Apr 25, 2012

Dad's One Task, Do It Well

In time, I learned my kids
would let me pay them to
work around the house.
Great arrangement!
Today, I’m sharing what may be my low point as a father.  I write this with sadness and humiliation.  I hope some dads will "learn on my nickel" and do things very different.

Our first house had "problems".  It seems the foundation was affected by gravity, but the frame of the house was not.  They were growing apart.  Among several issues to address was the sinking floor beneath the alcove where the laundry machines sat.  I decided to add a new layer of concrete, raising the level of the floor back up close to where it had been five years earlier.

Saturday morning came, I put on my cruddiest clothes, filled the wheelbarrow with cement and water, and rolled it up into the garage just steps away from the laundry area.  I only had three feet of "no cement" zone between the garage door and the laundry.  The inevitable happened, plops of cement leaped out of the shovel and onto the tiled floor.  No worry, I’ll clean up later.

During this whole endeavor, my second son, then about 5 years old, was watching me in full ADHD mode.  I wanted to make this a quick and easy job, so I parked him on the steps to watch me work.

Suddenly, the "sit here" chip in his head broke.  He jumped up and streaked across my construction zone, scattering concrete widely including onto the new carpet in the family room where he was headed.  I shrieked, "Damn it, Noah!!"

That may have been the one time in over a quarter century of raising kids that I cursed in front of them, let alone at them.  I was mortified as soon as the words came out of my mouth.  I talked with my son, now 25, about this scene just the other day.  He doesn’t remember it.  For me, it was so recent the concrete has yet to dry.

What did I do wrong?  Well, yes, I cursed at one of my children.  Horrible.  I hope none of my readers ever do that.  But I think the larger problem is that I forgot my REAL task that day.

Dads, whether you are selling widgets, making gadgets, or fixing a hole in the Money Pit, YOUR JOB IS TO RAISE YOUR CHILDREN WELL.  That’s it.  Everything else is a distant second.  When I got up that Saturday morning, I failed to include my son in my work.  Yes, it would have taken longer and it may not turned out quite as well, but would you (would I!) rather have a confrontation with a child or a bonding moment?  I blew it – badly.

Over the years, probably sparked from this event, I’ve made a much larger point of including my kids in my work, both in my professional work and around the house.  Sometimes it takes some extra planning, but the results are so well worth it.  In America, April 26 (2012) is Take Your Child To Work Day.  I think organizing this nationally is silly and misses the point entirely.  EVERY DAY is Include Your Child In Your Work Day.

Dads, learn from me.  Slow down.  Review your job description.  Raise your children well.

Clark H Smith