Raising the White Flag

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Raising the White Flag

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Did you know there is a precise, meticulous way to place every piece of food-laden cutlery into your dishwasher’s silverware basket? It’s true—according to my owner’s manual. Detailed instructions categorize utensils, assign them numbers and highlight optimum combinations for each little compartment.


Hmmmm … I suspect the person who wrote my dishwasher manual:

A. Does not (and never did) have children

B. Quite possibly lives in a remote mountain village and spends hours solving Sudoku puzzles.


Some days, opening the dishwasher door, pitching a spoon toward the back and not hear the clank of it hitting the bottom is a victory. YES!


Am I lazy? Not at all. I’m just a dad.


Most of my hours are invested in BEING a father and husband, rather than DOING stuff on a to-do list. And I can expect twists, turns and interruptions.  Even simple tasks like cleaning take longer. By the time our 11 month old has a snack, the kitchen looks like an M-80 went off in a box of Ritz Crackers.


Yet many of us dads write our own “Manual” with instructions as unrealistic as the one for my dishwasher:


“Let’s see, today I need to pray, read my Bible, invest in my wife, try to be more romantic, play with and teach the kids practical and spiritual life lessons, help with the housework, take care of the yard, wash the SUV, get in my workout, go to my small group, find a mentor and an accountability partner, make some time for friends, plan that mission trip, go mountain biking …”


Add to that the weekly “To-Do” and “Honey-Do” lists and you can probably accomplish everything by the time we all use flying cars.


One Saturday, my wife and I wrote out a master task/project list, to help us better manage our household. I think it was longer than the preamble to the Constitution and contained the same amount of man hours used to build the Golden Gate Bridge.  I could save a day by eliminating bathroom breaks and meals or hiring/training a chimp to mow.


If you’re like me, you live with this nagging feeling of always feeling behind. Something is always slipping: the car, the garage, the yard, the house, the budget, your body fat percentage …


So how do we get this all done – our own expectations and goals, our lists of “should do’s” and the “need to’s,” while caring for a family?


Get up earlier?


Stay up later?


Some nights by the time I’ve helped put the kids to bed I have the mental capacity to play the jaw harp.


Here’s what I’ve tried to do when trudging up the mountain of responsibilities.

I’ve arranged it in the helpful acrostic, “PLGSPRN!”:


- Pray … for wisdom and guidance


- Let Go … of expectations. Some things won’t get done. Some things won’t be as clean, tidy, or organized. This is a season.


- Get Creative … and combine some chores with family time. My 4 year old is my work buddy. He “helps” and we can still be together.


- See the Big Picture … Ultimately; my kids need a DAD a lot more than they need a clean car or fertilized lawn.


- Prioritize … What REALLY matters? God. Wife. Kids. Then the rest. (Bonus Tip: anything pressing to my wife should be pressing to me.)


-Rest … in the fact that I’ve done my best, and that’s all I can do.

And finally—

- Never pre-sort the dirty utensils. Seriously, who does that?


Here’s to getting things done—or not!


Patrick Dunn
 is a contributor for Dad Matters and the Senior Producer of TV and Webcasts at Focus on the Family. 

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  • --Patrick....your acronym will be so helpful. :)Thanks for your humor and insights.

  • --This was really helpful.  I'm not going to get to the end of my life and wish I had kept the garage more clean, or that I had spent more time on my hobbies.  My regrets are going to be that I didn't spend more time with my wife and kids, more time doing things that mean.