the-top way but in a simple and silent way, your presence matters. Dad, show up and show up WELL for your kids.