It’s coming…You can feel it. Temperatures are rising, schools are ending and grills are going on sale. Summer is upon us and for those of us who have been through a few decades worth, we know how quickly it will come and go. So dads, don’t waste this summer. This season affords us opportunities that the rest of the year doesn’t but it also tempts us to squander even more than usual.
In an effort to be proactive and take the summer by the proverbial horns I have jotted down a few ideas that just may help us as dads not get burnt this season. So here are five summertime efforts to do with your kids.
Unplug em: Start your summer by going to the nearest body of water and having a game to see who can throw their device the farthest. Extra points if you skip a tablet more than twice. Ok, so I doubt there will be any takers on that one, but you don’t need scientific studies to tell us how much screen time is consuming our children. So before they download another app or play another video game, take a family walk in search of fireflies or design a board game of your own, that could be passed down for generations.
Have your children write handwritten letters to friends at school, a family that lives far away or even missionaries or soldiers serving abroad. In the sea of text messages and tweets, your child’s handwritten note will stand out like a fresh picked strawberry sitting on a bed of kale.
Read to them. Studies have shown that vocabulary, comprehension and an overall love of reading increase dramatically when parents read to their children. So invite Aslan, Christian, Nancy Drew or even Bilbo Baggins into your den this summer. You’ll be glad you did.
School em. This may sound anathema for summer vacation, but though the classroom may be over the learning never is. Summer gives us a great opportunity to instill a love for learning in areas that lose out during the busy school year. Teach your children to fish, to cook or how to read a compass. Use principles learned in the past year to do fun and fascinating activities. Use math to build a tree house or measure the ideal trajectory of a homerun. Write a bedtime story together as a family, having each family member contribute characters or twists in the plot. Whatever you do, make sure education is not the bad guy, from whom they’ve been gloriously freed only to be arrested once more in August.
Work em: The truth of the matter is that we were made to work, and the balance between work and play is rarely found in this modern age. For most of us, the struggle is not that our kids work too much, but that they expect to play more than they work. Summer gives us, as dads, the time and opportunity to instill work habits in ways that aren’t pure drudgery. It also allows us to work alongside our children more than during the school year.
My family is blessed to live at the coast and own a small boat that we can take out to fish or over to the barrier islands to play. The boat is a source of great enjoyment but also can be a great tool for work. Have them clean the boat when you are finished or mow the grass before a big wiffleball game. Discuss the concept of privileges and responsibilities and how the two go hand in hand. Pull up an old episode of Dirty Jobs and laugh while you talk about the value of doing dirty work.
Teach them the joy of working for others. During the school year, the brief breaks in the schedule are largely filled with to-do lists around our own homes, but summer gives us a greater chance to look to those around us. In our neighborhoods or in our communities, we have countless opportunities to serve others these next few months. Whatever you do, whether you take them to work with you some this summer or you labor together on a project after hours, be diligent to demonstrate that working is good and right and whatever we do, we should do it heartily and unto the Lord (Proverbs 13:4; 22:29; Colossians 3:23).
Enjoy em: All that being said, there is a time to play as well. Summers are in some measure the reward of a year of homework and study and as such should be enjoyable. So play with your kids and don’t act like it’s a colonoscopy. Learn to be (or at least appear to be) as excited to play as they are. Throw ball in the yard and jump on the trampoline. Go to a minor league ball park or find an air show nearby. Let them see that the same dad that pushes them to work hard, encourages them to play hard as well.
As Sinclair Ferguson once told a few of us young fathers,” tie as many strings to your children as you can.” Some of those strings can be golf or swimming or movies, but it gives you points of contact for the seasons when the more serious lines are down. There is nothing godly about being a curmudgeon. Kids are fun…enjoy them!
Disciple em: Let’s be clear. Our main responsibilities as fathers is not to play with our kids but to point them to Christ- to teach them to Love and Fear the Lord(Proverbs 1:7; Matthew 22:37). Summer is a great time for discipleship. Use the natural tendency to be outside more in the summer to discuss and delight in God’s creation. Design an achievable bible reading and memorization challenge while homework is hibernating.
Stay up really late and Skype a missionary while eating ice cream. Have Grilling Dad nights, where kids ask tough questions about life, philosophy and worldview and dad gives or promises to find the answers. Choose for some of your travel to be for the gospel. (Travel ball is in need of a break…try Travel missions instead). But whatever you do this summer, delight yourself in the LORD.