Daddy Do-Over DIY

There are not many times in life that we get a “do-over”. Unlike childhood games or a reset button, relationships don’t work the same way. This is primarily because forgive and forget does not exist. People can forgive, but memory will always serve as a reminder to our failures, hurts, and disappointments. As fallible human beings, we will hurt and be hurt by others. In the case of so many dads, even if they get an opportunity for a fresh start, they don’t know where to begin.

There are some situations, especially that of divorce that carries with it a lot of pain. Kids are usually hurt the worst. Due to the fact that children of broken homes usually live with their mother, a dad’s opportunity for reassurance and relationship repair can be limited. So where should a dad begin a do-over if given opportunities?

As a young man and even into my 30s and early 40s, I believed that so many people should “get over it”. It was like I actually believed that people could choose to be okay. I treated human beings as if they had a reset button. To keep this in technology terms, people don’t have a reset but must have a new operating system installed, with programs and software after that. For those of my readers that understand computers, the computer looks the same but is not the same after this process. This is how people are. Features will be familiar, but there is just something that makes all applications different. 

This rebuild takes time. Sometimes, it takes several attempts for everything to load. Kids caught in a divorce situation can be this way. Getting frustrated will not help. We have to be methodical in our approach for the best results. So what are these methods? If you are a dad dealing with the pain of divorce, let me assure you that everything is effort and attitude. These 2 things are always in your control. You are not responsible for the response that your kids have, nor that of their mother. You must control you.

Rule #1 in this kind of do-over is to avoid bad-mouthing the mother of your children. Even if they do, it is not an invitation nor a license for you to do the same. As men, we are programmed to fight. However, I promise you this is NOT productive in this situation. Rule #2 is for you to be there and make every effort to keep your word. Whatever you have to do to be there for them, you need to do. When I was divorced, my son lived 2 hours away. There were times I had to borrow cars, hitch a ride, or even ride a motorcycle in the rain. Don’t miss the chance to see them.

Rule #3 is simple but difficult. Admit when you are wrong. Apologize when you make a mistake. Don’t blame others, even if it is not all your fault. Your children don’t need your excuses. They need a transparent dad, even with his faults. This being said, be careful not to make promises that you can’t keep. An honest response of “I don’t know” or “I can’t” is better than breaking your word.

Have you noticed that the challenges of a do-over all boil down to effort and attitude? Recently, I came across a poem that after reading several times, means a lot to me. It is called Opportunity by Edward. R. Sill. I hope that it speaks to you the same way.

OPPORTUNITY

by: Edward Rowland Sill (1841-1887)

HIS I beheld, or dreamed it in a dream:–
There spread a cloud of dust along a plain;
And underneath the cloud, or in it, raged
A furious battle, and men yelled, and swords
Shocked upon swords and shields. A prince’s banner
Wavered, then staggered backward, hemmed by foes.
A craven hung along the battle’s edge,
And thought, “Had I a sword of keener steel–
That blue blade that the king’s son bears, — but this
Blunt thing–!” he snapped and flung it from his hand,
And lowering crept away and left the field.
Then came the king’s son, wounded, sore bestead,
And weaponless, and saw the broken sword,
Hilt-buried in the dry and trodden sand,
And ran and snatched it, and with battle shout
Lifted afresh he hewed his enemy down,
And saved a great cause that heroic day.

Many men give up because they don’t believe that they possess the tools to succeed. I love how one man was nothing but excuses and the next man seized the opportunity for victory. You may not have much to offer. You may feel like you don’t possess what it takes to make a situation better. However, in the life of a child, you can start with the will of not giving up and the words “I love you”. Be the best dad possible.

Deacon

Daddy’s Girl 2.0

Today’s blog is part 2 of the Daddy Girls article that I posted yesterday. For the first part, please go to thedadmanual.com and Click on “Daddy’s Girl”. Many people say that kids are kids. Some specifically say that we should treat all of our children the same. I say, “Yes and no”. I believe that there is a natural “mode” that we are in when dealing with our kids. To this writer, the girl and boy mode are different. There is no less love. However, we must admit that it is different. I think I heard my brothers out there give me an amen.

Boys and girls are developing to be something different. I’m not here to debate over gender issues. I’m here to offer my findings and beliefs in order to be a resource for dads. I will speak conservatively on many issues. If you wish to debate gender issues and another agenda, I’m sure you can find those forums online with ease. 

Girls are developing into a different end product than that of a man. Left alone to their own choices there are many behavior differences as well as responses to human interaction. Let me be less clinical. My boys don’t necessarily “want” me mad at them. However, they react to me being upset differently than my daughter, especially when they were young. My boys required a stronger approach when seeking obedience, especially boy number 2. I had to approach my daughter differently. I needed to be more sensitive to my tone, volume, and expression on my face.

One time, I raised my voice to my daughter when she was acting up. When she turned and looked at me, she had crocodile tears. She looked at me like, “you’re my daddy. How could you treat me that way”? I wanted to crawl under a rock. My wife looked at me like “you s.o.b.” That’s right. I was the bad guy. This coming from the woman that could scare the crap out of a young wolverine when she is upset.

I obviously had to have a different game plan. My boys were nothing like that. They had a much thicker emotional skin. I notice similarities with my relatives and friends who have/had girls and boys. The ironic part of this situation was that my daughter was/is a fierce competitor. She was and can be “meaner” than both of the boys. She will take on anyone and anything. She is always ready to fight for what she wants. HOWEVER, daddy is different.

This is nothing new. I’m sure you have heard the story before you haven’t experienced it first hand. So how do you install discipline? How do you teach your values? How do you go about developing this little girl into a self-confident, strong, and smart woman? My suggestion to all the dads out there is to be a rock…an island. It does not budge. I’m not saying to never listen and avoid discussions. I’m not saying to rule with an iron fist. I’m saying that your word must mean something. If you say no…its no. You cannot be swayed by emotions. You don’t have to be loud. You must be solid. This takes some developing. It also takes some ships crashing into shore. However, once established it brings about the confidence that this child will have in you.

Dads that change their minds just because of someone being angry, disagreeing, or they just don’t want to deal with it, may give instant gratification, but does not serve the child well. As a matter of opinion, it means that your word is not worth much or carries little weight. This will hurt you on the bigger issues that they will face later in life. Girls need their dads to be strong and dependable. They need to be able to count on the rock being there. Being easily manipulated does not reinforce your guarantee that you will be there for them. This means lovingly but firmly standing against choices and situations that are not the best for them. 

As they grow older and become there own person, there will be some things that will not align with what you think is the perfect plan. This does NOT have to be a contentious situation. They just need to know where the island is. When they know this, it is easier to give more control to them as to how they drive their boat. Self-expression, style, and personality can be a very healthy thing. As a teenager, I never told my daughter how to dress, wear her hair, or how to be respectful. That was done from day one through her early childhood. 

Today, she is her own person. She makes her own decisions. It’s not my job to control what she does as an adult. I just need to be the rock. She still turns to me for advice, but I need her to drive her boat. I need her to continue to grow strong. I do this by being there and loving her unconditionally. I want to be the best dad possible.

Deacon

Daddy’s Girl

My daughter is nothing less than awesome. When she came into this world, she stole my heart and has kept it since. Today, I’d like to talk to you about the importance of daddy-daughter relations. I will probably refer to her several times for those that may follow this blog. However, at this point let’s focus on how important this relationship is.

Dads, guys, listen up. You will set the the standard and tone for so many things in your daughter’s life. How you treat your daughter is “how men are supposed to treat women” in their eyes. This is crucial at the beginning. She will hold this in demand for those she is around and especially for the one she will one day marry.

Let me take a moment to voice an opinion. Your daughter is going to get the attention of a young man one day. If she does not get it from you, she will get it elsewhere. The choice is yours. If her dad loves, protects, and encourages her, this can set her up for success. She will not accept behavior that is below par…you are par. If she does not get her needs met by a dad that tells her and shows her that he loves her, another man will set the standard of what is acceptable. 

Your daughter needs to know that she is your treasure. She needs to “hear” that you love her on a regular basis. You need to reinforce this as often as possible. In doing so, she is not the only that will benefit from this behavior. You will get so much more in return. 

I remember when my little girl would meet me at the front door when I came home from work. My wife would say “daddy’s home”. This was followed by an immediate run to the door. She wanted to open it up before I did. I would see this vision of joy with Shirley Temple curls and she would leap into my arms. I could have had the worst day ever, and my little girl could erase it and make everything wonderful in one second. That was approximately 20 years ago and I’m getting choked up writing this.

This was not time to toss my work stuff aside, get a beer, and turn on the television. I needed to give my wife a kiss to show my wife and my daughter that I loved mamma. Then I would go with her, sit on the floor, and give her my attention. Only when she “released me” or dinner was ready did we move on to other things. She had to know that I wanted to be there with her and her brothers more than anything. I was not just in the moment but setting standard for her future. 

I did not come about this because I was a wonderful person. I learned this from observing other dads and by my own mistakes made with my first child. When my oldest son was 5, his mother and I divorced. He was the only child of my first marriage. When he was told that he and his mother would be living without me, he cried a cry that haunts me to this day. Fortunately, he came back home to me when he was 10. I did the best I could during that time but always felt like a failure.

After my second and “final” marriage we had my second son and my only daughter shortly after. I was NOT going to screw this up. I knew I would fail at tasks, but I would not fail my kids if it was in my power. I don’t want you to read this thinking that my passion to be a great dad was because I was a great guy. It is because they were wonderful and after my oldest boy had been hurt, I was not going to hear that cry of heartbreak again.

Back to our daughters, we need to renew our focus every day. How do we do this? Mine was simple. I was addicted to her hugs and smile. I have to have them. Even today, as she is married and living in another state. I have to hear her voice, see a text message…something. Then when I do see her, I get that hug and never want to let go.

Where I think most of us screw up is when we start thinking that “we deserve” this or that. When we live for ourselves, we screw up. Even your hobbies can get in the way. Your daughters need to feel that they are a priority. They need to see you deny others that tug at your time. I’m speaking outside of the family. They know that you have to work and do things for the family that may demand your time. However, they must know where your heart is. This is determined by your time.

Talk is cheap if it is not aligned with your actions. Guys, you MUST give your daughters the love and time that they require. I promise that this will give her the best odds at being self-confident, strong, and successful. This is the greatest and most fulfilling way to spend your time/life. You cannot be disappointed. 

I believe that I may do a daddy’s girl 2.0 or even see if my daughter will write on the subject matter. Thank you so much for being a part of this blog. I hope that you will follow and or forward this on to those that you believe it may serve. Be the best dad possible.

Deacon

Daddy 101

Once I had a conversation with one of my students. To be specific, this was an American young man of about 17. He inquired as to what I wanted out of this teaching gig. I told him that I had several goals. “One of the goals is to help make you a good father”. “What?”, he asked. “You know I’m only 17. I’m not planning on being a dad for a long time, if at all”.

I proceeded to say that his timing may work out. However, things change, people change, and it’s better to be prepared no matter what. My student, we will call him Dean, asked me why this was important to me. After all, babies eat sleep and poop. I smiled and said, “that’s it huh”? Before I dive into the conversation that followed, let me clarify a few things. Being a dad was not the subject that I taught. I taught 2 theology classes that were mandatory for graduation from this Christian school. However, I felt that our college “prep” was lacking in school. I specifically believed that we needed to do more for these kids to prepare for life. There were several examples of paternity in scripture, so I used that to segway into questions and discussions that would challenge these young people to interact on the subject.

When it came to this particular lesson, I called it Daddy 101. I asked Dean about his dad. “Was he a good example in your mind”? “That asshole?”, he asked. “No way. He was never around. He was too interested in the adolescent activities that he shared with his loser friends”. I was shocked at his response but tried not to show it. “So you would do things differently?”, I asked. “Yeah…I mean, dads are supposed to love their kids and want to be with them.” “What have you learned from your father about being a good dad?”, I asked. “Nothing”, Dean exclaimed. “I disagree”, I said.

Dean already had ideas in his mind about what a dad was/is supposed to be. These ideas were forged by his observation of his own father’s performance and attitude. He was also able to draw from observations the way that his father made him feel. I don’t know if Dean’s idea about his dad were exaggerated with emotion or if he was spot on about his father’s behavior. The point was to draw from that experience in a way that would serve Dean’s potential children in the future. Dean knew how he felt because of his father’s behavior. He never wanted anyone to feel that way.

I told Dean that he was not alone in his experience. Many biological fathers don’t know how to be a dad. I encourage him to take his negative feelings and turn them into a lesson that would serve others. Fortunately, Dean was a reader and well spoken with adults. I encouraged Dean that he needed to be proactive and educate himself about relationships and children. He needed to network with people that he could learn from. Role models are everywhere, good and bad. As long as you can identify them, copy the ideas that are good and ignore the bad ones.

In addition to this, I encouraged Dean NOT to close the door on his father. Many people have epiphany moments and come to a knowledge of their wrongdoing. A way that he could help his father was to pray for him and look for opportunities to be a blessing to him. I told Dean, “You need to understand that relationships are hard work. It can be very disappointing. Your father may or may not come around to a healthy acknowledgment of his actions. His response to your gestures of forgiveness and openness to reconciliation are not your responsibility. It’s on him. However, if there is potential for healing, I think it is worth a shot.”

Being a dad starts with prep work. It begins now. I understand that most teenagers have their minds elsewhere. Most of them live in the “now” and are not thinking about future responsibilities. However, whenever I ran across a student that wanted to talk about the subject I jumped at the chance to do so.

You and I have an impact on other people…positive or negative. We are examples…good or bad. Young people can and do learn from both. The problem is that many of them are not asking questions. They don’t know what questions to ask. This is why we need to take opportunities to be examples and to get to know the dads of tomorrow. It is training. Just like an athlete, the better the training, the better chances for victory. They need coaches. We need coaches.

If you are a young man, whether in school or beginning a family, let me encourage you to get a mentor. If your dad is a good example that is great. However, no matter your situation, I always encourage people to learn from more than one source. Be observant. Ask questions. Take every opportunity to prepare yourself for the greatest job you will ever have.

By the way, Dean is now married and has two beautiful little girls. He is addicted to them. Every once in a while I get a text from him. I love seeing pictures of those little ones with the biggest smiles I have ever seen. Good job Dean…keep learning.

Deacon