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Kids are pretty simple. They just want to know they are loved, that they matter, and that they are safe.

This week Pope Francis said, during one of his audiences, “Even as bishop of Buenos Aires, I warned of this sense of orphan-hood that children live today. And I regularly asked fathers if they played with their children; if they had the courage to have the love to waste time with their children. The answer wasn't good, eh! The majority would say: 'But, I can't because I have so much work to do…' And the father was absent from that child that was growing up and didn't play with him, he didn't waste time with him.”

He went on to say that when a father is absent, children at times are like “orphans but within the family.” “At times, it seems that fathers do not know well which place to occupy within the family and how to educate the children.”

Many teenagers that I have spoken to who shared their brokenness with me in the past would support Pope Francis in his piercing words. They feel like orphans within a family, living with fathers who are in their presence but never really present.

I took note of this widespread phenomenon and decided that I would not only marry a man who could commit to being a good husband, but who also showed evidence he had the ability to be a nurturing and present father. I had a present father and I wanted the same for my children. In marrying Doug, I hit the jackpot!

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I can share ways men can “waste time” with their children because I am a witness to it in my own home.

Here are five ways my husband “wastes time” with our children:

1. Breakfast Time: Each morning my husband serves our children their cereal and they sit at the counter chatting about nothing.

2. Snuggle Time: Every morning and often before bedtime my husband and children will sit on the couch and snuggle. No frills, no words, no fuss, just sitting close to each other and enjoying each other’s company.

3. Prayer Time: Before bed or sometimes in the morning Doug will read our children their Bible and the kids will ask him questions and he will listen and answer in a way they understand.

4. Play Time: My husband also tries to find time to wrestle with my son and be a dance partner to my daughter’s nightly ballet performances.

5. Off-line Time: Instead of surfing the Net on his phone, my husband tries to watch and affirm the things the children do during their own play to let them know he notices them and let them know that what they are doing is important.

I love that Pope Francis used the words “wasting time,” because to be a present dad doesn’t require anything fancy, planned, or thought-out. Kids are pretty simple. They just want to know they are loved, that they matter, and that they are safe. It is often the seemingly insignificant actions and activities that assure them of all these things.  

To conclude this blog, I solicited help from some Facebook friends who shared with me the ways they spend time with their kids, or their dads spent time with them that have left an imprint and brought them joy and fond memories. Here are thirty ideas for dads to “waste” time with their children.

1. Wrestling around with the kids
2. Playing catch in the backyard
3. Reading lots of story books
4. Teaching them to play an instrument
5. Memorize poems each week and recite them as a family
6. Sign up for a class together like martial arts or painting
7. Gardening together
8. Chasing around the house
9. Dancing to music
10. Go on a daddy-daughter or daddy-son date to spend time one-on-one
11. Camping or fishing
12. Praying or reading Scripture together
13. Swimming in the pool
14. Watching cartoons or a movie together
15. Making breakfast together
16. Shooting baskets together
17. Completing puzzles
18. Drawing or coloring  
19. Asking trivia questions
20. Making up stories and telling them
21. Conversing about a current event
22. Attending college sports games
23. Taking a road trip
24. Snow skiing together
25. Playing Ping-Pong or table games
26. Listening to music
27. Helping with homework
28. Building with Legos
29. Attending a concert together
30. Read the same book and talk about it

These are just a few of the endearing ways my Facebook friends’ or their fathers have engaged and inspired their children. What are ways your father “wasted time” with you?

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Melanie has spoken nationwide to thousands of people at many churches, schools and organizations about modesty, chastity, dignity of life issues, and marriage.  She has a Master’s Degree in Education: Curriculum and Instruction and is the Founder of Vera Bella Catholic Girls’ Formation Program and the Executive Director of the Foundation for Life and Love. She is the author of, The Day I Died, a book about her survival after suffering an amniotic fluid embolism. To help people send positive messages with their clothing, in 2002 she created a clothing line called “Refuge Clothing Co.” which has now dissolved into Shop Vera Bell.