color outside the lines

How Dads Can Color Outside the Lines

Creativity, it turns out, is a natural gift. According to educational philosopher Sir Ken Robinson, almost all humans are born with a huge capacity for creativity. Then, over the years, our educational paradigms squash original thought, replacing it with a more assembly line, factory model approach to learning.

We live in a world beset with problems, yet our go-to responses as husbands and fathers too readily eschew creative thinking in favor of cultural convention – when, often, it’s those generally accepted practices that got us into the mess in the first place.

We’re not so much talking about throwing out conventional wisdom as recommending a heads-up stance that recognize the limitations of stereotypes  and that allows us to customize our families to the unique needs and circumstances that define us as real people. This is about being aware rather than defaulting to the status quo. So here’s how to enhance your life as a husband and a dad by learning how to color outside the lines:

Whose line is it?

First, and this is a huge starting point, ask the question, “Who exactly is drawing the lines I’m coloring between so carefully?” If it’s God, then okay. But if the lines you’re trying so hard to stay inside were actually sketched into place by the advertising industry, by someone you’re jealous of or by some set of cultural expectations that may well stand in conflict with who you really are, then take a long hard look.

Flip it:

Try making some work decisions based on your family rather than making family decisions based on what your job dictates. Maybe less time with the kids isn’t worth the extra money? Maybe affording a nicer car isn’t a great trade-off for missing another family event every week? Seriously, dad, you can’t make up for lost time.

Am I happy?

Take a personal inventory. Make a list of the ten things you value most in your life. The list will likely include your children, your wife, your faith, your home, your friends, and your community. Then make a list of the top ten things you spend your time attending to in an average week, excluding sleep. If the two lists fail to line up, ask yourself why. It turns out that the first key to success is in defining it.

What if?

Ask yourself some “what if” questions. What if I were a stay-at-home dad? What if I stopped arguing with people who disagree with me and spent more time listening to their point of view? What if we took the kids out of “select” sports and had dinner together as a family every night? What if we sold one of the cars, moved to a smaller house, cancelled cable and lived more simply?

Rewrite the story?

What if my wife and I made a conscious decision to rewrite the story of our life together based on decisions we make as one, rather than simply drifting along without really evaluating anything?

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Huddle up with your wife and ask, “What are some things we need to do differently?”


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