One of my friends gave me a long overdue wake-up call to play more with our kids recently. I was at a local park with our kids, along with my friend and his boys. We started playing some sort of Israeli version of “Tag” (at least what I understand the game to be) where one person has to touch one of the others playing the game, who then becomes “it”.
It was fun and it was different to what I usually do at the park with our kids. I tend to see an outing to the park as either an opportunity to crash in the open air and relax or follow our kids around on their bikes teaching them to ride. Running around dodging kids trying to grab me was actually a lot of fun, even though it also reminded me that I’m not as agile as I thought I was (I landed on my butt at least once).
As we were about to leave, my friend said to me:
You should play more often with your kids, they love it. I used to do it all the time with my boys.
At first, I was a bit taken aback. For one thing I didn’t think that I was one of those parents who didn’t play with my kids. Of course I did, didn’t I? When I thought about it I realised that I tend to resist playing with them for some or other reason. Usually it is because my idea of park downtime means emulating the trees rather than running, jumping and swinging with seemingly superhuman energy.
I also started to feel more than a little ashamed that I had failed to realise that my role as a Dad is to play with my kids, not just watch them play by themselves. I can be selfish when it comes to my downtime and this experience gave me an “when I am on my deathbed one day I won’t wish I spent less time playing with my kids and more time sitting on my butt on the sidelines” epiphany.
Our kids loved that I played with them, even if it was only for a short time. They really loved seeing their Dad try dodge them and fall down. It also felt pretty good to be more active (also helpful to keep my Diabetes under control too). I started feeling the need to get over my default laziness and play with them, at the very least to face my usual lethargy with some vigour.
I’m fortunate to have a few friends who are great Dads. They always seem to be so actively involved in their kids’ lives, doing stuff with them and making time for them. I have many moments when I feel like I can do so much better at this Dad thing than I have been. Our kids deserve a Dad who will play more with them and finding the balance in my life to give them what they deserve feels pretty challenging at times.
I remember thinking that marrying Gina in my early 30s was a good age because it meant that when we had kids, I’d still be young enough to keep up with them and play with them. Now, at 40, my body protests a bit more than it used to but I was right. I just have to get off my butt and start doing that.
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