My youngest son is almost 6 months old. He smiles most of the time and is in that stage between rolling and crawling around on the floor. I try to get up close with him a lot each day and see how much I can make him laugh. The trick is to look him in the eyes and hold him very close; he loves that. He is always watching me.
Sometimes when he’s on my lap, he can get upset if I am not looking directly at him. He’ll be inches from my face, with one of my arms wrapped around him, but if I am looking at my phone, or another person, a book, or whatever, he begins to look like a man who has lost everything and will start to protest. He watches me the entire time we are in a room together. He smiles when I look at him, and he loses that smile if I look away for a moment.
My wife and I now have three children, and I’ve learned being present is important. But simply being near them is only part of what they need. Each of my kids has a need to know their dad is interested in them, that he is paying attention to them, and that they are loved. They need to see their busy pastor dad in front of them, more than just nearby, but engaging with them in their world. And they do. I made a conscious choice a few years ago that I would never be the guy on stage being honored for his “success” while wishing he could go back and give it up to spend time being a good husband and dad.
I am held accountable; my son is always watching me.