Jeff Harrell worked long hours in the restaurant business when his daughter was born. Alyssa was 3 months old when Harrell realized that she clearly had no interest in being with him.
“That’s when I knew things had to change,” Harrell said. “I did not want my child to grow up not knowing me. My wife and I decided that I would quit my job, although I didn’t have another job offer.”
While Harrell described feeling stressed about leaving his job, there was also a sense of relief because he believed better times were ahead. Fast forward more than 20 years, and daughters Alyssa and Emily will be the first to tell you that their relationship with their father is special.
“I think one of the big things people love about coming to our house is hanging out with my dad,” Alyssa said. “More times than I can count, guys would come over, but they weren’t really here to see me or my sister. They were looking for my dad. He is a smart person and they can talk with him. He doesn’t tell them that their mistakes are ok. He encourages them to do better. He isn’t their bud, yet they open up to him and he doesn’t judge them.”
Alyssa and Emily have developed a special bond with their dad, but that doesn’t mean they always agree with his rules.
“My curfew was earlier than all our friends,” Emily said. “After dances, I had to come home instead of staying out with my friends. At the time that really irritated me because it seemed like I was the only one that had all these rules. Now I’m grateful.”
Their dad instilled in them that the Lord wanted them to live a meaningful and impactful life and it is completely unnecessary for them to get involved in compromising situations.
“Both of our parents gave us boundaries,” Alyssa said. “I know that was a good thing. We have friends who are jealous of our relationship with our dad.”
Harrell has no regrets about the career moves he made to be home with his girls. While some dads work hard and think they have earned the right to play golf on Saturday, Harrell believes he has earned the right to raise his children and that should be his main focus.
“I have one shot to get this right,” Harrell said. “You don’t get to check certain boxes about what you will and won’t do as a dad. All the boxes are already checked. I signed up for the good, the bad and the ugly.”
Here are a few things Harrell would suggest to dads who are just getting started:
“You may think your kids don’t really need you, but that’s not true,” Harrell said. “Being 100 percent involved may cost you monetarily now, but in the end it pays off in dividends you can’t buy.”
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