Confessions of a Selfish Dad
My name is Mitch, and I'm selfish.
The level of my selfishness frustrates me, especially in my interactions with my children. I find I'm thinking about myself, my needs and even my stuff before my kids.
My oldest son was just over a year old. We had a picnic at a playground. We tromped around the equipment, slid down the slides, and climbed through tunnels. My wife had started back to the car to get all of our stuff unloaded (you know how it is with your first kid; you bring everything, always). Jack and I were slowly walking back to the car, when he tripped over his feet. His lip scraped on the sidewalk and blood started gushing everywhere.
Here, the good dad would scoop up his child and hold him close. He would calm and soothe the child on his shoulder.
Instead of cradling my hurting boy, I picked him up and held him at arm's-length. I rushed back to my wife at the car, holding my son in this insanely awkward position as his blood dripped on the ground.
Why would I choose not to cradle him when he needed me? I was afraid to get blood on my shirt. My shirt! How did I get hired for this gig anyway; valuing my clothes over the love my son needs?
A short time later, on a Father's Day weekend, I was working with him on a project for the grandpas. We picked up some bird houses and were painting them red with our hands. The project was fun and messy. Perhaps we bought the wrong kind of paint, or maybe it was just his sensitive skin, but as the paint started to dry, my son freaked out. He started crying and yelling for me to hold him. My wife rushed inside to fill up the tub (she's good like that). It was my job to transport him there. But he was covered in paint! I picked him up by the shoulders and held him out in front of me as I took him back to get cleaned up.
I mean, I certainly can't have paint on my clothes…(sarcasm)
Later that night, the voice in my head began to chastise me.
That's the second time, dummy. What kind of dad are you that you value your stuff over your own child? A shirt is easily replaced. That moment to comfort your child is not.
Ouch! A moment like that can change your heart. Mine certainly was.
Since then, I've added a couple more kids and they reap those benefits as well. Now, when they wake up covered in vomit, I'm not afraid to hold them and dry their tears. My clothes will wash. I'm intentional about those moments now. I've changed these emotional interactions with my kids. I want them to know they're more important than anything I own.
I'm not perfect. I'm still a selfish dad. My kids are forced to listen to podcasts when they ride in my car. And many times, my iPhone creeps into our family time. I'm working on those too.
I encourage you to look for an area in your life where you're favoring something over your kids. Even just one thing. Write it down or find another way to remember it, then watch for those moments when you have a choice between that one thing, and your child. Choose the child, and see what happens.