How to be a Great Dad – Building a Legacy
All of us experienced a unique upbringing. Many of us had a mixture of good and not so good experiences growing up. Whatever your personal story, you had an experience. And that experience plays a large part in how you act in marriage, at work, and in life.
When I got married I realized how much my own family background effected by marriage. The way I navigate conflict. The way I give and receive affection. I learned both positive and negative ways of relating from my parents.
My wife and I realized that we had very different experiences growing up. We both had things we really loved about our families. And we both had ideas on how to do things differently and make a new “normal” for our little family.
Now that I’m a dad (and loving it), I’m eager to create this new “normal” with my wife and our daughter. I’m excited about giving her the kind of parenting I want her to experience. The kind of memories I want her to have. I want to her to have the best life possible on this earth.
As I reflect on these things, I’m impressed with one singular truth – I am the architect of my family life. I will take from the materials of my past, both positive and negative, and build a new future. My wife and I will decide what materials we choose to build with. Our little family will look the way we want it to look.
While thinking about being the architects of our family, I’m resolved to build with the best materials possible. I want to ensure our family embodies something remarkable that our children will want to keep alive for generations to come. Here’s a pic of my little princess and I gazing at wildflowers.
Start with Love
First, the foundation upon which we build is love. All other facets of our family “building” depend on this one relational material. Love comes first. Not making money. And trust me – I live in Dallas. The temptation to measure my success by my money surrounds me each day. If the motto of Austin Texas is “Keep Austin Weird” the motto for Dallas could be “Keep Dallas Pretentious.”
But money can’t buy love. I’d rather be a happy middle class American than a miserable billionaire with broken relationships. Securing a loving family environment means more than anything else because without that, life really isn’t worth living.
If I love my wife well, she and I will enjoy our marriage. If I love my wife well, she will naturally respect me and want to love me back. If I love my wife well, my daughter will see what it looks like for a man to love a woman properly – with gentle, passionate, present, love. And she will look for that kind of love in her future husband. From love flows joy, harmony, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, and many other virtues we need in this life. Love is the fountain from which flows the streams of health, stability, and goodness.
Second, we want to build into our family with time. Time together. Time laughing. Time talking. Time praying together and sharing thoughts about our Christian values. Time talking about our joys and fears. Time walking to the park together.
We will build upon love with time together. Being present with one another. Not sitting in the same room, yet distracted by social media. Don’t get me started on that. But time engaging with one another. Actually talking. Or playing. Or doing something creative together. I’ll resist the common theme of Dad’s who don’t make time for their wives and children. Either because they don’t like their wives any more, or because they want to spend long hours at the office to “provide” financially for their family. But what are they really providing?
If your family could pick between the things you can give them, or giving them more of you – they would pick you. Children need a present mom and dad more than a present from mom and dad. Gifts can’t replace the giver.
Presence is essential. Having grown up with a single parent, I know what it’s like to grow up without one parent around. I’ve chosen to learn from the negative aspects of that experience and commit to one thing – presence. You can’t put a price tag on presence.Children need a present mom and dad more than a present from mom and dad. #family Click To Tweet
Third, we want to build upon the foundation of love with time, presence, and joy. Yes, joy. Not as something delivered to your doorstep in the mornings, but something we create. Not something that happens to us, but something we make happen with intentional practice.
Just this morning my wife put on the song “Happy” by Pharrell Williams. My toddler of a daughter started dancing around. We all laughed and clapped. Joy resulted from doing something. I plan on creating a family environment where joy gets cultivated weekly. Here’s a few ways to cultivate more joy:
- Tell a funny story
- Watch a funny video of pets
- Play “Happy” and dance in the kitchen while cooking
- Lighten up!
- Share a good memory of a family outing or experience
- Stay positive (negativity is weakness of character)
- Build your own list of “joy creating” actions to take…
So to sum up: Love is the foundation for everything we do.
- Be Proactive
- Be Present
- Be Positive
Create the kind of family life you want and build a legacy worth repeating. We have the chance to take what we love about our families and include it in our own. And we can leave out what we want to do differently. The “new normal” is the ideal vision of family life we hope to build. And we build into it one brick at a time.
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