To Young Fathers (Part II)
[This is Part II of my post from yesterday]
Before we continue on, let me just acknowledge that today is Good Friday. I hope your day is filled with beautiful reflection as you contemplate on the horrible suffering endured by the most innocent man that ever lived.
Thanks for reading on! Here we go:
5. Your Kids Need You More than They Need Your Money
This is a lesson that I’ve seen play out in real life countless times as well as in Adam Sandler’s Click. Your kids don’t need you to become another tired cliche of a dad who works his butt off and in the process misses his kids’ ball games and birthdays, bypasses holidays and stays out late, etc. all in the name of providing for his family. Yes, we need to provide for our families (and let’s do it!) but I think it’s crucial to make a decision early on: are you going to be that dad, or THAT dad? As much as your kids beg you for the latest gaming console and you’ll work to get it for them, they’ll remember and appreciate you for your presence, not your presents. You like that? I think I stole that from some anti-materialism Christmas campaign.
6. Don’t Let Your Kid Get Away with Acting the Fool… Starting NOW
Homie don’t play that! I feel like my wife is super good at this and I am constantly learning from her. You’re tired, you’re out with friends and your kid decides to be a major punk in public and has no problem testing you. You have 2 options which is to 1) Ignore the little fart and continue to have a good time or 2) Teach the kid what it means when daddy shoots a cold, angry stare and says “I will END you.” As you giggle or gasp at option 2, let me just say I have never said this so relax. I’d say the real option 2 is to take that kid aside, explain to them why their behavior is upsetting and proceed with whatever disciplinary act works best for him/her. Time out is our method of choice and we will use it when necessary. Basically, I’m saying don’t let things slide. Fight for your child’s behavior now and reap the benefits later . . . until teenage angst ruins all your hard work and you have to start all over anyway… sigh.
7. Know that Your Kid Has Feelings and Understands Way More than You Think
We don’t give kids enough credit. We sometimes assume that they’re just blobs of adorable goo. What I’m learning very quickly is that they are actually geniuses in tiny bodies filled with poop. Especially as my son has been taking full advantage of his growing abilities as a 2 year old, I’m shocked to learn that he understands about 95% of the things I say to him and actually has reasons for many of his tantrums and outbursts. I’m finding that when you understand and acknowledge his feelings he responds better to correction and special requests. This is crazy to me but it’s true! You gotta use your discretion with this but it helps to make compromises with your kid based on what’s really setting them off. Is he upset because he wants to take the entire train set to aunty’s? Calm him down, let him know you understand they want to do this but explain that there’s not enough space in the bag. Suggest he takes 2 train pieces instead. This works more often than not. Huge!
8. This is the Greatest Job, Role, Responsibility and Privilege You Will Ever Have
Don’t get it twisted! Being a GREAT dad is your life’s calling. It doesn’t matter what else you accomplish or pursue in life– pursue excellence in fatherhood. I personally feel that I could reach for and grab all that the world has for me but if my relationships with my children suck, I have failed miserably. Let’s embrace this role fully and consider it a sacred task. Let’s not repeat the cycle of father wounds and raise a generation of kids who had amazing dads. The world needs good fathers. Hope you’re up for the challenge.
9. Stay in the Game, Finish Well
I don’t think any man starts off fatherhood thinking, “I’m going to be delinquent, abusive, un-understanding, distant, and unaffirming.” Peek into any delivery room and if the dad is present, you’ll see him gazing into his newborn’s eyes, promising the world to her, promising he’ll be there to protect her and love her the best he can. Then life happens, stress takes over, deadlines, indiscretions, divorce, heart-ache, alcohol, bad decisions, good intentions and suddenly, the promises you made in the hospital that first day seem all but broken and destroyed.
Maybe you’re not a young dad and you’re reading this. Maybe you have failed to live up to your promises to your children. I have not lived the life that you lived but something tells me that you can still make things work and you can finish well. Maybe the middle part of your story up until now has not panned out the way you had hoped. You can finish well.
To everyone else: young, old, married, unmarried, with kids, without kids — this is a call for us to rise up and embrace our role as parents in the present and in the future.
I’m excited for the legacy and trend that we can help establish for the near future.