Pastor Rick was camping with his family at the lake, taking some well-deserved vacation time. One morning, as they were getting ready to go fishing, Rick walked along the dock toward the boat with his arms full of gear, stumbled on a loose board, and lost his balance. As he was flailing around to avoid falling in the water, his cell phone popped from his pocket and plopped into the lake.
For a good half-hour, Rick and other family members dove in to find his phone, but it was no use. They finally gave up and went on with the day’s plans. Rick tried to put it behind him and have a good time, but he couldn’t relax—he just couldn’t get over losing his cell phone like that.
That night as Rick was getting the kids ready for bed, you can guess what happened. His 10-year-old son said, “Dad, I’m sure glad you lost your phone today.”
Rick was shocked. “Why, son?”
“Because if you hadn’t, you would have been looking at it all day.”
Now, Rick’s first thought was, That isn’t true. He just needed to be available if someone needed him or in case something urgent came up at the church. But then he realized the deeper message. Whether it was true or not, Rick’s son perceived that sometimes his father’s cell phone and work responsibilities were more important than he was. Ouch.
There are all kinds of lessons here on how to be a good dad, but let’s camp on just two.
First, sometimes we have to put aside the urgent in favor of what’s more important. We can easily get into the habit of letting our smartphones or our work schedules rule our lives—at the expense of investing in our families. Taking a deliberate timeout or vacation from electronic media is something we need to do for ourselves and to demonstrate to our children that it can be done.
And second, we need to remember the importance of focused attention. Of course Rick cares more about his son than his job. But the boy didn’t know that! Said another way, the time we spend with our kids needs to be spent with our kids.
We’ve trained ourselves to multitask so we can get more done every day. That’s great at work, but it isn’t usually a good idea at home. Do you ever catch yourself asking your daughter about her day while scanning your smartphone or tablet—and eating dinner—with the evening news on?
Dad, don’t wait until your cell phone is at the bottom of a lake. Make sure your kids know they are a priority in your life. And prove it with regular doses of undivided, unplugged, and uninterrupted attention.
Get more great fathering advice in It's Great Being a Dad.