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Blog entry #1: Time
Written by: Dave Pettigrew






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As a young dad you are likely finding it hard to balance your time between things you have to do and things you want to do. Maybe you don't even think about it much; you are too busy dealing with the immediate issues of the day. Now consider this….pretty well every other person you interact with will ask for your time and will expect you to comply willingly if not happily. Your wife, your boss, your golfing buddy, maybe your church or charity, your parents and siblings - all of them will ask for your time. 
But your child? Well, starting with an infant they will not be asking for you specifically. And then as they get older they will become accustomed to the amount of time you have given to them in the past. 
Can you imagine having a great relationship with your child when they are older? It is difficult to picture your little toddler (or 5 year old or ?) as a teenager or young adult that you want to chat freely with. But if you stop to think about this I am certain you seriously would want a great relationship at that point. So….do you imagine when that relationship will begin? To develop a relationship, you need to spend time and, with your child, you need to spend time with them from day one. That great relationship will not just happen when your child turns a certain age. 
Now, your first reaction is likely that you already do spend time with your child. But I propose to you that there are two kinds of time you spend with your child….
1- putting in time
2- engaged time
You may have heard it said that nobody on his deathbed says that he wishes he had spent more time on his business, or on his golf game or whatever. I don't know if that is true but it does speak to the sense of regret we feel over misspent time on the wrong priorities. The song Cats in the Cradle by Harry Chapin should always be playing in your head. Not spending engaged time with your children will certainly (or should certainly) bother you. 
I'm sure I don't need to explain “putting in time”, but in order to hold you accountable I will give you some examples. 
Taking your child to Starbucks for one-on-one time where you are more interested in your emails or iPhone news app is putting in time. Next time you see a dad and child at a restaurant, watch their behaviour as though you were looking in a mirror.
Going with your child to the park where you spend your time chatting with the other dads is putting in time. This is an essential time for you to get down and get dirty with your child. Enjoy their exploring. 
Taking your child to a hockey game, or a movie, or sitting watching tv with them is borderline because you are together but experiencing this separately - unless there is some interaction or debrief. 
Taking your child to the pool or zoo or wherever is putting in time if you just hang back and watch them. Just like the park, you need to explore with them.
Here is an interesting comparison: could you get away with this level of engagement with your wife, boss or buddies? Don't short-change your child. 
Engaged time is where you get involved. If you are at the park, climb with them. If you are at Starbucks, talk to them about anything and everything. Rather than watch tv, go outside and throw a ball or ride a bike. Being engaged is actively seeing life through their eyes and, with your experience, helping them make sense of it all. 
And this needs to be done at their level, both intellectually and physically. That means explaining and engaging in words and with examples they can understand and relate to. And this should happen at their level physically. Get down on the floor, sit down on the ground, kneel down beside the bike, pick then up to your eye level - this is really important. The information is received and the relationship is enhanced to a greater degree if you are engaged at their level. 
So…..homework…...get ready for a lot of repetition. Depending on how old your tot is, you will need to carry more or less of the conversation. The younger they are, the harder it is to understand what they actually say. It will be really hard to stay focused on their level of activity and getting excited about the ump-teenth slide or swing or ball catch. But you have to do it. And for way longer than you thought you could endure. This week I would like you to carve out two half-hour evening blocks of outside play where you are swinging and climbing and crawling at their level. And Saturday morning, take them to the park and then out for a coffee or ice cream and be gone for at least 90 minutes. 
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