Do this right now. Write down five things you’ll want your kids to remember about you when they talk about their dad 15 years from now. You don’t have to make it about “after you’re gone” since what you really care about is your relationship with your kids long term. Keep this list in your mind when you’re with your family. Use it to guide your actions and responses today to have a long-term effect.
My friend, John Badalement, author of The Modern Dad’s Dilemma, suggests that this type of exercise can be very productive for parents, especially men living complicated, stressful lives. While some shy away from the “to do list” element of such an exercise, for others it can be a good tool to make and keep a commitment to be more active with their kids.
We can’t always be great dads, but we can strive for what passes as greatness by yelling a little less often and loving a little more frequently. To give you an idea, here’s my list:
1. My dad never hit me and only yelled at me when he thought I was in danger. He was patient most of the time.
2. My dad loved to get down on the floor and play with me. He played games with us and taught us how to throw a ball and ride a bike.
3. My dad read me a bedtime story almost every night when I was a child.
4. My dad told me he loved me and that he was proud of me every day.
5. My dad was at every soccer game and concert.
The bar isn’t set that very high, but it’s amazing how hard it is to most of us to do these consistently. To be a “great dad,” you don’t have to be a “super dad,” whatever that is. But you do have to make time, show up and focus on your kids.