I learned a hard lesson this week.
My wife signed our kids up for swim lessons, the traditional summer activity that most kids really embrace. We knew it was much needed since we now live in Florida and love to frequent the pool and the ocean. There is water everywhere here, including the canal with gators in our backyard. We need to be prepared to swim. Fast.
I knew our seven year old would have a blast, but I was really curious to see how our three year old would handle the challenge. I couldn’t help but think that he may have some elevated fears lingering in the back of his mind because of some of the challenges of his early little life.
So I decided to join them for their first lesson, putting some work on the back burner in order to make it happen.
It was fun.
We met some great people and really enjoyed watching the 30 minute lesson. Our three year old performed pretty well under pressure until he decided to quit. After going all the way under the water with his swim coach for the very first time, he quickly pulled his really stylish headband off, walked out of the pool and over to me to tell me, “All Dumb”. I understood what he was trying to say, but it still made me crack up. I think the fact that his class consisted of he and four other little girls helped him to work out those first day jitters.
It was the following day where the hard lesson was learned.
It was late afternoon and almost time for their second day of swim lessons. I planned to continue working while they were away. I work out of our house most of the time, so I saw the opportunity for complete silence. I could get some much needed work done. So when my seven year old daughter came to me and asked if I was coming to watch, I told her, “I can’t, I have to work”. Immediately, she took off for her bedroom with tears streaming down her face. This wasn’t just the everyday drama of the life of a seven year old. This was something more.
Unknowingly, I had just made my “work” more important than her and I knew that this dad had just hurt his daughter’s heart.
She is so passionate about swimming right now. It’s important to her. This is a girl who wakes up in the morning ready to swim. She talks about it the entire day. And when she gets to the pool, she is laser focused on her coach, trying to learn and become the next little Phelps. Physically and mentally, she has the makings of a great future swimmer. And I just told her that it was more important for me to work than to watch her achieve something that was very important to her. It’s hard for parents to strike that balance. Many don’t have the option because of their work schedule.
As I sat there, knowing that I really needed to get some work done, I reflected back to my days as a kid. I was extremely passionate about baseball. I would literally cry when it rained because I wanted to play SO bad. I thought about how I was always able to brag that one of my parents was always present at my baseball games. Every season. Every traveling team. Every game. Presence and priority.
The one time in my entire ten year career that they were not able to make it, they just happened to be out of the country.
I guess I’ll let that one slide.
At the same time, they made sure that my older brother was at that game. That’s what families do. They support each other. By the way, I pitched a three hitter that game.
After my short walk down memory lane, I put my computer down and met my daughter in the kitchen to let her know that I was going to go to her swim practice because she was more important to me than my work. You should have seen the smile on her face. Her response was, “Really? I’m more important to you than work?”. You bet you are.
Presence and priority.
I learned a hard, but good lesson that day. I just needed a moment of reflection to be reminded what others had done for me when I was a kid. Now it was my job to make the effort to be present and build that legacy for my kids.
I was fortunate to have great support from my family when I was growing up. I intend to pass on that legacy. I know I will mess up along the way as I have plenty of times in the past. But, I’m so blessed to have the opportunity to attempt to be a father who makes this life count. I pray that my children will look back on their lives when they are raising their children and be reminded each Mother/Father’s Day that their parents intentionally made their personal acheivements a priority over their work.
There will always be more work to be done.
But life is short. And in the end we won’t be saying good bye to all of our stuff.
It will be our loved ones who will gather around us to share those last moments with us. And we’ll reflect on life.
My family has made some great sacrifices to make children without parents a priority because we think they are worth it. And we believe that we have some incredible solutions to offer. They need our presence. They need to be a priority. We are reflecting on our own orphan care ministry during this season of emphasis for fathers.
As we consider those without fathers, could I ask you to take ONE action step this week to help make a difference for children in foster care and orphans globally?
1. Pray for the ministry of Patch Our Planet to gain momentum, support, and access into churches, denominations, networks, etc.
2. Tell your local church & those within your influence about the vital orphan care resources that Patch Our Planet offers (see on-site training and online resources) and support them if they already have a ministry established.
3. Ask your church to support the ministry of Patch Our Planet with a one time gift or monthly support. We are a faith-based ministry which means we solely rely upon donations. We need roughly $6,500 month to meet our entire budget (including travel, administration, producing resources, special projects, conferences, etc.). Every gift counts. Having a broad base of support will enable us to stay laser focused on our goals and will keep us from spending enormous amounts of time/energy fund-raising.
4. Pray for our family. The faith-filled journey is one that we embrace and are called too. It has, at times, also put some incredible stresses on our family. So we would appreciate your prayers for Steve, Renee, Rachel and Judah on this great journey. Thank you!
Happy Father’s Day from the work-in-progress dad,Steve Gillis Founder | Exec. Director www.patchourplanet.org