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NEWS | Sept. 10, 2010

Keep the Dinner Hour Sacred

By Col. Rudolph Cachuela 779th Medical Group commander

I just attended my daughter's college freshman orientation for parents and students. As we finished our last day and I was bidding my daughter farewell, it dawned on me that I have only known her for eighteen years. At first blush, that would seem to be a long time, but if you really think about it, it is really just a short timeframe when you consider the entire lifespan of an individual. One moment, she was my toddler, scampering around the house. The next moment she was my soccer player, running around the field. Next, she was my volleyball player, now tall enough to spike the ball over the net. Then she was my high school graduate, anxiously looking towards the future. Now today, there she is again, a young women who has left home and is entering college, the entire world hers for the taking. Where did my little girl go?

In the midst of my bittersweet thoughts, I reflected on our years together and, to my satisfaction, I came to the realization that I had not missed her childhood and teenage years. I was there when she was born. I did not miss a parent/teacher conference. I made every award ceremony. I attended almost every soccer game and volleyball game she played in. I was even able to coach her in soccer, from the very first day she kicked a ball to the last goal she scored for her high school team. I was an involved parent. I was able to grow up with my daughter and watch her become the beautiful, intelligent young woman she is today. I knew my daughter.

This is the "Year of the Air Force Family." We focused our attention on developing programs designed to support our Air Force families. I contend, however, that the first level of responsibility for taking care of the Air Force family...your Air Force YOU! I do not pretend to be a formal expert on families. For that, we have the Family Advocacy Office and the Airman and Family Readiness Center. I do feel, though, that I have something to offer, having successfully raised four children with my wife, one of whom is in law school, two in college, and one a junior in high school. So here are a few "pearls" which I have to offer to you.

"Hold the dinner hour sacred." Like many of you, I work long hours. Our mission demands it. Over the years, though, I have always made it a point to make it home in time for dinner. It has been more the exception than the rule that I have missed a dinner with the family. It is the time when we all catch up with each other and talk about what we did that day. If you are contemplating working late, take a moment to think if you really have to. Is what you are working on something that you can bring home and work on after everyone goes to sleep? Can you work on it first thing in the morning the next day? Is someone really going to read that 1900 e-mail tonight which you are sending out?

"Apply calendar discipline to your family." If you are anything like me, your calendar dictates your day. If it's not on my calendar, I don't go to it and, if there is an opening in my calendar, chances are it will be filled before the end of the day. I block time for PT, to do administrative work, and finally, I make sure to block time to attend family events. If there is a midday parent/teacher conference--block it. If your son or daughter has a game that night--block it. If there is an awards ceremony for your child--block it. If you do this well ahead of time, I will guarantee that you will make most of your children's significant events.

"Be an involved parent." Pick an activity that you can participate in with your kids. Volunteer at school, be a den mother/father, work with your church's youth group, coach one of your children's sports teams. For me, it was coaching soccer. I coached every year my kids played soccer - from age four all the way to high school. The time on the field I spent with them was our time. It was quality time spent talking with them, working with them, and getting to know them. Just as importantly, I got to know their friends and who they hung around with. Don't miss the opportunity to be involved in your children's lives.

So there you have it - just a few recommendations for how to raise a family which have worked for me. For most of us, you will only have your children at home for eighteen years of their lives...make the most of it. Lastly, I will leave you with one final thought. Long after your military career is over, the Air Force will still be around. Will you be able to say the same thing about your family?