My daughter Anna's first spoken word was the name of a coffee shop we had visited together since she was a baby. "Tarbucks," Anna said, indicating that it was time for another outing with Dad, where we would sit in the comfy chairs and read kids' books while sipping chocolate milk. It's an odd first word, to be sure, but you can chalk it up as an unintended side effect of "Adventures With Dad."
We had just moved to a small town in central Michigan when my wife, Sarah, first suggested the idea of the adventures. Simply put, I was to take each of our two children on a weekly outing and afterward write a journal entry about each adventure. The goal: to help me individually connect with my kids, and to help my children grow in their walk with the Lord. That was seven years ago.
I now have four children, ages 3 to 10. I average one outing a month with each child. In recent weeks, I've gone caving with my oldest son, helped my 5-year-old girl shop for a replacement baby doll and assembled puzzles in an ice-cream shop with my youngest boy. There was also a very educational trip to Wal-Mart to help Anna select craft supplies. Did you know that crochet hooks and knitting needles come in different sizes arranged by letter and number? Apparently there are several kinds of yarn, too, depending on the project.
The adventures help me stay in touch with my kids' needs and interests. I chat about their favorite video games or websites. I listen to stories about bus rides and playground activities and struggles with schoolwork. I learn about the things they like, the things they dislike, the things they fear.
The adventure journals have become my most prized possession. Years of precious memories are inked in those pages. They represent a father's desire to connect with his children and give them meaningful, lasting memories.
Adventures With Dad continues to be the highlight of the week for the chosen child. The kids keep track (almost to a fault) of whose turn it is. It's on my calendar — every Tuesday. I don't schedule meetings or work late that day. The adventures are in our budget, and I plan for the details of each outing ahead of time.
These are precious years, and I will not watch idly as they slip by. I will affirm my unconditional love for my children. And even if the president calls some Tuesday night for my advice, he'll have to leave a message. I'm busy.