I Wish My Daddy Were a Dog


Greg Smalley discusses how we dads can be more present "in the moment" with our kids?

“Daddy, would you please play like you're a little doggie?”

For several months, these were the words that greeted me when I returned home from work. Instead of wanting me to play with her toys or read a book, my oldest daughter, Taylor, wanted me to get down on all fours and bark like a dog.

At first, I thought her request was cute. But as a psychologist, my concern slowly began to surface. Is this canine fixation normal? Should I consult a child therapist … or perhaps a veterinarian?

I thought about this for several weeks, and even asked other fathers if their children wanted them to be dogs. To my surprise, several dads relayed similar experiences. The situation continued to puzzle me until I picked Taylor up from day care one day. It was there that I discovered why Taylor wished I were a dog.

Walking into the day care, I heard several children laughing uncontrollably in the next room. The laughter was intoxicating, and I found myself smiling at the anticipation of learning what was so funny. Entering the playroom, I quickly understood the reason for their laughter. A small puppy was chasing Taylor until she fell to the ground. Once on her back, the puppy began licking Taylor until her face dripped with puppy saliva.

I enjoyed watching my daughter have so much fun. However, I also felt a strange sense of jealousy. Seeing the excitement in her eyes, I began to wonder if I made Taylor that happy when we played together. Suddenly, I found myself watching the puppy. What was the dog doing that Taylor enjoyed so much?

Like a ton of bricks hitting me on the head, I instantly understood a very important parenting principle. As they played, the puppy was completely focused on my daughter. The puppy wasn't thinking about other dogs or attacking the neighbor’s cat. Instead, the puppy had only one concern: playing with Taylor.

No wonder Taylor wished I were a dog. She wanted my undivided attention. It reminded me of the verse in Isaiah 28:23: “Listen and hear my voice; pay attention and hear what I say.” Taylor wanted to look into my eyes and find me totally focused on her—paying attention and hearing her voice. She didn't want to get just a few scattered minutes in between TV commercials, e-mails or completing household tasks. No, Taylor wanted to feel like the most important thing at that moment.

I don’t know about you, but this isn’t always easy for me. In the busyness of life, I seem to get distracted and focus on other things. Here are some ideas on how to be present in the moment with our kids:

• Set aside together time in your daily schedule. For example, if you need to go to the store, take your child with you. Make running errands part of “fun time” with you.
• Planned neglect: Temporarily ignore some of the work that needs to get done around the house and give that to your kids. 
• Play a board game or read a book together.
• Turn off the cell phone and the radio when you’re in the car and use that time to talk and connect. 
• Play the “high and low” game at the dinner table (what was the high of your day and what was the low of your day).
• Go for a walk.
• Create a new tradition. 
• Cook together.
• Go out for a special date night with Dad


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