Is there anything as heartwarming as seeing a dad walking with his children? I was lucky enough to see such an event this week. Walking down one of the roads here in my hometown, I saw a young dad pushing a stroller with what looked like twins that were about 18 months old, and a 5-year-old daughter following him on a bike with all the options (training wheels, shiny tassels hanging from the handlebars, power windows, air conditioning, bucket seats…). He had a big smile on his face that said: “I’m Dad, and I love it”.
Being a Dad is much different than being a father. Anyone can be a father, but being a dad is special. Before I start waxing poetic on all of you, let me give you some information about me. I’ve been married for almost 33 years now to my voluptuous wife (Brownie points now exceeding the limit) and am the dad of 4 kids ages 29, 26, 24, and 20. Two girls and two boys. Don’t ask me how that happened; I was just happy to be a part of it.
I’ve been lucky; I haven’t had any real major problems with them. They are great adults now, have good jobs (except for my youngest who is still in college), and make me proud to be their Dad every day.
Parenting is difficult for a lot of people. I’m not sure why that is; some people make it out to be the worst experience of their life. Here’s an idea, stop having children if that’s how you feel. We all know what causes pregnancy, and how to prevent it.
I feel compelled to help out those fathers who would like to become Dads. I’ve tried to outline the differences between Dads and Fathers below. I hope it helps.
Fathers-Show up to only one or two of their sons or daughter’s baseball games per season, talk continuously on their cell phone during the game, and scream at their kid from the stands when they make a mistake on the field. They never offer to help coach but have no problem criticizing the coaches when the team doesn’t win.
Dads-Make it to almost all the games, turn their cell phone off so they can pay attention to their kid during the game, never embarrass their child by screaming at them during a game, get involved by helping coach or offering encouragement to the kids. Just showing up is a great start! Being a little bit silly during the game to help ease the stress level for the kids is also the sign of a good Dad. Make a kid laugh. You’ll be surprised how good it will make you feel.
Fathers– Blame work for their absences. If you have a job that doesn’t allow you to spend time with your kids, it’s time to find a new job. We all get stuck at work late here and there. If it happens all the time, you’re doing something wrong. Worry less about the promotion and more about your role as a parent. Here’s an idea, drive a Toyota instead of a Lexus, or a Ford instead of a Mercedes, a vacation in the U.S. instead of Europe. Your kids are your legacy, not your toys.
Dads-Take their kids to school whenever possible, help with homework, show up at the school rendition of a “Christmas story” even when the singing will be bad and you can hardly breathe in the crowded gym. They are man enough to drive the ugliest minivan ever made because it’s better for the kids’ comfort. They give up the weekly stop at the neighborhood bar to watch their 5-year-old daughter in her first ballet recital. They give out hugs as often as politicians give out false promises.
I have some advice for couples too. (What the heck, I’m on a roll)
Don’t fight in front of your kids. They don’t need to see that. Take it outside, that’s what I said when I was a bouncer, and it worked out pretty well. If you fight in front of your kids, they will assume that that is normal behavior for adults. This leads to the old lady in the check out line arguing with the 17-year-old check out girl because tuna is 25 cents more expensive than it was last week. I mention this because I saw it happen. I ended the argument by tossing a quarter up on the check out counter. She got the hint.
If you find yourself saying the same things that made you so mad when your parents said them to you…stop and think before you speak. Listen to your kids’ side of the story first. Trust your kids until they give you a real reason not to. Once they lie to you, all bets are off. Respect your kids, and they’ll respect you.
You may think its ok to declare yourself the dictator of the household, but dictators have a tendency to be overthrown. You can lose control by being too controlling. Ask Sadam about that, oh wait, he’s dead. See where it got him? Consider yourself the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, everyone gets a vote but you get to be the swing vote.
If you are heavy drinkers, don’t be surprised if your teenager comes home drunk. Most learning starts at home. Drunken parent’s equal drunken kids. Drunken parents say smart things like “do as I say, not as I do”. If you find yourself saying this, find the nearest 2 by 4 and hit yourself on the head with it.
Provide an environment at home that attracts the neighborhood kids to your house to play with your kids. That way you’ll always know where your kids are. If the parents are nice and fun to hang around with all the kids will feel welcome. Try to produce this kind of home. It will pay off later.
Last but not least you CAN be your kids’ parent and friend at the same time. Militant parenting never works. You stick your kids with thousands of dollars in psychology bills later on. That will result in you being put in a nursing home that you won’t like. After all, you have to remember one statement…
“Be nice to your kids, they’ll pick out your nursing home”