“This is going to be awesome.”

Those were the actual words that ran through my head as I packed my two kids into the car to go get some ice cream. It sounds fun, right? Mom was out of town and this was my opportunity to have some “fun dad time” with my kids. My kids are one and three years old.

Things didn’t necessarily go as planned. This was our selfie from said outing:

father tries taking a selfie with kids and ice cream

1 | First, that is my mouth

It is the mouth of someone concentrating really hard on something. The “something” in this case was me trying to take a “cool dad” selfie while simultaneously trying to keep my kids from covering 50 percent of their bodies in chocolate ice cream.

2 | Just look at those eyebrows

Pure confusion. My kids might as well have just said, “Dad, good try and all, but you have no idea what you’re doing. Where’s mom?”

3 | No extra hands

Did I think about what sorts of things I might actually need to make this outing successful? Not even a little bit. “Put the kids in the car and drive” was the extent of my planning. No wet wipes for their hands, no pulling my daughter’s sleeves up. Just 100 percent no-idea-what-I’m-doing winging it.

4 | Look at how dangerous that tilt is

When the lady asked me if the kids wanted a cup or cone, I’m pretty sure I looked at my kids with a stupid smile plastered to my face and loudly proclaimed, “CONES FOR EVERYONE!” the same way I might scream at a bar that the next round is on me. Boy, am I a fun dad.

Had I known that Satan himself manufactures those supernaturally top-heavy ice cream cones, I might have reconsidered my decision. As soon as you set those stupid things down, they go ICE CREAM FIRST onto the diseased outdoor table that all the other patrons and cockroaches dined at and then pooped on prior to us sitting there. Whenever their ice creams tipped over – and it happened many, many times – I just wiped off the tops with my one free hand using a napkin.

Words, and even the picture, don’t adequately describe how badly this ice cream outing went. It was like a terrible Pinterest fail unfolding in real time, and I was the crappy end product that everyone laughs at.

And yet! I took my kids to get ice cream. And that is what they need more than anything: a daddy who loves them hard, through tipping cones, failed selfies, and epic ill-preparedness.

I think we all need to be reminded of this sort of thing from time to time. You might be going through something hard right now. Maybe your son, like mine, has angry toddler outbursts and you’re not exactly sure how to go about helping him. Maybe your child has special needs. Maybe your marriage is struggling.

In the midst of these difficulties, what your child (or spouse) needs more than anything is for you to remember to look up from your struggles and truly see them.

Our children aren’t looking for perfect parents. They’re looking for tremendous love.

After all, you and I both know that we’re never going to get parenting 100 percent right. So today, I encourage you to do the hard work of looking up from your own worries and struggles and remember to love on your children, which might look something like this:

  • Hug them often
  • Tell them you love them
  • Smile at them
  • Tell them why you like them
  • Take them on ice cream outings
  • Tell them what they’re good at
  • Play with them

Research links warmth and affection between parent and child with higher self-esteem, better parent-child communication, and fewer psychological behavior problems.

Remembering to love your child won’t make your issues or struggles go away. Those are still going to be difficult, and you’re still going to have to fight through them. But loving on your family is the best decision that you make every single day.

Dare to love your child tremendously today. Even if it results in disastrous ice cream adventures. Put aside your worries and remember that your most important job as a parent is, first, to love.