In my attempt to be a good dad, one of my biggest challenges over the years has been the task of being consistent. Then again, maybe that is one of our biggest challenges in life – period. We all have good intentions; to workout, to eat healthy, to save, to spend more time with our loved ones, but things happen. We get busy, distracted, tired, and before we know it, we’re hit and miss in many aspects of our lives, and often our kids suffer the most from our inconsistencies.
When my boys were very small, my wife and I struggled with different areas of inconsistency. She had a hard time holding three, small, adorable, chubby-faced boys accountable for their actions, and I had a hard time getting home to ensure I had enough time with those same chubby cherubs. We had to recognize, early on, that consistency in all aspects – from consequences for harmful actions to incorporating a nightly routine – was vital to our boys’ overall health and success. When children have loving boundaries and reliable routines, they tend to feel safe. And when we create lifestyles, or atmospheres, in which our children feel safe, they ultimately feel, and are, loved.
Sounds great, right? Sounds easy, right? Well, to the latter, I would have to say not so much. Our home was “trial and error central.” Though this may sound quite contradictory, in our endeavors to create consistency, we also had to remain flexible. For instance, it was far easier to be consistent with bedtime routines, when our sons were small. Once they entered the worlds of competitive sports, bands, clubs, youth groups, and even homework projects, we had to make adjustments. But, we worked hard to not throw the baby out with the bathwater. We simply had to get the baby a bigger tub.
At the core of our quest for consistency, was our desire for them to always sense the deep expression of our love for them, in both good and bad times. My wife knocked this out of the park. She is your quintessential, doting mom. While I am far from a silent type, I was not as mushy in my overall expressions. What I learned is that this is not only pretty typical for dads, but it’s completely okay. Over the years, I discovered ways to consistently show my boys love and support in everything from (wordlessly) building with Legos to painting model cars. Again, without much small talk.
But, speaking of talking, who says moms have to do all the asking about the school day? My wife would laugh and say she peppered the boys with 100 questions after school and maybe received one answer, typically, “Uh-uh.” I found I often could make one little inquiry, and a generally quiet boy would talk for half an hour. I just had to be willing to ask, and then more importantly, be willing to listen . . . really listen!
Over the years, I’ve come to realize that intentional consistency is one of the greatest ways to show my boys that I deeply love them. As a matter of fact, now they are grown, it is not the blowout birthday parties or extravagant Christmas gifts my boys recall making them feel special, it was, and is, the fact that I was, and am, there for them. Never overestimate the temporal things we spend so much time and money trying to get and give; never underestimate what we give our children by consistently engaging in their everyday lives.