Communicating with Our Families

As I watched, Jesse, my next to youngest, pointed down the hallway and excitedly said, “beedsbuks.” However, as many times as he repeated it, I still didn’t understand what he meant. Then, finally, one of the older children translated it for me and said, “Dad, he wants you to read him some books.”

Soon thereafter, I had a conversation with Teri. She revealed that she thought I did not value her organizational abilities. I was truly shocked. I have been so appreciative of them and felt I conveyed that to her through the years. I was saddened at the idea she had not known of my sincere appreciation for her abilities in that area. What we have here is a failure to communicate.

As a husband and father, I often think of English as my “second language.” It’s not that I have some other language that I speak as my fluent native tongue (English actually is), but I can have such difficulty communicating what is on my heart. Is that ever a problem for you? It can be a real source of frustration for me, just like poor Jesse when he was doing his best to ask me to read him a book. He was giving it his all, but he was unsuccessful. The other children understood, even though I had not. So why not me?

I’m sure one reason is I don’t spend as much time around him as the others do. Sheer quantity of time around the people you want to communicate with is important. As dads, we are away from our families much of the time during the week. We miss a lot that goes on in the home, and as such, we are not as well “tuned in.” That affects both how effective we are in getting our message across and how well we hear what someone is really trying to tell us. I think the best cure for that is large doses of time. Not the lie of quality time, but time. I’ve known dads who say they have to go for quality, since quantity isn’t an option. I believe that is just an excuse to pacify their conscience. What our wives and children want is US to spend time with them. The less time we spend with them the more difficult it is to truly communicate, soul to soul, with them. There may be pleasant conversations, but they won’t be on a level that is necessary to keep a healthy marriage or strong bond with your children.

I’m sure another hindrance to communicating effectively is how observant I am. Am I really listening intently to what they are saying? Am I concentrating on what is being said, or am I thinking about some other project and giving only half-hearted attention? I’m guilty of that. I can look at them and even nod appropriately, giving the pretense of interest. God hates pretense, and it seems like I am always caught when I try it. It’s a good thing, too, or I would probably do it more often. In one passage in Jeremiah, God told him how He prefers unfaithful Israel over pretending Judah. “And yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah hath not turned unto me with her whole heart, but feignedly, saith the LORD. And the LORD said unto me, The backsliding Israel hath justified herself more than treacherous Judah” (Jeremiah 3:10-11). What a sobering thought when I am tempted to pretend.

Another problem is that often I don’t try to compensate for the differences. We are aware there are many differences between us, our wives, and our children. The politically correct will insist there are no differences between men and women. I wonder if “they” ever tried to discuss financial issues with someone of the opposite sex. Teri and I approach money matters from different perspectives. It’s difficult to explain, but somehow we can both arrive at the same conclusion from opposite directions.

Let either of us try to explain the route we took to get to the conclusion, and the other one is totally confused. I am not saying her route is wrong; it is just a different approach to getting there. I feel what is needed is understanding and patience: understanding in how we approach things differently and patience to be willing to answer questions and kindly explain.

The bottom line is that communication can be hard work. It takes time and effort. That is why Teri’s and my weekly dates are critical to avoiding roadblocks and helping her be most efficient in home educating. If you don’t have the weekly date habit (movies don’t count since talking through them would be difficult and certainly viewed as rude by others), I strongly encourage you to begin it. In regard to the children I think it is like the rules for locating a business. There the formula is location, location, location. With our children, I believe it to be time, time, and more time.

Posted in: Dad's Corner