My father has been gone, hard to believe, for over twenty years now. I still miss him and there are times when I reflect on and ponder the wonderful times we had together. Needless to say, my dad had a huge impact on my life. There were many things about him that I admired: his character, his devotion to his family, his ability to face adversity, his faith, his willingness to care for and help others; the list could go on and on. But when I think about how he impacted my life so deeply, I would have to say that his influence mostly came about from the times that we simply "hung out" together...
Dad, it seems, was always available for me. Some of the ways that I remember our "hanging out" together include: playing baseball, camping, playing golf, working in the yard, working on my go-cart, going to the "stock car" races, attending sports events, visiting about both serious and casual matters, having dinner, etc. (The list goes on and on.). I guess one way to say it is that he was always there.
I don't think I did as well with my children as my dad did with me. Working on my doctorate and pastoring a church gave me excuses for frequently being distracted. Still there were those times of connection and I believe both my son and daughter would say that some of the best times they remember were times when we were "hanging out" together. I think my son would say that it was when we went to play pool together (hanging out in the pool hall) that he especially felt close to me. (Almost every time he comes to visit us now he says, "Hey dad, let's go play pool!) My daughter would probably say "hanging out with me" at concerts and shopping malls were the times she most remembers most. Even today, as opportunities arise, she will say, "Dad, you want to go to the Mall?" I don't know why, but the discipline of "hanging out" together seems to be crucial in the bonding process.
I know there are many today who missed out on the blessing of having a wonderful relationship with their dads. I know there are many who have had abusive fathers, alcoholic fathers, absentee fathers, and critical fathers; and my heart truly goes out to those who have had to endure that type of experience with their dads. But for all who are striving to be better dads, grand-dads, step-dad's, and foster-dads; I would simply say: spend time with your kids. Hang out with them. Talk about what they want to talk about. Listen to what's on their mind and heart. Be there for them. In short, you don't have to be a perfect dad, you just need to be one who is available and attentive.
Dr. Allen Schneider is a United Methodist pastor and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist presently serving the Sapulpa and greater Tulsa communities.