For the past two years, I have been working a job that has required a daily commute of roughly two hours, more or less. Over time, it has slowly worn on me, not to mention my cars. It not only has had its effects on me, but my wife and my son also feel the impact of my long absence.

I’ve written and lamented in the past on how crucial it is for fathers to be home with their families as much as they can, and I very much still stand in that favor of that position. The absence of the father in a home can be very noticeable if we just observe.

On days when I’m able to show up at home immediately following a day’s work and I get to interact with my wife and son, the family feels more stable and the evening has a better flow to it. If I come home but I don’t interact with them, I find the tension gets high, and so do frustration levels (understandably so).

Most noticeably is the change in my son’s behavior when I can get home and just play with my little guy. When I’m able to come home and get straight to playing, wrestling, rough-housing, or what have you, the evenings always go much smoother, my son is better behaved, and my wife is much happier and at ease and can relax a little.

In my own family, we have recognized how essential it is for me to get home and give my son my undivided attention and simply play with him. The difference in his behavior is night and day when I get to spend uninterrupted time with him versus when I don’t. Because of the noticeable difference and the desired result of a smoother evening, we’ve put rules in place where I put phones away and remove any other distractions for at least the first 30 minutes (or more) of my time in the evening and I focus entirely on my little boy. He has waited all day to see his ol’ man.  I’ve had to wait too.

When we take these measures as fathers to give of ourselves entirely to our wives and children and set aside things that call our attention, I find that we live lighter and more freely. By engaging in selfless play with our kiddos, we show them the love of the Father and give them the confidence and assurance they need that they are deeply a part of us, and that we love them in a way they cannot fully understand.

This, I believe, will dramatically affect the way they relate to our Heavenly Father. We dads here on earth have an opportunity to help our children engage in receiving the love of our Father. Many times, I have met Christians who speak incredibly highly of their fathers and how impactful that relationship was to receive the Divine Love. I have also heard the reverse, of how a poor relationship with a father (or lack thereof) has led to an abandonment of the Lord. What a beautiful opportunity for us, but also, how intimidating!

Playing with your child is a gift. Play is done not as a means but as an end unto itself; it’s done for the sake of itself. Playing with our children reminds us to let go and enjoy the gifts that the Lord has given us, namely our children. To hear the laughter of your child as you play-tackle him to the ground, is one of the finest treasures in our lives as fathers.

  • Phil Alcoceli

    “Without work it is impossible to have fun” (Saint Thomas Aquinas). What does this quote about work has to do with an article about fun with our children? Everything!! Here’s another from a Hispanic friend of mine. It’s a quote from a very lively song from late Tony Croatto, an Argentinian singer who fully adopted Puerto Rico’s culture: (translated from Spanish): “How beautiful is the love shared after hard work under the sun”. Another hard worker who lived this “hard work under the sun” blossoming into precious time for sweet love to children, even during war, was late Air force Tech. Sgt. John Chapman, who fought and died one of the most heroic deaths ever at the top of the cold mountain Takur Ghar in Afghanistan, fighting alone after being left for dead (temporarily knocked unconscious by the first of a total of seven shots on him), and hours later leaving his safe cover for a final sacrifice to protect the very forces about to land “to recover his body” and who were under RPG threat.

    In his most famous photo, he has a beautiful little Afghan girl on his lap. She has her cute little hands open over Chapman’s own hands, a sign of total trust. This trust is sacred and is cultivated with hard work, playing with our children, sacrificing for our wives and fully living for others, like Chapman, a real hero, being fully, humbly, joyfully and totally childlike, never a childish, leisure addicted “victim” (Matthew 18:3). Without sacrifice and selflessness there’s no real, total, heart tickling fun. Without those two principles there’s only many angry people swimming in lots of leisure, pleasure and entertainment. I will post that photo of Chapman on my wall to remind me of that sacred duty and trust that leads to fullness of joy. I invite you to do the same.