Stay Still Squirrel…I Can Help! (Four Ways Fathers Can Convince Our Kids We Are Here to Help)

“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.“
Stephen Covey

It was a little after 3:00 A.M. and I needed to get out of bed. I decided to see if I could get comfortable in my recliner. Three pillows and a nice comforter later, I was nestled in pretty well.

No sooner was I settled, when I started hearing a scratching noise on the window screen not far from my head. I lay there with my eyes closed trying to make sense of how, whatever was doing the scratching, could get to the screen since the window was closed. It didn’t take long before I got my answer!

“It” suddenly lept from the screen and landed on my legs on top of the comforter. It was inside the house! I responded with some sort of “keep moving” kick and it ended up on the floor. I grabbed my phone to get some light and there on the floor was what looked to me to be a big mouse.

I’m not proud of it but my first reaction was to call out to my wife who was sleeping in the bed. I shouted to her that there was a mouse in the house and she turned on the light and got out of bed. I hope part of the reason I called her was that I am still nursing my new replacement hips a little and can’t really move that fast…I hope that is at least part of the reason I called out to her.

We both pursued the little intruder and it took off. It ran out of our bedroom and luckily found the stairs where it paused to catch its breath. That’s when we saw that it was a baby squirrel. That just seemed so much better than a big mouse and our mood lightened just a little. Still, I did not want that little furry thing crawling across my nose when I went back to sleep.

We pursued it downstairs and opened the doors to try and herd it out. No luck. We finally gave up after it found refuge in our fireplace. We went back upstairs careful to put a towel at the bottom of our kid’s door and ours.

There was no sign of it the next morning. In the afternoon we had a big group of people come over for lunch and we told them to be on the lookout for the squirrel. Sure enough, a little while later it appeared and it created a pretty funny scene. There were little kids and old people all trying to corner the poor creature. It ran frantically to get away from us going around us and underneath us to find a new hiding place. We had a mop and towels and tried to trap it as it scurried around our home.

It would disappear for a few minutes and then show up again and we would create the whole scene again with all of us shouting out locations and ideas for capturing it. If it only knew we were trying to help.

Finally we threw a towel over it and one of the ladies gathered it up and took it outside to the oak tree. We were all relieved. I am sure the squirrel was relieved also to be once again up in a tree. It would have been so much easier if somehow that squirrel understood our intentions.

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There are some lessons we can learn here on how we can help those that need our help but do not want it or understand our intentions. It happens all of the time, especially with our children. Here are a few ideas that may help fathers in this regard:

They need to know we love them.

This is the place where it must all start. If our children do not feel our love they will never have the confidence to trust us and know that we are looking out for their best interest. This seems like such a “no brainer” but sometimes we need to be more attentive to it. Our love becomes the cornerstone for trust and is something that is earned by our day to day interaction with our children. It is taking care of scraped knees and broken hearts. It is repairing and rebuilding confidence after disappointing trials. For most of us this comes natural but also for most of us, we can do a better job. Our busy personal and sometimes selfish lives are the greatest threat to this foundation of love and trust.

They need to know we will listen.

Love means time and concern and listening. When you get the urge to talk…stop yourself and just listen. Sometimes our natural desire to share our wisdom cuts short the listening process. Instead of asking questions and listening to and pondering their answers, we are too quick to add our direction to the mix which mutes and strangles the conversation. Instead of listening in return, our children turn us off. Perhaps it would be wise if you are lucky enough to have the chance to listen to one of your children’s troubles, to tell them that you would like to think about it and get back to them later. In other words, be slow to judge and extend the communication.

They need to know we have high expectations, but that we do not demand perfection.

We teach our children the difference between right and wrong and we are correct in doing so. Ultimately, our goal should be that our children learn the tools to be prepared to adequately make those decisions when we are not around. That skill set is not learned in a vacuum. It is learned by our children in the rough and tumble world we call life. They will make some mistakes just as we did. It’s okay for them to know we are human too.

Our job is to keep them reaching for the highest quality of decision making and standards while still allowing for the bumps and bruises that come along the way. Mothers are especially good at this. They tend to be more sensitive to the trials our children go through and more empathetic to the results. We would do well to mix a cocktail of motivation with forgiveness whenever we get in situations where are children have made bad choices…with a heavy dose of forgiveness.

They need to know that we are on the same team.

Knowing someone has your back and is on the same team or in the same foxhole as you is a great feeling. We need to provide that for our children. They need to understand that we are going to do whatever it takes to be there for them. We can study with them or exercise with them. We can cry with them and strategize with them. We can feel pain together. We can realize accomplishment together.

We need to be there with them as a wingman. Ultimately the challenges of life will be our children’s to beat. However, I for one want them to know that I am on their team and I am committed to their lives, on whichever road that takes us.

~~~~~~~

If I could have just convinced that squirrel that I was going to set it free, it would have been so much easier…but it would have taken so much more time. We did not have the time so we chased it from here to there scaring the poor thing to death. Our children are worth the time. We can accomplish the mission of preparing them and then “setting them free” by loving and listening, and by teaching, forgiving and working with them…and if that doesn’t work we can wake up our wives from their resting slumber and ask them to handle it. They will know what to do.

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