Coffee mugs, golf tees, and bad ties may top most lists of Father’s Day presents, but wouldn't it be wonderful if we actually got the fathers in our lives a gift they would cherish forever? One that made them (and everyone else) happier and healthier?
There is, and it’s called presence. These days, we all live overwired, overwhelmed, harried, and hurried. We are on 24/7, always available and always needed, with constant demands and distractions and always more to do. I know you feel it, and I imagine that you see it in your men, too.
As you think about a gift for Father’s Day, consider what you can do to help him unplug from all the demands and really plug back into those things that will light him up, the things that bring true joy. Gift cards are great, but consider the gift of presence—being fully present in his life and helping him be fully present in his own. And the effects may linger long after Sunday night.
Here is a game plan for the Father’s Day gift of presence:
1. Work backwards. Begin with the end in mind. What do you want him to say about the weekend? How would he respond Monday morning to the question, “What did your family do for you for Father’s Day?” What memories would you like to him to have five years from now? What do you need to do to create those?
2. Set him up for success. Block out the weekend. Don't let other people infringe on his special time. Run interference. Turn down invitations and prevent interruptions. Ask him if there is something special he wants to do. Fuel him for an outstanding Father’s Day by helping him get 8 hours of sleep and eating healthy meals rich in protein and abundant in veggies. Don't give him a weekend to-do list. Clear his plate of weekend responsibilities.
3. Disconnect to reconnect. This is a big one, and is a critical step in being present: disconnect. You may not be able to go phone- or screen-free the whole weekend, but try as hard as you can to really disconnect and unplug. Turn off ringers. Put away laptops and tablets. Stow all the screens and gadgets and everything that buzzes and beeps and says, “Pay attention to ME!” You can’t be unplugged and present if your smartphone is on your hand the whole time.
4. Think quality, not quantity. Think back to your greatest childhood memories. What created those magical moments? Invariably it was quality time, not quantity time. It was being fully present with the people you love. Well, it's ditto for dad. So carve out quality time together. Don't overthink activities or agendas, but think about ways to be fully present with one another, with undivided attention. Too much activity can get in the way of this. What if you planned a day with absolutely no agenda? Where no one had anything to do except be present with one another?
5. Simplify. Less is more, always. Resist the temptation to overschedule and overplan. Busy is not always best. Simplify your agenda, your menu, your demands. Scratch the extravagant adventures and complex meals. Plan his day to have a singular focus. Send him out for a bike ride with the kids (without his Blackberry). Plan a picnic. Go for a walk. The day doesn’t have to be a bright shiny adventure. Some of the greatest memories come from simple, heartfelt conversations, from just being together and doing "nothing." Don't try too hard.
6. Give him a time out. By that I mean let him do what he wants. If he wants alone time to watch the game without the kids around, let him have it. If he wants alone time to go look at tools at Sears, send him on his way. If he wants alone time to nap in the hammock in peace, let him have it. Let him be unplugged and present with himself.
7. Relive it. Sunday night, take time to ask him what was magical about the day. What were the most memorable moments? What did he like best? Where did he laugh the hardest? What stories do you want to remember to tell your kids? This might sound silly, but it’s actually a neurologically proven way to reinforce good feelings. Replaying what was great sends the memory deeper into his brain, and it gives you insight into how to make more days magical.
Fathers are overwired and overwhelmed just like the rest of us. Give him the gift of your presence and set him up so he is present in his own life. It truly is the greatest gift of all.
I'm a former 7th grade Science teacher turned stay-at-home mom that lives in Houston, Texas. I am married to my college sweetheart and have a beautiful daughter named Riley, who definitely keeps me on my toes! I am also involved in starting a small business which would both manufacture and sell an invention that I've patented, called Toothpaste 2 Go. I love interacting with my readers and hope to learn as much about you as you learn about me!