I absolutely love being a dad. I consider it one of the bigger parts of my identity. It's also where frustration breeds patience. It's where I practice unconditional love. See, when you have a two-and-a-half year old, this gets tested daily—maybe even hourly.
My absolute favorite part of the day is bed time. I leave my phone on my desk and am fully present so that my kids know I want to engage with them actively.
The other day I received a picture during the day that my wife sent of an incredible fort she had been laboring over for hours, only to have our hooligans knock it down every time it's set up. Needless to say, she was a little frustrated when I arrived home.
By the way, my kids love when I arrive home. It's one of the reasons leaving isn't incredibly difficult, but more like a delayed reward for me and for them.
So it gets to be about bedtime and I have the best idea..we can get a flashlight and read books in the new cave we made after we had eaten dinner. Brilliant! But toys were everywhere, so I told our Simon, "We can read books in the cave tonight if you pick up your toys first." Dead air. Still playing with his cars on the couch practicing his selective hearing skills. One more time..two more times..third time..silence. I walked over to him, stooped to his level and made sure he heard me this time with his eyes. Still nothing.
Finally after a little bit more exchange, it was time..the inevitable follow-through. I picked him up, carried him into his room, said goodnight and closed the door. At this point he bursts into tears—he didn't think I would do it.
I pause a minute for dramatics—then go in for a face to face talk, "If you want something, you have to do certain things like listen and follow directions. What did I ask you to do? What did you do instead? What do you want? What do you need to do in order to get to read books in the cave?"
As he gets older it's so much easier to communicate in-depth concepts like trust, discipline, and hard work, but actions are where we put those into practice, not just responding with, "I understand, Daddy."
He needs to trust that I will be true to what I said—that we would read books together in the cave—and he needs to develop the discipline, hard work and character traits to reap that reward.