A personal mentor and father of five once said to me, “Jed, if there is one thing I wish I would have done differently in raising my five children, it is…”
I had called Dave after several months of struggling internally with my own glaring imperfections and inconsistencies as a father, hoping that he would offer me some nugget of insight or encouragement that would give me the endurance to keep running forward in this ultra-marathon of life we call parenthood.
Before I share how Dave finished his sentence, put yourself in the shoes of an empty-nest father and grandfather in his late sixties now looking back over the long, joyful, and sometimes painstaking road of rearing five children to maturity before sending them out into the world.
How would you answer the question if you were Dave?
What one thing would you do differently if you had it to do all over again? Would you spend less time at work and more time at home? Would you encourage more and correct less? Shout less and gently direct more? Would you slow down and listen to your children speak in order to hear not only their words but also their hearts? Would you dance more, laugh more, share more stories, hunt for more treasures, and gaze at more stars?
What would you do differently if you had it to do all over again?
Dave’s response might surprise you in the same way it surprised me, but I’m grateful he offered it because I’ve had the joy, for the last several years, of putting into practice his insight and wisdom.
Dave said, “If I could do it all over again, I would spend more money on my kids.”
Before you think his idea is crazy or illogical, please hear me. Dave wasn’t talking about spoiling our children or keeping them happy with gifts or buying their love or going into debt for stupid trinkets. It’s nothing like that.
Dave was talking about being willing to spend money to create adventure-packed experiences that help create lifelong memories for us fathers and our children.
According to Dave, there is no price tag on adventure.
And I can tell you now from my own experience that this is certainly true.
In response to that phone call, I immediately decided that we were going to heed Dave’s advice in spite of having very little monetary margin to invest in adventure.
One of the first choices I made was to introduce my children to snow skiing. Between snow gear, equipment, lessons, lift tickets and snacks from the lodge, I paid a pretty penny for adventure over the last five years. Here’s what I discovered. While skiing can be expensive, sharing stories on ski lifts, gliding down snow-covered mountains on crisp winter days, attempting death-defying jumps, laughing at each other’s hilarious wipeouts, and devouring hot apple cider and cinnamon donuts provided me with priceless and unforgettable memories of my kids.
Skiing is but one out of a hundred adventurous moments I’ve had the delight of sharing with my children thanks to the insight of a friend who gave me what I needed when I needed it the most.
He gave me the freedom to enjoy them!
There are few better ways to enjoy your children than by purposefully creating moments packed with adventure. So, whether it’s staying up late with my daughter and looking at the stars through her telescope, or spending the day body-boarding with my boys in the frigid Atlantic, or taking regular dad-dates with my girls to Starbucks, or buying a dog, or flying kites, or climbing mountains, or camping out in the back yard, we are surrounded by opportunities to build adventure into our relationships with our children.
Now, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that while paying for these things has been costly at times, I’ve been tempted to play it cheap. However, in spite of all the dollars I’ve spent on adventure, I can confidently say this.
If there is one thing I’m glad I’m doing, it is this. I’m spending money on my children.
I’m spending money joyfully because I now understand that one of the greatest joys in life comes by giving joy to those you love most.
Thank you, Dave.
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