Father and Child Play at the ParkA recent article in FamilyFun magazine asks the question “What Makes a Dad Fun?” The article itself (which is actually called My Fun Dad) is a follow-up to a previous month’s edition in which the editors asked kids to tell them – in words and drawings – about the fun they have with their dads.

As you might expect, the kids whose letters are featured have all sorts of answers but I found a not-so-surprising similarity in their answers.

The Grand Prize Winner was a 6-year-old from here in Austin named Rebekah Garza who says that her dad is teaching her how to play the guitar.

… “I like playing guitar because my family likes it. My dad says it’s in my genes. It’s fun because I know a lot, and he doesn’t make it so hard on me.”

It sounds to me like Rebekah’s father, Rick, has found that perfect balance between encouraging his daughter and still teaching her at the same time. Not only is Rebekah learning to play the guitar (at the age of 6, I might add) but she loves learning because her father is making it fun for her and spending what I can only assume is some really quality time with her.

We can learn a lot from what Rebekah wrote as well as what some of the other children wrote:

“I have fun with my dad when I work in the yard with him… I like it because I’m with my dad. He lets me do things all by myself and try things that I have not done before. We get to spend time alone together without anyone bothering us.” – Austin Connors, Age 8

“I love my daddy. We have fun together painting pictures… The most fun I have with my daddy is dressing up like cowboys and riding our horse, Fox.” – Braden Noah Mills, Age 5

“My dad is the most fun dad ever because he spends more time with us than other dads do…” – Reagan M. Shull, Age 9

“My dad’s name is David. He is very funny… He quits anything he is doing to skateboard with me… He cheers me on at swim meets and comes to watch me play tennis… He rushes home from work so he can come home and play with me…” – Kaala Puglisi, Age 7

“… I have so much fun with my stepdad building forts in the living room with blankets and pillows. We sing, tell jokes, and he even plays beauty shop with me when I beg!…” – Adia Chaney, Age 9

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the pattern in these letters. Every one of these daddies spends time with their children and plays with them and makes them feel special.

Take a minute to look at the things these children think are important:

  • working in the yard together
  • just spending time together alone
  • being allowed to try new things by themselves
  • painting pictures together
  • riding horses together
  • skateboarding together
  • showing up and cheering them on at athletic events
  • rushing home from work to play
  • building forts in the living room with pillows and blankets
  • singing and telling jokes together
  • playing beauty shop!

There isn’t a single thing on this list that involves spending vast amounts of money or even really going out of our way to do. These kids don’t want their daddies to buy them expensive toys and take them to theme parks or exotic locations around the world – they want daddy to spend time with them and play with them and just be there for them.

Jason has some excellent points here so I decided to ask my boys the same question.  I was a little bit excited, a little bit scared, and a little bit apprehensive about what the answers might be.  To avoid embarrassment, I had my wife ask the question and record the answers.  Here are the responses unedited.  It may not all make sense but you will get the idea.

Matthew (Age 5) – I like to play with him.  He belongs with us.  He’s fun because he married Momma.  I like to play football and soccer ball.  We like to play Star Wars Legos.  He always beats me with more coins.  We like to watch movies and eat popcorn.  The park is fun.  My all time favorite is watching movies and eating popcorn.  Some times he’s silly.  He makes funny faces.

Andrew (Age 1) – Oouh… ay ya ya… de da da doo…  bah. (liberal translation: Everything Daddy does is fun.  Great answer son… great answer!)

My daughter, Makenzie, just turned two so she’s in a stage where her answer to everything is pretty much the same, but Jeff wanted me to ask her anyway so I did. The results weren’t surprising…

daddyjason: Is daddy fun?
Makenzie: yeah!
daddyjason: Do you like to spend time with daddy?
Makenzie: yeah!
daddyjason: What about daddy makes him fun?
Makenzie: yeah!

While we may not have gotten “perfect” answers from our kids, we did prove a point. All too often we parents, fathers especially maybe, get busy and caught up with work and all the other things we think we have to do and don’t take the time to just stop and enjoy our children. Even taking the time to ask them “silly” questions like Jeff and I did can result in some fun and memorable moments sometimes.

Some fathers try to make it up to their kids for being absent by buying them expensive presents and claiming they’re “just trying to give their children all the things they never had growing up,” but they aren’t really doing their children any favors. Kids don’t want things – not really; they want their daddy.

While this article is talking about the types of things that make daddies fun, the truth is those are the same things that make a father a daddy in the first place. That is, they’re the same qualities that make a man a good father to his children. When we’re talking about “bringing daddy back” this is a big part of what we’re talking about.

I think the whole point is best summed up by my favorite letter in the article. This letter is from Lexie Eaton, Age 6, and it says simply:

“My dad lets me reel in the fish even if he catches them.”