absent dad

3 Ways to Become an Irrelevant Dad

“Just pull over here,” my 15-year-old daughter said as I pulled into the parking lot of her school. In this instance, “here” was not exactly at the front of the school. The people she was about to hang out with were over “there” and I was being told to park over “here.” This was an interesting first for me as a dad. I felt like I was left alone at the school lunch table.

As a dad, it can feel like you become more irrelevant as your kids get older. I hold out hope that with work and engagement, we can stay relevant as dads. But if we do these three things, we risk turning into absent dads. Here are 3 ways you can turn into an irrelevant dad.

Keep asking questions, being curious, and creating moments with your kids.

1. Live in the past.

If you follow sports, you know how hard it is for a team that wins the championship to come back the next year and win it all again. As your kids become more independent, it’s easy to make less of an effort as a dad. But if you rest on your past as a dad, you’ll lose the momentum you’ve created with your kid. How many times can you bring up “that one trip we took…?” At some point, you must create new memories. Your kids need you to keep doing the things that bring excitement—at any age. Keep asking questions, being curious, and creating moments with your kids. Your kids change all the time; live in the past and you set yourself up for irrelevancy.

2. Ignore your kid’s changes.

Your kids’ interests, likes, and behaviors will change. Your job as a dad is to notice the changes in your kids. If you don’t, you become irrelevant. My oldest daughter currently loves to wear band t-shirts. I caught her in my closet looking through my old shirts. I could’ve complained and drove her away. Instead, I complimented one of her recent shirt choices noting how I loved the band when I was in high school. This simple change in fashion has brought on new conversations about music likes and dislikes. If you aren’t paying attention, you’ll miss connecting points along the way. The more moments you miss, the more likely you are to be on the path to irrelevancy.

3. Forget your own passions.

As a younger dad, I got wrapped up in work and school and neglected some of my passions, like music, movies, and golf. While I don’t feel compelled to spend evenings and weekends on my own hobbies, as my kids age, I don’t have to say no to all of them. The trick is to share passions with your kids. You can create experiences and conversations around things you love and connect with your kids on those things. My oldest enjoys waking up early on Saturday morning and having a coffee run with me.

Don’t make being relevant complicated. What do you love? Share that thing with your kids. Do you love music? Take them to a concert. Do you enjoy golf? Before you ask your buddy about a tee time, take your kid instead and teach him or her about the game. When your kids see you love something and you’re willing to share it with them, it creates a connection that not only will keep you from irrelevance as a dad but may fuel a passion in your kids as well.

Sound off: How are you working to not become irrelevant as a dad?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What’s something you’re interested in right now that I don’t already know about?”