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Monday, September 10, 2012

The Art of Parenthood #2: Being Needed by Your Children through Daddy-Daughter Dates

Daddy-daughter camping dates are the perfect way to bond.
 "Daddy?" my 3-year-old daughter's frightened, trembling, needy voice pleaded with me to be there for her all with one simple word. Her hand touched my shoulder and I came out from under my covers with my headlamp shining in her face.

All the worry, concern, tiredness - everything - drained out of her voice when she knew I was there and awake.

"Oh," she said nonchalantly. "Why is the headlamp still on?"

We were on our first-ever Daddy-daughter camping date in Grand Teton National Park on Jackson Lake. It was 3:30 a.m. and the full moon shone overhead so brightly that I had woken up an hour earlier thinking it was predawn light coming into the tent. I was so alert thinking of impending morning that insomnia set in in a big way when I checked my clock and found out it was 2:30 a.m. So I had finally turned on my headlamp and started to read a book I had brought for just such an occasion.

But when her little hand touched my shoulder and I heard that wavering, higher-pitched-than-normal voice, I felt needed in a way I don't think I ever have before. It felt... good. Insanely good. I felt loved, appreciated, and even depended on. I knew had I not been there immediately for her, she would have burst into hysterics instead of calmly laying back down and falling instantly to sleep, which is precisely what she did when I told her I was just reading, tucked her back in, and kissed her goodnight.

Daddy-daughter camping also helped her feel needed, as I was
able to let her help gather kindling for our fire. She loved it.

Being needed may be the greatest thanks a parent ever receives. Had she awoken during our Daddy-daughter date crying for Mommy I would have been heartbroken. But she wanted me. Needed me. That is all the validation I ever need as a parent. And she made me laugh with her abrupt mood change, which made it all the richer.

The Daddy-daughter date came about because we have been having discipline issues lately with our son, 4. He is testing boundaries and really pressing us to see if we can make child-shaped holes in the wall. He began voicing to his mother recently how he feels like his only interactions with me were for discipline, and I could feel distance mounting because of it, as could my wife. I scheduled a Daddy-son camping date with him just to let him know that I love him, like to be with him, do things with him, and most importantly can do more with him than discipline.

We had a great time. We got doughnuts and other snacks from the store, we headed into the mountains, set up the tent together and he fell asleep as I read to him from a children's chapter book. The event brought us closer together and I can honestly say I haven't needed to discipline him as much since, although there have been plenty of bumps in the road. We are also more liable to play together again, something that was beginning to lack in our relationship as he did so many naughty things that could make Curious George blush. I'm now more of a necessity in my son's life since I took him camping.

So the Daddy-daughter date was a continuation of that. And boy did it ever work. Leading up to the camping with her after hearing of our son's experience, she would pump her fist and say "YES!" every time I told her it was almost time for Daddy-daughter date. After the fact, I feel closer to both my children after spending the night with them in the mountains. We laugh more together, they are more open to teasing sessions with me, and just enjoy being with me more than they have in a while.

Daddy-son camping helped build a relationship that had been
struggling through major obedience/discipline issues.
Of course it's a two-way road. I also feel more apt to want to do things with them, knowing now that they will be happy about it. Heck, my daughter has even been thanking Heavenly Father in her personal prayers for her Daddy-daughter date. There may be no better way than establishing one-on-one ties like this with children to truly establish a need- and love-based relationship, especially if things are faltering in the slightest. Try it for yourself and see, even if you don't camp. Just take your child to a movie, or to the park and really play with him or her. Certain doors can only open in a child's personality if you know where to find them. For me, I found doors in the mountains and forests, alone with my precious children.

1 comment:

  1. This is a very inspiring story. It feels so good to see dads who are very hands-on in taking care of their child. Seeing how a father guides and protects his own child is extremely gratifying. Your wife and children are very lucky to have you! Thank you for posting this one.