Growing up, my father was a very strong presence in our family’s life. But he was also very busy professionally as a family doctor. Self-employed with his own office for many years, he has always had long hours seeing patients and making hospital rounds daily, even on the weekends. He was constantly responding to late night and after-hour medical requests from his medical pager and cell phone. He was busy on the home front, doing constant home improvement projects inside the house and out in the yard.
He has always been very involved in his work and his home improvement projects but somehow it never felt like he was an absent father. He still was and is very present in our lives because the free time he did have was spent with us. He was almost always home for dinner and made a point to call the home phone daily and check in with the family. He was present at all the important events in our lives growing up, from birthdays to holidays. He also was there for many of the smaller everyday moments including sports games, church plays, family gatherings, and bedtime prayers.
Sports is a passion that my family shares and growing up that was something my Dad both wholeheartedly instilled and supported in us. I have many fond memories of him playing running bases with us in the front yard on warm summer nights, laughing with us over a game of knockout on the basketball court, and of course watching, and often coaching our games throughout the years.
On many weekend afternoons, we would gather our trusty gloves, bats and a bucket of balls and head out to the local baseball diamond to practicing hitting. Dad would pitch and we would take turns batting while the other siblings spread out in the field to catch fly balls. As a high school athlete himself, he had plenty of knowledge about correct techniques and enjoyed teaching us along our athletic journeys.
Even now, as young adults, we still enjoy watching sports events together with our Dad when we can and texting about our favorite teams’ big games when we can’t be together. It’s a shared interest that has brought us all closer over the years.
Not only did we spend many hours as kids improving our athletic game with Dad, but he also found time during his hectic schedule to ride our pet horses with us. With all five kids in tow, he and Mom would take us for Sunday bike rides and weekend camping trips, afternoon hikes and canoes rides.
He has been an inspiration to me, now as an adult with children of my own, on how to incorporate quality family time into a busy life. Making time for my kids is so important yet it doesn’t have to take every hour of my day for them to feel noticed and loved. The memories you can make as a parent can be of a high quality if you make the most of the family time you have and give your kids your full attention when you are able.
Finding something that your whole family enjoys like my family has found with sports, can be a way to increase engagement with your kids while still having time to do all the professional and physical tasks involved in being an adult. It doesn’t matter what you do or even how much time you spend doing it, what matters is that you do it together consistently.
The precious gift of presence over the years is one of the most necessary gifts you can give as a parent and it will make a lasting impression on your children. Trust me, I know.
Hannah Christensen is a work at home wife and mom sipping cups of coffee between folding loads of laundry. Most days, you can find her working from her home office with Disney princess music playing and two curly haired daughters singing their hearts out beside her. Her blog lovelylittlelives.com explores the ordinary beauty of daily family life.