Being able to be present as a parent, on top of being one of the more important things when you’re with the kids, is also one of the harder things to do. Especially as the kids start heading into the four, five, six, seven, eight, age ranges where there’s a lot of imaginary play and they’re doing these things and you can easily just say, “Yeah, okay, uh huh” and placate them a little bit. Making yourself be in the situation and be present is huge. Your children will recognize if you are not paying attention and they will will respond often negatively. Plus if you don’t actually pay attention then you might say yes when they ask if it’s okay to stick their finger in the electric socket. Children recognize when you are paying attention and they feel that attention means love. It is one more way to provide security to your children and ensure that they are getting what they need from you most as a dad: attention, time and love.
Kevin: Tell me a little bit more about your kids.
Jeff: My son is six years old, or he will be six years old in a month. He’s a great kid. He’s a very fast learner, I mean to the point I’m like gosh how does he learn that stuff so quickly. He’s reading faster than I thought a child would actually read if you’re five. He’s reading words that a teenager might read which is great, and I think I owe a lot of that to the fact he’s been in daycare and to preschool and all that. With my mom moving out here, she’s a retired kindergarten teacher and she spent a lot of afternoons and a lot of weekends reading to him or helping to do a lot of “kindergarten-y” things when he was three or four. Plus my wife and I, we both have a philosophy that we both read to our children at night. We spend anywhere between a half hour and 45 minutes with usually one of our children putting them to bed and we usually read up to about three books. There might be a fourth book in there but there’s always three and I think it helps them to learn.
So my daughter, who’s four, is like the complete opposite of my son. He is the more anxious of our two. My daughter is totally opposite she’d be a skydiver right now if we’d let her. She loves to jump off things, she’s just crazy. She’s just turned 4 going on 14 like a lot of people say their daughters are. It’s a different world. It’s great. I like having both of them and the two different lifestyles are completely refreshing, you know, when putting them to sleep at night I get home from work my wife gets home, we get them, we all start eating dinner and usually about 7:30 after dinner, play time and all that, we split up. We each take one of the children opposite nights and we would take them upstairs to bed and read to them, spend some time with them alone after we’ve all spent a little family time. Sometimes it’s great and sometimes it’s hectic but that’s parenting and children so it all goes together. Makes life fun.
One thing we do is, we end up using our local library. For the new parents out there, go to the library because you’ll save your mind. I can’t read the same book over and over again. I mean there are some favorites but we go and we pull out 20 – 30 books every month from the library and it gives them something fresh to read. It gives the parents something new, so it doesn’t become monotonous and old. We’ve really used the library and if we really like the books then we’ll go buy them.
Kevin: What’s one of your favorite experiences that you’ve had with your kids?
Jeff: With my son it’s when he looks at me and says “daddy I really had a great time with you” and I got to take him down to a Phillies baseball game. We went down to a game, and had a great time. A storm hit and we were leaving and this ended up being the storm that was pretty much close to being a tornado in our area. It tore down about 15 or so trees in our yard. On the way home, my son was just terrified, this was not the greatest moment. This is not the greatest moment but I’ll get to that, so he’s just petrified of rainstorms, to begin with, so this just didn’t help. About a month later I got two tickets to go see what’s called The Flight Night for the Philadelphia Eagles. Two of the mom bloggers in my area ended up having some extra tickets and gave them over to me so we got to go down and I wrote a blog entry about that. It was really great just to see his eyes light up when we walked in the stadium and have him look up at me and say, “dad that was so awesome and so cool to do this.” Just knowing that he was over his fear of going back into Philadelphia, because of our experience with the rain and storm, meant a lot.
Real quick, with my daughter, every time you see her, she runs at you. A lot of parents love that when the kids yell, “Hey Daddy!” they’re running and they jump on you. She does it all the time and it’s great. I haven’t had as much time to do fun stuff solo with her yet, but I know that we’re going be starting to do that a lot and do the daddy/daughter, the mommy/son stuff.
Kevin: What are some of your favorite experiences, what’s some of your biggest successes as a parent?
Jeff: Just watching my kids grow and learning as they’re growing and being able to learn how to adapt basically. I’m still learning how to adapt and try not to go all crazy when the kids are getting crazy. My wife and I are both attempting to do that. Like I said, we both work and stuff so trying to stay focused and be there, it is a success to me.