A recent radio ad encourages fathers to “take the time to be a dad” and a 15-second flurry lists ideas to help the connection. I’ve heard the ad three times now and its message is clear and worthwhile. Now I know you can’t list everything in 15 seconds, and the ad’s brevity speaks to both economics and attention spans. But within the suggested activities with an active bent, something struck me as suspiciously missing. While being with your kids is foremost, how you are with them matters.
I listened carefully the next time I heard the ad to make sure I had truly listened. What seemed missing to me within this list is: listen.
Listening is an “activity” worth the time and effort and is something we do throughout the lifespan of our children. And if we truly listen they will feel heard for, regardless of age, they are always telling us who they are. In listening they will feel “felt” as they breathe the psychological air of connection and trust.
As adults, we are good at solving problems, telling others what they “need” to do. We sure know how to keep our eyes on the task and make progress towards the goal. But that is not the stuff of relationships, not the heart of being a dad.
Listening is hard. And to truly listen, we must put aside our to-do lists, our need to be heard, our need to influence an outcome. We must put aside the story in our head and just be with them in this moment. No expectations other than to listen. A nod, a smile, a reflection and if you are truly engaged you start to notice that in not trying to influence, you truly influence in a way that is good and pure. And you, in this vulnerable position are influenced and become someone new as well.
Take the time to be a dad. Take the time to listen.