In our family, Dad works hard. He works a full-time job, devotes many hours to his Church calling, makes repairs around the house, fixes the car, changes diapers, and is involved in a multitude of other activities. But does Dad ever have time to play?
When Dad comes home from work, the children exclaim, “Daddy’s home, Daddy’s home!” He comes in, hugs the children, and kisses his wife, but too often he sits down in his chair and is too tired to get up again. When we found that Dad’s busy schedule was allowing him less and less time and energy for family activities, we brainstormed ways to work around the problem. The following suggestions help our family stay close to Dad. Some ideas may apply to single-parent families, too.
Take time with each child. In our home it is always easier to promise to do something later than to do it right now. So instead of making and breaking a promise to play later, Dad schedules time every week to be with each of the children. That way, even if something comes up to change plans to play, the children don’t miss out on time with Dad. If a call comes from the elders quorum asking for help in moving a new family into the ward, Dad simply takes a child along with him. It may not be playing, but it can still be fun. They might stop on the way and have a doughnut and hot chocolate. When the time comes to take a break, they might go to a nearby park and have a picnic. Whether it’s work or play, just being with Dad is a treat in itself.
Cut down on television time. We found that even though watching television is relaxing, it doesn’t give us quality time as a family. We decided not to watch television between the time Dad comes home from work and when the children go to bed. After we got used to having the television off, we were surprised at how much interaction we had as a family. We began communicating and feel closer to each other than we used to.
Plan surprise activities. If Dad comes home from work tired and worn out, falls into his chair, and doesn’t get up until dinner, we know it’s time to plan another surprise activity. We love to kidnap Dad when he leaves from work or steps out of the car at home and take him on a family outing. Our activity might be as simple as going to a park for a picnic dinner. Sometimes we make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, throw in a bag of chips, kidnap Dad, and drive to a local point of interest. Even though they aren’t elaborate, our activities are always fun and spontaneous—and Dad loves being the center of everyone’s kidnapping scheme.
Take time in the daytime. Some dads might work at night or have schedule obligations that make it hard to be with the family in the evening. If this is the case, Dad could spend time with the children in the daytime. After arranging with the child’s school, Dad could take one of the children to lunch. On a school holiday perhaps a child can spend some time with Dad at work so that when Dad needs to rest or have some time alone at home, the children will understand better why people get tired from working all day.
No matter what Dad does in his work, in his Church calling, or in his spare time, being a dad is a full-time job. By creatively planning ways to spend time together as a family, and by Dad’s scheduling time with individual members of the family, we have come to know each other better. And because we often sacrifice to be together, we have learned to love and appreciate each other more.