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In your time as a dad, I’ve got to think that you’ve had a, “Yep, that just happened” moment. You know what I’m talking about. Everything is going along just as you planned, and then, all of a sudden, something crazy happens (most often because of one of your children) and you stand there shocked, thinking, “Yep, that just happened.”
Well, I recently had one of those moments. I’ll paint the picture for you. My wife’s parents, who for the record I dearly love, were visiting for a week. It was the last day, and on the way to the airport, we thought we would go for a quick hike at one of our favorite places. The whole family, including my wife two sons, Jack and Sam, were along for the ride.
We arrived at our destination and began the unloading and sunscreen application process. As we were walking in the parking area to the trailhead, I noticed that my oldest son, Jack, threw a rock. As I was about to point out that it wasn’t a good idea, I noticed out of the corner of my eye that my youngest, Sam, was beginning his throwing motion for a rock of his own. I began the process of mouthing the word, “Noooooooo,” but it was too late.
The next thing I heard was a very loud popping sound. It was such a random sound that I remember thinking that I was glad we didn’t have anything to do with it. However, I remembered that my son, who has a pretty good arm I might add, had just thrown a rock. Then, I noticed that the back glass of a car was busted out with two young kids sitting in the backseat.
My next thought: “Yep, that just happened.”
After an awkward conversation with the car owner, who thought he might need to call the cops, and cutting myself cleaning up the glass, we went on our hike. I told the family to go on ahead and that I would join them. Just needed a little space. On our hike, my father in law wondered if there was a blog that might be written out of this situation. Didn’t find that very amusing in the moment, but I guess it’s a little funny now.
Here’s my question for you. How do you react to things like that?
I usually get pretty quiet and go into “get it done mode”. In this situation, there were two big issues happening at once that needed to be dealt with: one, the shattered glass and, two, my son making a very poor decision. The most immediate need was making sure the kids were okay in the backseat and that the owner of the car had the info he needed to make sure his car would be fixed, which only cost me $415. Ouch!
For Sam, although I wanted to go off on him, the quietness in me took over, and I just gave him the dad glare. I realized it was an accident, but man, what a poor and costly decision. I guess this was one of those teachable moments, and I took every opportunity to explain why throwing rocks wasn’t a good idea, and when I was hit with the big bill for the window, it gave me a chance to highlight financial issues. All in all, I think he got it, and there’s not much I regret from my reaction to everything, although it might not have hurt me or Sam that my in-laws were there.
I wish I could say that I always react well to crisis situations or my kid’s poor decisions. It’s really easy to let my shock and anger take over where I say and do things that I regret. I think in this situation, creating some space really helped as well as trying to focus on the task at hand. It gave me a little perspective.
So, how do you typically react? And, what advice do you have for other dads faced with similar situations? I’ve got to think that dads of kids of all ages have been faced with the aftermath of poor decisions. Love to hear your thoughts as I know I can always learn from other dads that have been there.
Jackson Dunn (@FocusMarriage) is a contributor for Dad Matters and the Director of Marriage and Family Formation at Focus on the Family.
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