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,” shares Harrell. “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 was stressed about leaving his job, he also felt 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 say. “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 and he encourages them to do better. Although he isn’t their bud, they open up to him and he doesn’t judge them.”
Alyssa and Emily have 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 says. “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. He also taught them the importance of staying away from compromising situations.
“Both of our parents gave us boundaries,” Alyssa says. “I know that was a good thing. We have friends who are jealous of our relationship with our dad.”
Harrell has no regrets about making career moves 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 says. “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 suggests to fellow dads:
Keep in mind your kids can either get wisdom and knowledge from you or they can get it from someone else.
They can either spend time with you or someone else.
Children can learn from suffering the consequences or seek wisdom instead.
Dolls, tea parties, race cars, concerts and Muppet theater are all great ways to spend your time.
If the relationship isn’t there before your kids leave home, it won’t be there after they leave.
“You may think your kids don’t really need you, but that’s not true,” Harrell says. "Being 100 percent involved may cost you monetarily now, but in the end it pays off in dividends you can’t buy.”