I know what you’re thinking. “7 Ways My Trip to Jamaica Made Me a Better Parent……blah blah blah! Of course it would! Fun, sun and no kids for a week! Sign me up and I’ll become Michael Landon from Little House on the Prairie.
Well, yes, that much is true, but no its not one of the reasons I’ll detail here.
I’ll start from the beginning.
A few months ago I signed up at the church I attend to be part of a men’s short term missions team that would travel to Jamaica this past January. It was an opportunity to give my time for a great cause.
A retired Jamaican man who lived in Canada felt he wanted to help the young people in his small little known Jamaica town named Tweedside. When finished high school, most teenagers in the area pretty much have nothing to do.
Unlike here in Canada, many of them cannot afford post secondary education and don’t really have access to grants or loans.
Cartland Palmer, the retired Jamaican man, founded The Project of Hope Skills Centre, a school dedicated to helping and training kids in the remote area of Jamaica develop skids that will someday assist them in building careers for themselves.
It was a great undertaking, but in the last ten years the project has come along way. There’s more to be done with finishing the work in its entirety, but as of right now the school has been fully functional for several years and has had many successful graduating classes.
Coming down this year, as a team our job was to help complete the work of the school’s fellowship hall. It would be a place for them to hold functions such as graduations, concerts and so forth.
Our specific task for the week we arrived was to level and tile several thousand square feet of floor space. It was a daunting task, but nonetheless, we were up for the challenge. That doesn’t necessarily mean we were ready for it…..okay, okay, I wasn’t ready for it! Not even close!
Our main job was to mix cement. I know that doesn’t sound like much, but it was backbreaking labour. Trust me, this was no vacation!
There we many other construction related tasks we had to do for 4 straight days. We basically woke up, ate breakfast, went to work, had lunch, worked some more hours, ate dinner, went to bed and woke up to do it all over again.
Yes, I know, it doesn’t sound much different than parenthood. The similarities are intriguing. But in many ways, I’m a better man for it. A better dad, too! Going back to visit the place of my roots (my parents are Jamaican) made me reconnect with the land I didn’t know well.
1. The whole trip was about others and not me. Day after day of working in the Jamaican heat, mixing cement, wheeling out barrels of sand, and so on, no matter how tired you got, you had to keep going. This phase of the project needed to get done.
It reminds me of when I came home form work and want to do everything I can to feed my “me-hole” (sounds weird, but I think you get the point), but need to understand that 4 little people require my time and attention. Especially because I’ve been away for 9 hours.
2. The entire week was spent with other fathers. Some dads are good at this. Most moms are too. Me? Nope. I suck when it comes to taking time with other fathers just to sit and chat about how much we hate our kids and how they stress us out!!
That was a joke, so I hope you keep reading. But seriously, I know there are parents like me who live in a silo when it comes to parenting. Its difficult to share experiences, but I find when I do it’s always beneficial because more than likely another father will have gone through the same.
On this trip I spent 24/7 with 7 other great dads. On many occasions after long days of work, talking about our kids and experiences definitely helped us all grow as dads.
3. I lived a de-cluttered life for a week. No cable. No Internet. No cell signal (okay sure there was one, but who’s paying my roaming charges?? Airplane mode turned on!) Basically no media conveniences for the bulk portion of the trip.
Outside of sending a few texts and some FaceTime calls to my wife and kids (there was limited wi-fi at the school during the day) I was disconnected to what was happing online. It was a great feeling. Being able to refresh without knowing what else was going on in the world.
It gave me time to think about what I really wanted to accomplish in my life and how I wanted to lead my family in the future. You’ll be surprised at how getting quiet can really help you align the priorities in your life as a parent.
Why was I missing those very same things on my trip? I began to think about my wife and how she had to be with them for a week without much of a break. When’s the last time we’ve been on a date? A few weeks maybe? That has to change.
Thoughts like this would randomly run through my head as I was working or during down time just quietly thinking about them. There are times when it’s not easy being married with a family of 4 kids, but time spent away puts everything back in perspective. Having a family is something you can’t put a price tag on. Everyday is a day to be grateful for having people you love around you.
My trip to Jamaica ended up not only being for the betterment of the people of Tweenside, but my life has changed as a result of it. And, as a a by product, I think I have become a better dad.
For more info on The Project of Hope and how to donate to the cause, please visit www.theprojectofhope.com.