Getting out of God’s way

As a man, I can tell you that I have made so many mistakes and stupid decisions because I kept jerking the wheel when God is driving. I don’t know about you, but I have a false sense of security when I am behind the wheel. Ask my family what makes me nervous and they will tell you “other people’s driving”. I feel as if I have to be in control. I feel that somehow, I can prevent bad things from happening. I actually relax. If you think about it, it’s a really stupid concept, much like the idea that an inch and a half, to two inches of wood (the average front door), keeps us safe from all the bad people out there.

Most men are not very trusting creatures, by their actions. What we say may be totally different, but …umm…no. Obviously we must use discernment in our daily activities and judgments. However, a good dose of faith and trust can empower us in ways that can go beyond reason. As a professing Christian, I know what the bible says about worry. I am aware of the promises that are in the scriptures. This doesn’t mean that my knee jerk reaction is to trust, regardless of how many times the evidence has been there that I should. Now, add my kids into the mix, and I can become even more controlling, or feel as if I should. It takes a constant effort to trust them and God, get out of the way. I think too many times that I have the answers.

I have heard so many times in my life the phrase, “don’t dwell on your past”. Well, maybe I shouldn’t dwell, but I should be mindful. I’m not always right, and history proves it. Now, as a dad of adults, I hear the voice in my head that says, “are you sure you need to say that?” “Don’t give advice at this time.” “Just express your support and love.” This is not that we should live our lives in neutral or be complacent on every subject. Some times, your kids, even when they are grown, need for you to be the immovable rock, as I have discussed in other posts.

We have to realize that we are dad until we die. That does not change. It is a lifelong journey of love, support, and guidance. The key is to know when to speak and act. This is where faith comes in. If I accept the reality of God, then I believe he knows more than I do. As a believer, I want God to be pleased with me. That being said, I believe that he knows what best for my children. I believe that he guides them. Many times that involves me. However, there are times that I need to let go and trust. It is in these times that I have a tendency to screw things up if I don’t get out of the way. In my family, we relate a lot to soccer. If you have ever played the game, you are aware that the referee has to be mindful of his place on the field. Although he is in charge, he can get in the way. He can even impact the game in a very unfair manner.

If we get in the way, we can prevent our kids from taking that “shot”. We can prevent goals and victories. Even if we are not on the field, we can pressure them from the sidelines of life. Sometimes we want success for them that we add pressure. This can frustrate them, cause them to make errors, and cost them a potentially great performance. That is right. Being a dad is tough. Barking out commands and orders may make us feel more secure, much like my driving analysis. However, allowing God to work in our children’s lives, developing a trust relationship, and letting them work it out can be empowering for them. So what do you do? How do you find that balance? Your walk with God must be a daily journey. That relationship must be a priority. Then you can be an example to your kids and cultivate your relationship with them. If you don’t, you will always be grabbing the wheel. You will referee poorly. Finally, you will see a building frustration no matter how much you truly want to help them.

So is it really that simple? In concept, yes. Execution can be extremely difficult. My advice is to read God’s word. Read other books. Listen to wise counsel and learn from your mistakes and the mistakes of others. You don’t have to be caught in a mindset and cycle of behavior that so many fathers have found themselves in. You don’t have an infinite amount of chances to get it right. How many chances will you get? I don’t know. I have seen many a father screw up enough times or for such a duration that recovery was unlikely.

Does this mean that I have all the answers? Ask my family and they will verify that I do not. However, I am committed to learning, listening, and trying not to repeat my mistakes. Perhaps that is a start. What I want is to trust God and quit trying to control everything. I was my relationship with my adult children to continue to grow and strengthen. Sometimes, this means words and actions. Sometimes, it just means to love and support them. Being a dad is such an important job. It’s important that I keep learning, and that I am the best dad possible. 

Deacon

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

New Year Resolutions for Dad

As years come to an end, many of our thoughts go to the upcoming year. During this time, resolutions are made for self-improvement. We make personal pledges that we are going to do better at diets, workout routines, or goal achievements. It is a natural time to start new adventures or projects, no matter how brief they may actually end up being a focal point of our time. Parents need to do take advantage of this season to set goals for the family. Quality time and development of the family should always be a top priority. However, how should we approach these goals in order that we will actually see them take shape?

Parents must begin the process by taking stock of their current situation. Moms are usually better at addressing these issues. Sorry guys. The first hurdle is one of communication. Whether it is a date, or just taking the time before going to bed, couples need to make a list of the things they want to achieve. I would suggest that dads and moms make separate lists, then exchange the lists and discuss them. This may feel unnatural for some dads. Get over yourself. If you love your family, you need to examine feelings as much as you do your possessions. What do you as a dad need to do better?

After years of interacting with new dads, I can tell you that the amount of money that you make is NOT and should NOT be in your top 5. How do you spend your time? How do you communicate your love to your family? These are priorities. These are the measure by which you will be remembered. Dads want to be loved and respected. Just as we should teach our kids, our efforts and attitude spell out who we are as husbands and fathers. We must put them and their needs above our own. Notice that I said needs, not wants. Wives and kids NEED to know they are loved by words and time. They don’t NEED lots of things. They may want this and that, but things will never make their hearts joyful. It is your job as a husband and dad to identify these things.

Dad’s need to take care of themselves. They must manage their bodies, minds, and spiritual health. It is difficult to care and love your family when one of these is not being attended to. For me, I start with the spiritual. Getting right spiritually makes me want to do the right things for my body and mind. I have a quiet time in the mornings, reading my bible and having coffee. This sets my mind and drives me to tackle the rest of my day. The next thing that dads need to address is their calendar and watch. Does your calendar say that you prioritize your wife and family? Don’t know? Ask someone to evaluate it.

Please note that as a dad, your relationship to the mother of your children GREATLY affects your children’s sense of security. Yes, how you treat mom is expressing love for your children, whether you intend for it to or not. If you are a couple, it is paramount that you work on that relationship. If you are not, it is important that your kids see your respect for her role in their lives. Tearing down their mother is NEVER the right approach, regardless of her performance as a wife or mom. She is still a mom. Even if the kids are angry with her, do not chime in negative comments. It will hurt them later.

The journey to making goals as a dad starts with your self-evaluations. What are you doing or need to do to be a better husband and father? Then evaluate what you and your spouse need to do as parents? Are you on the same page? What do the two of you need to do in order to be better as a couple or the parents of your children? After the aspect of self-evaluation and that of the relationship with your spouse, look at what the kids need. No one outside the two of you should see this more clearly than the two of you. If this is not the case, then the problem lies with you and or your spouse. Address these things first. It will give you a more healthy platform to parent from.

Now, be specific with your kids. Let them in on your making of goals. Ask them their opinions, as they are able to understand. There opinion matters. What do they think you should do in order to be the best dad? What do they think you and your spouse or their mother need to do to better that relationship? Lastly, what do they think they need? Do they know the difference between need and want? This is a great conversation to have and can lead to some genuine growth.

People will make all sorts of New Years Resolutions. Most of them will not last long or will fail. Is this because we are unable to commit? Perhaps it due to the fact that the goals may be selfish or really just wants instead of needs. Maybe we are not taking the best inventory before we dive off into a new adventure. Take the time to make the right resolutions. Be the best dad possible.

Deacon

Fathering Older Children

We never stop being a dad, no matter how old our children are. Your children still need you, but in different ways…obviously. It is important that you adjust to this role in order to be the most effective dad possible. The adjustments need to be done by you, not your kids. They will naturally evolve into their new world. It is us, the creatures of habit, that need to learn new things. We have been used to doing things a particular way for at least 18 years. Most of us don’t like change.

What is it that we need to do for our children, once they leave the nest? You will hear ideas about letting them go. Let me assure you that this is a poor choice of words. Yes, we let go…but we NEVER let go. Our desire to help, fix, and do for them is still strong. The real plan of attack is to address how this is done at this point in life.

For me, I had learned that the most important thing I could do was to be a listener. This is hard because I am so opinionated. I KNOW how I would fix all their problems. Most of my ideas may actually be correct. What I have to remember is that you don’t give an adult a baby bottle. You need to teach them how to if you have not already. You can give them suggestions. However, for their growth and confidence, they must achieve due to their own efforts, attitudes, and decisions. You need to be a source for their success, but not the sole reason. If you don’t let them own their own victories and failures, they will never grow and will be dependently disabled.

Notice that I included their failures. I don’t know about you you, but I have learned so much from my failures. No lesson stands out so much as one that you own 100%. The overcoming and self-confidence that a person can attain by correcting mistakes and conquering failure are invaluable. This gives your child a clearer picture of their own identity and what they are capable of. Bailing kids out of a jam just reinforces the idea that they can’t do it without you. I do recognize that situations may arise in which you are the only source for assistance, but this needs to be extremely rare and not commonly sought as a cure-all.

I have several friends that have grown children. Those that try to do everything or will do everything for their kids are hindering their growth and making them weaker adults. If they have an unhealthy lifestyle, your assistance can make us enablers. Dads need to be very careful in offering assistance. The other and many times more difficult discipline has to do with advice. We have been telling our kids what we think all their lives. This needs to be monitored and reigned back when they are older.

My father is a doer, fixer, and unwarranted advice giver. Let me assure you that his heart is to help, but regardless of his intentions, he does this too much. One of my sisters is 65. My 87-year-old father still cannot help but dive into the adviser role. This is an ongoing understood joke amongst my siblings. While I am grateful that we can joke about it, there has been damage done to relationships regardless of intent. He also becomes very hurt, any time his help is rejected or not coveted. This has had a huge impact on me and my relationship with my children. I have purposely held back from giving advice unless it is solicited. Even then, I ask my children if they are sure that they want my advice.

I want my children to be strong. I can’t have them become so and protect or control them. My job is to love and pray for them. Interestingly enough, this method has actually prompted them to ask my opinion in many situations. However, when they do come to you, let me not encourage you to tell them what they want to hear. Tell them what you are convicted of as the truth. You must remain if not intensify your foundation and resolve. While you may not have instant gratification or happiness, you will develop more trust and joy in your relationship.

Consistency in parenting does not change in parenting, regardless of their age. You must be solid. If you are solid, they will value you more. Just don’t walk away. Keep telling them that you love them…and that you are proud that they belong to you. That makes you the man they can count on. I don’t know how you can get to a higher position in life as a man. 

Develop your listening skills. Read and learn as dads, no matter how old you are or how old your children are. Restrain your words and opinions. Pray for them, Love them, Encourage them. Be the best dad possible.

Deacon

Dads are Not Secondary

Do dads really understand how important they are? I don’t believe that parenting is complete without a mother and a father’s contributions to the child’s development. My view is shared by many psychologists and angers some single parents. Not all the time, but for those that have a chip on their shoulder, angry at their spouse, their “x”, or the world, I have been known to be at odds. I don’t know why this is a contentious issue for some people. 

It really isn’t a competition. According to child psychologist Eric Erikson, “a mother’s love and a father’s love are qualitatively different”. We as dads don’t bring the same elements to the table. On the other hand, you could just say that we do it differently. Men and women communicate, educate, and encourage differently. One example of this is the nature for men to encourage risks more than women. Dad’s tend to push their kids to test and challenge their limits. Moms are usually a bit more protective. 

I remember encouraging my kids to climb higher, go farther, and push the boundaries of failure. One time, my middle child was about 9 or 10. He was a climber. Okay, honestly he was a daredevil. My wife blames me for this (laughing on the inside). We were at a motel that was close to the beach. This particular motel (single story) had a pool that was particularly close to the building. I could see that my boy was thinking how cool it would be to get on the roof and jump to the pool. He stared at the pool, then at the roof, then looked at me. I told him, “sometimes a man has to do some crazy things”. He smiled.

I forgot about our interaction until later that evening. We had been to the beach and were getting cleaned up. We noticed that my boy was not around. He was a good swimmer, so we were not in a panic. My wife walked to the door of the room and opened it just as her boy fell from the sky and made a huge cannon ball splash. She yelled at our boy for the act. He responded that “dad” said it was okay. She immediately knew that it was true. She looked at me and said “idiot”. My boy and I did a fist bump when she wasn’t looking.

Another time, we were at a soccer game. I was the coach and my boy was the star of the team. That particular day, we were starting the second half of the game with a strong wind at our backs. My boy had the kick off. I knew what a powerful shot he had. He looked at me and I said, “just score from there”. This was not exactly a smart game tactic. What I conveyed to my boy was that I thought he could. The other coach rolled his eyes and told his defenders to get ready for a quick possession. So, my son to a few steps back and launched it. Goal! My boy and I locked eyes in the midst of a primal scream with our hands in the air.

Dads don’t always make the best decisions, but I believe we have a bit more of a “go for it” attitude. Sometimes our children won’t succeed at our suggestions. However, risk taking does encourage them take on the world. Dads play rougher, enforce rules, and are the best examples for their kids to understand what a man is supposed to be. This doesn’t mean that we always are the best examples or teachers. Just as any human is fallible. We can always fall short of our goals as parents. However, dads have a way of loving, teaching, and encouragement that looks and feels quite different from that of a mother. 

I don’t like speaking or writing apologetically. People should not always have a pre-qualifier or caveat. There are moms all over the world that do a wonderful job giving their all for their children. I think most people would agree that moms screw up less than dads. However, this says nothing about the importance of one love and care over another. Kids need both. A lot of kids don’t get both and that breaks my heart.

Kids are in need of protection, comfort, nourishing, and teachings of moms. What I don’t think many people understand is the equality of a dad’s love for his children as well as their developmental benefits it has on his children. Research shows that children of a nurturing 2 parent home have an advantage. They need to feel secure, accomplished, loved, and affirmed. They need to be encouraged to grow, take risks, and reach beyond their comfort zone. All of this forms them into what kind of adult they will become. A mother’s love is paramount, but no more or less important to the balance that a dad’s love provides for them. Fathers need to understand their crucial role. They need to love as a dad should. They need to be the best dad possible.

Deacon

When We Doubt Ourselves as Dads

I have heard the statement that there are no bad kids, just bad parents. While I agree that yes, there are some crappy parents out there, how long do we give kids a pardon for poor behavior? The, no bad kids statement has troubled me for a long time. Whenever your kid makes a mistake or royally screws the pooch, are we supposed to blame ourselves? When are they responsible? I mean if there are only bad parents, should mom and dad be punished when junior burns the living room rug because he was playing some matches?

I have and do doubt myself as a dad. I believe that most of us do. Is there anything that I could have done differently to prevent this? Did I do enough? When my kids failed at anything, was that because of me? If my kid gets in trouble at school, is it my fault? There is no doubt that a child’s behavior, success, and failures reflect on us as dads. If they misbehave we are embarrassed. If they lose, we feel like we lost. When they win we feel like winners. Is that just an association?

I want to let you know that I know some wonderful kids/teens that have morons for parents. I also no amazing parents that have “Damien” for a kid. When does free will come into the picture. When can a child decide for themselves? Can a child choose to not obey? I know that I sure did as a kid. I was awful at times. My sister and I were talking about it the other night. She is the oldest. I am the youngest of the siblings. We both were rebels. Our other siblings were more like Little House on the Prairie kids. The point is that our parents loved and supported us. We still wanted to be bad at times.

The idea that if you are a good dad that your kids will be angels is just not right. The idea that if you are a bad dad that your kids will be losers does not completely wash as well. I do support the idea that there are contributing factors. When I say factors, I also mean facts. There are facts and statistics about the “likelihood” or “odds” that children face that relate to fathers. Where we draw the line between what we assume to be typical and atypical is probably a matter of interpretation. For me, all the reports that I have read show that children with loving and supportive fathers have the odds in their favor when it comes to a healthy and successful life. With that in mind, I’m so glad that these statistics were about perfect fathers/dads. If it were, I think we would all be in trouble.

Being concerned about your status and/or performance as a dad is healthy. If you think you are always right or the perfect dad, I would say that there are some other things that you should be worried about. The first would be that you are delusional or just full of crap. The second would be that you don’t know how to read the faces or responses of your children at all. Being concerned means that you want to do better. It means that you want to grow and improve. This is an attitude that can only benefit our kids.

I don’t want to ever be complacent about my parenting, and I am now an empty nester. I still want to grow even though my kids are not “under my roof”. I still have a responsibility to love and be there for them. I want to be a resource of encouragement and Lord help me, wisdom. My role has changed throughout the years. Your role will as well. As they grow, you must grow. Search out ways to learn. Read, discuss, debate, and pray. Take time to evaluate yourself. Are you a fresh spring of resources for them or a stagnant pond? Listen. Really listen to them. Take time to respond instead of reacting. 

I have never been a big reader growing up. Now it is definitely one of the things that I would do over if given the chance. Right now I am reading Just Listen by Mark Goulston. I will put a link to the book below. It is not just an amazing how-to, but an in-depth study about how people process information. I highly recommend it to dads out there.

Doubting yourself means that you care. You want to do better. You want more for your kids. If we don’t question and challenge ourselves, growth will not be possible. We can doubt, but we can’t stay there. We have to DO something about it. We must take action, or else it is just feeling sorry for yourself, which never helps your kids. As I always say, start from where you are. Rise to the challenge. Set small goals for growth as a Dad. Be the best dad possible.

Deacon

Get Your Rest

Dads need to take time to sharpen their ax. What I mean is that you need to find a way to rest and refresh yourself. This can be very difficult but is paramount for your abilities and attitude. My biggest problem is usually an attitude issue. When I am exhausted, I’m not the best person to be around. I am less sympathetic, empathetic, and just a cranky young “old fart”. I have to schedule times of quiet if not an outright nap.

I did some research on famous people that were religious nappers. Here are the top 10 that I found:

  1. Winston Churchill 
  2. Salvador Dali
  3. Albert Einstein
  4. Leonardo Da Vinci
  5. Napoleon Bonaparte
  6. John F. Kennedy
  7. Thomas Edison
  8. Ronald Reagon
  9. Aristotle
  10. Margaret Thatcher

Getting a nap or rest time can be very difficult. Most of the time it takes some very active planning. Whether this is with your spouse or place of work, you need to find a way to recharge. 

One of the ways that I found to make this scheduling easier was to seek out to be a source of relief for others. For my wife, I would arrange a time to “take the house”. This meant unless the house was on fire, I would deal with all issues and needs. Whether it was for a mid-day nap, early bedtime, or sleep in day, I would make sure that my wife was undisturbed and the house was as quiet as possible. Just the effort and willingness to do so made it naturally easier for me to rest, both in the mind of my wife and mine. For work, I would seek to give others breaks. This made it very palatable for them to respect time for me to recharge.

Your environment has a way of dictating to you your options for rest. At work, you have to be creative. I would usually fire down a sandwich on the way to my resting spot, a meeting room that was never being used. I used a lumbar support pillow that I kept in my office chair for head support, put my phone on airplane mode, set an alarm, and laid on the floor. I would put my feet and calves into a chair to flatten out my back. For me, this worked. I told the key people that needed to know where I was should there be an emergency. Note – you don’t have to announce your naptime to the world.

I have some friends that go out to their car and crash. Personally, I don’t want to sweat while napping, so unless it was cool weather, my abandoned conference room was perfect. 

Whenever I had/have days off, I still get up early before the rest of the family. Many times I will cook and serve my wife breakfast in bed. I do this very often. Henpecked you say? I call it genius. It makes a nap time later in the day indisputable. It’s like Calgon take me away…without the tub. I just think I showed my age to those of you that got that.

Being able to take time to recharge and unplug really does help you refocus and get another level of energy. I personally believe that it is just as important as your eating habits. We can discuss diet later. Does it affect the way you “dad”? Yep!

I don’t care for the phrase “you owe it to yourself”. I prefer “you owe it to your family” to do whatever it takes to maximize your performance during the day. You know the levels of stress and the demands on you. Let me end this with my favorite illustration concerning rest. It has to do with 2 lumberjacks. They are trying to get a job with a lumber company, so they are given a cutting contest. Both men are given a large ax. The competition was simple. The winner would be the one that could fall the most trees in 2 hours. The first man went at it with a vengeance. He went from tree to tree, swinging the ax constantly. The second man would stop after every 3 trees to sharpen his ax. This also gave him time to catch his breath. The second man ended up cutting with a sharp ax all the way through the challenge. Although he paused, he won and got the job.

Dads, take time to sharpen your ax. Figure out a way to unwind, recharge, and replenish yourself. Do this to be the best dad possible.

Deacon

When they Start to become Ladies

Am I the only guy that was scared to death of having a little girl? As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, boys were just easier for me. Not a whole lot went into it…at least the baby and toddler part. When they went “pre-pube” it was even easier. I had the right prescriptions for their needs…food, dirt, and fire.

Girls can be just as an adventurist. My daughter loves the outdoors, sports, and contention…lol. Boys just seem to acquire less when it comes to maintenance. When they start to change…preteen, hold onto your hat. They become quite complex. Hey dads, what do you do? Remember this phrase…”Let me think about that”. “Hmmm, can I have some time to ponder on that”? Dads….buy time. Do it in the name of giving your daughter the best response possible.

If you assume that you understand the mindset of your pre-teen girl, you will be wrong. Give her space. Give her time. This allows for decompression and for you to be viewed as an asset, not the other ass____. Some of you may be thinking that right is right and wrong is wrong. “This is my house and my kids do as I say”. Let me refer you to the most macho men on the face of the planet. They are called Navy Seals. One of their primary objectives is to identify a threat and “avoid” a conflict. Their focus is to accomplish the mission, not prove how awesome they are in combat.

So how can you grow closer to your aging and changing daughter? First of all, you are not one. Don’t assume that you know their feelings or state of mind. There is a lot more going on upstairs with them than boys. They are WAY more complex. You will experience conflict. There is no getting around this. Whether feeling damage is direct or collateral it will happen. A line has to be drawn that allows for you to maintain the household and for you and your spouse to be in charge…not them. They want and need strong parents. The keyword is strong. As I have mentioned in another post, they need the ROCK/ISLAND. This is a safe haven, a landmark for them to determine direction. However, they don’t want to run aground.

I see the biggest issues between dads and daughters develop amongst young fathers. Most of the time this stems from a lack of confidence and the dad not knowing who he is, let alone the man that he should be for his girl. That may step on some toes. The best way for me to respond to that possibility is to ask an important question. What is more important, your pride and feelings or the well-being of your girl. Learn now how to eat humble pie. This does not make you weak. This means that you are willing to go through anything for your child. It doesn’t mean that the ROCK/ISLAND moves out of the way when a ship is on a bad path. We will let our lighthouse warn them. However, ultimately it is better to be dependable, even if that means they hit the rocks.

Dependable dads do not give their children anything that they want. They are consistent and solid. There must be principles that you don’t budge on. If you don’t, your word is not worth anything. A mad child will get over it. You just have to keep reminding them how much you love them while reminding them that there are things that you cannot compromise on. I did not have a lot of rules per se. Showing respect, not lying, and handling their business was my main message. I know that sounds vague. However, most issues of instruction and dealing with contention can be managed with it. My kids loved their freedom. I made it very simple. Always show respect, don’t lie to me, and take care of their responsibilities. If they did those things, they had a LOT of freedom.

I know fathers that are on every extreme of parenting styles. Those that are extreme usually have the greatest impact on their daughters, especially those coming of age. Some dads let their daughters run wild because they don’t want to face a scene in the Exorcist movie. Some dads oppress their daughters with restriction and rules, thus making them socially inept, overly sheltered, and easy targets out in the world.

If you are going to be the dad that your young lady needs, you need to establish communication as early as possible. When they think of you, you want them to think strong, safe, always there (the rock/island), love, and a man of his word. This is the most healthy combo that you can have for her. To have all these characteristics, she must come before your needs. You need to listen, then listen some more. You don’t have to agree on everything. She will get upset…so will you. However, it is you, dad, the adult, that must set the pace and guidelines for her to have the healthiest upbringing possible. You can be the best dad possible.

Deacon

Dads can be Heroes

The hugs and kisses that you get from your children are more valuable than gold. There is no such thing as a richer man than one that is the target of a child’s embrace. I wasted have of my life thinking about what success was and getting wrong. Chasing what is supposed to be the American Dream is crap because it is about what you have. It is materialistic or vocational status. 

My father was/is a very “decorated man”. He has built hospitals, been a big dog in Rotary International, the man of the year, an employee of the year, founder of several charitable organizations. He has been huge in his church and community. He was/is a go-getter. At 87, he works 2 jobs because he “wants to”. He also can drive a car like a pro. He is always on the go. However, he keeps telling me that none of the recognition and awards mean anything. What means the most to him is family. He looks back his life with regret concerning his schedule, wishing he would have spent more quality time with the kids. Ironically, he was always there as far as I can remember.

When I became a father in my early 20’s I was still immature and had no idea what I was doing. I don’t think that most young dads embrace the little things that make life wonderful. I became a quick learner. Being with my kids became the most awesome and valuable time I was spending at home. I loved getting trampled by them when I would get home from work. After dinner, it was playtime that usually resulted in tickling and wrestling. This was usually followed up by the dad trampoline. This was quite simple. I laid down on the floor and the kids would practice diving onto me. It was like we had our own pro-wrestling league and they would come off the top ropes to the roar of the crowd, which was actually the laughter of the others.

We would laugh, love, chase, wrestle until we were all pooped out. Then it was time for showers/baths. Once “jammies” we on, it was snuggle and veg time. My boys had energy from sources unknown. Any efforts to get them to sleep was a chore. However, my daughter would crawl up into my lap and lay her head on my chest/shoulder. She was OUT…lol. I never wanted those moments to end. I was a King! I was the richest man on the planet. Keep your riches and gold. I had everything I could ever want.

There are so many dads that miss out on this time. I feel so sorry for them. This is a time that sets up a success and open relationship that can continue for a lifetime. You need to start as early as possible. However elementary or basic these things may sound, don’t pass up these opportunities if at all possible. This when you can become a hero. Play with them. Do embarrassing and stupid stuff. Show me a dad with a daughter that never wore nail polish, make-up, or a crown at his daughter’s request, I will show you someone that has missed out.

So what if you missed those opportunities? Then you start from where you are. You will hear me say this many times. You can always start the race from where you are. This is the wonderful cheat of the dad world. I would never want to default to it, but it is there. However, I want to give you some clues on how to get on the hero list of your kids, whether they are biological or not. So here is a list that may help:

  1. Listen more than you speak. Dads like to give advice. Be cautious before you dive into this trend.
  2. Kids want to be heard, not necessarily having every issue solved for them. The one that listens to them is golden.
  3. Don’t dismiss their fears and anxiety. This is a common dad screw up.
  4. Be a ROCK. Don’t give in to things and ideas that you know are unhealthy or don’t serve the child’s best interest.
  5. Love them more than your popularity with them.

Being a dad is awesome but difficult at times. If you love your kids without limits, you will need to endure times that are difficult and uncomfortable. You must put yourself through the wringer so that they will have the best chances at success and growth. Dads, you can be the hero, but it will cost you. It won’t be a title given but earned. You can do it. Be the best dad possible.

Deacon

Being a Dad for Boys

I have to admit that being a dad to 2 boys was easier than the role of dad for my daughter. It doesn’t mean that they were better behaved, oh no no no. There weren’t as many parts. Let me explain. I believe that girls are so much more complex. Boys are like old muscle car engines. Girls are like new computerized, fuel injected engines. To me, there is just less that you have to figure out about boys. With girls, emotions, reactions, and communication require a more in-depth read of the owners manual.

Is this sexist or barbaric? I don’t think so. It definitely isn’t intended to be. I think boys are a bit more predictable. Therefore it makes interaction easier…for me. Boys are hungry. Boys are usually smellier than girls. They get dirtier. They are very reactive. Their feelings are usually written on their faces. There is not as much to decipher.

This aside, I understand that there are different traits and personalities. This observation is based on my experience. Let me tell you what I mean. My boys are very different personalities, but there are foundational similarities. My eldest son is an artist. My second boy, not so much. Both of them are physically strong. My younger boy is the star athlete. The older boy is quieter. The younger one never shuts up. They both respond to conflict the same. They both can be escalated to a physical altercation. They both are very direct about what they like and dislike. Their words are blunt. Both are more interested in the facts, not feelings.

Perhaps it was not so much a complexity or lack thereof with them. I should accept the responsibility of feeling differently about their emotional health. Well, that sounds horrible. I did and do care about all aspects of them. However, I never had to be careful about my words to them as I was with my daughter. I don’t think boys respond to sharp words or quick correction the way that girls do. 

Perhaps this is being tribal. Perhaps it is what it is. My kids are by the book (literally). The book I am referring to is Why Gender Matters, by Leonard Sax, M.D., Ph.D.  My boys have very boy like mannerisms. They are more likely to argue and fight. However, they get over contentious issues easily. My daughter, however atypical she can be in many issues, chooses a team for life. She keeps mental records. Trust gained or broken is rarely reversed.

There is a contentious issue among parents concerning stereotypes or in some cases, the facts. American essayist Anais Nin was quoted saying, “We do not see things as they are, we see things as we are”. Emotions can run high if the facts conflict with your convictions. I just have to be honest and say that my children fit what studies have shown to be factual. If you disagree, you are always entitled to your opinion.

Boys are in need of dads. They especially learn by example. They are visual creatures. What they see is vital. You can’t just tell a boy. You must show them. Perhaps that is why so many girls are deemed as more intelligent. Perhaps they don’t have the same needs. Boys must be shown. I remember all the lessons of “manhood” that my father showed me. He showed me how to fish. He showed me how to hunt. He showed me how to fight. Everything was by example. Then, I would mimic his actions. This is why our actions as dads are so vital. How we treat other people, especially ladies will show our boys the way they should treat others. Girls do benefit from examples but to me, its the boys that have to be “shown” what, how, when, where.

Boys and girls can both make you proud. However, it’s our boys that pump up our pride while girls have our hearts in their hands. There is no less love. However, it is different. In Dr. Sax’s book that I mentioned earlier, he suggests that girls draw nouns and boys draw verbs. Not to dive much into that heavy topic, I am curious as to why dads have a tendency to focus on a boys’ performance and girls’ state of being. To qualify this, I find myself asking my sons how they are “doing”. My tendency towards my daughter is how are “you”.

Dad’s, our boys are going to emulate your character and behavior. We are responsible for “showing” them how to be men. What kind of workers, husbands, and dads they become will be greatly inspired by your performance. Realize the importance of this relationship. Realize that you are being watched. Be the best dad possible.

Deacon