The other day our family went to Pullen Park over in Raleigh. Pullen Park is one of the best public parks we’ve ever been to. On top of having lots of great play structures and wonderful green space, Pullen Park has a train that runs around the park, a carousel, and a pond with pedal boats.

Our family was in line to get on the pedal boats and we were standing behind two families with about 6 children between the two of them. The fathers of the two families spent the entire 30-minute wait complaining. They complained about our wait time. They complained that the park charged a few dollars for the pedal boats. They even began to complain about things that had no immediate consequence: The cost of a vacation at Disney, the fact that food costs way too much at amusement parks, and how kids love to buy over-priced junk in the parks’ gift shops. There they were, surrounded by their kids and families, wasting half an hour complaining about how expensive everything was.

Unfortunately, I’ve spent a lot of time around guys who waste their time this way.

I have two immediate thoughts about these two dads (and the thousands like them).

1) I don’t want to spend my life complaining. I don’t want to be unhappy all the time. Being frustrated is miserable. It doesn’t make me feel good. I don’t like it. I have, at times, lived like this… but I’ve learned that everything in my life is happier (and everyone else’s life too!) when I’m not criticizing everything that I see.

2) Don’t spend all of your time with your families complaining about how much everything costs and how unhappy you are. A lot of dads feel like they are doing something saintly by just showing up to hang out with their kids. Sure, your presence is better than your lack of presence… but it makes your kids feel awful to listen to you complain about the thing that they wanted to do. It makes them feel like the things that bring them happiness are annoying.

It tells them that the things that are important to them are worthless.

I would venture to say that it would be better for you to stay at home than show up and criticize everything. At least your lack of presence communicates indifference to your children instead of outright scorn.