Not all men who have fathered a child are dads. Being a dad—an honest to goodness, authentic, true and bonafide dad—means much more than genetic parentage.
In the first place, a dad is a friend—even when it’s not convenient. For instance, one morning I went down to the lake near my home to watch the fishermen. There, fishing along the rocky bank, were old men with skinny, hairless legs protruding from faded denim pants; young boys with their shirts off, laughing, casting their lines frequently; large women, patiently engulfing their small wicker chairs; all types and sizes of outdoorsmen.
Among them sat a large and muscular man. And straddling his massive knee with spindly legs was a small girl, dishwater pigtails falling from under a straw hat. The girl had both hands wrapped around a long cane pole. One of his hands covered both of hers, while the other rested on his knee. The two of them sat there quietly, watching a red and white bubble bob in the water a few feet from shore.
His open tackle box displayed the gear of an experienced fisherman: flies and plugs for bass, trolling gear for lake trout, and a large assortment of streamers to lure the wily German Brown.
But today it was mudcats.
That large man with the little girl on his lap was a dad. He cared enough about his daughter to spend time with her on her terms, not his. He didn’t take her fishing so he could go fishing; he went fishing so he could be with her, to do something she would enjoy doing.
That’s one way to separate the fathers-in-name-only from the dads. Too many men are willing to be a dad only when the children are going an adult direction or when they share the same interests, hobbies, or skills. But a true dad builds a relationship that includes the child’s own interests and level of understanding.
One father I know used to spend an hour a day with his boy, playing basketball. On the surface that seems admirable—until you realize that it was the father, not the son, who loved the sport. This father’s childhood dream was to be a basketball star. He never made it. And so, because he wanted his boy to succeed where he had failed, they drilled on the basketball court every day.
The son did become a star—a high school all-star and a college hero. But while gaining a star, the father lost a son. Instead of building a healthy relationship, their time together actually drove father and son further apart.
The quality of the time parents spend with their children is as important as the time itself. When parents become rigid or demanding in order to gratify their own egos, or for any selfish motive, they destroy the very relationship they are trying to build. And being a friend to children doesn’t mean, of course, that dads need to be silly or immature. Children must also learn to respect their parents as the competent adults they have become.
Another requirement of dad-hood is that quality which blends authority and unconditional love to make dad both a respected authority and a loved companion to youth. Most fathers do all right on the stern side of this balance. Of course, it takes a little sternness at times to preside over frolicking pre-adolescents and presumptuous teenagers. But real dads realize that rules are made for the benefit and progress of the children, not for their condemnation. There is a time to be stern and a time to show love, perhaps even a time to bend the rules once the lesson is learned.
Take, for example, one situation I remember where a dad—call him Bob—had to have an especially large amount of wisdom. Larry, Bob’s oldest boy, had just obtained a driver’s license. Bob had established rules for the use of the family car, such as obeying the law, driving safely, and returning home on time. Disobedience meant forfeiture of the car’s use for two weeks.
The week of the junior prom, however, Larry received a ticket for speeding. There was a decision to be made, and not an easy one. Would Larry remember the lesson better if he were denied the use of the car for the prom? Would he become more responsible if he had to pay such a high price for disobedience? Or would he become resentful and rebellious, thus defeating the purpose of the rule?
Bob struggled with the dilemma for a couple of days. And then from somewhere way back in his own memory he recalled the significance of driving your own car to the junior prom. He postponed the start of the two-week penalty until the day after the dance.
Bob bent the rule, a rule that he himself had made. But by being flexible he established something greater than fear and power—love and respect.
True dads must also be an ideal for children to look up to. In a society where drugs sometimes have become a substitute for character, where some politicians seem to be bought and sold on a daily basis, and where a father’s role in the family has been eroded, children need, more than ever, a solid example of male virtue and honor. A father whose example is consistent with the precepts he teaches can do more to influence the lives of youngsters than almost any other factor.
To a boy, a dad should be a goal, a potential achievement. And to a girl, a dad should be the hope of things to come, the model for a future dad for her own children.
It’s not easy to be a dad. It requires the dedication and fortitude of an army general and the patience of a saint. You’ll find dads splashing around in the baby pool at the city park, throwing a dollar’s worth of Ping Pong balls to win a twenty-five cent goldfish at the carnival, and poised on hard chairs at piano recitals. You will even discover them changing a diaper, or telling soothing stories during a midnight thunderstorm.
And when the chips are down, you’ll see them with an arm around the hunched shoulders of a boy who sat out the whole game on the bench, or sitting in the ice cream parlor over chocolate sundaes with a girl just a little too young to accept a date to the school dance.
Whatever the price, there is no glory, no distinction, no award that will ever dethrone the title of Dad. When a man becomes a dad, he has already received one of the highest honors bestowed on man.
Let Me Share The Following by Scott Greer
Reasons I Love Being A Dad. . .
I love loving their mother and learning to love her more day after day, year after year.
I love the home movies I experience. The live ones. The in house “reality shows” if you please. Kids raggin’ on each other, telling mom and dad stories one more time, hugs at the door, serious discussions begun spontaneously, phone calls to say “Hi, I love you, ” and small hands pressed on a glass door to see the wonder of all wonders: the neighbor’s black cat.
I love happy birthday songs: songs sung and received in love.
I love watching my kids love their kids.
I love the smiles of children and grandchildren.
I love good memories, family pictures on the walls, and cards from “Father’s Days past. “
I love the never ending pilgrimage of learning, growing and developing with my children.
I love helping when I can and hurting when I can’t. No, I don’t enjoy the pain. It’s the honor of trying to help because “I’m a dad” that I enjoy
I love hearing “Mamma” sing songs to her grandchildren or read to them. I love sensing her joy as she interacts with them and relates to me one more among many, scenes in the stories of their lives.
I love being called “Pap. “
I love sharing the lives of the kids with their mother and sharing their mother as she walks with them during each phase of the varied journeys of their lives.
I love watching the joy in the eyes of my wife as she talks on the phone with her children. (A *very* frequent event in our home I might add!)
I love giving the grandkids back to my kids just about the moment I think I’m going under (or moments thereafter!).
I love hearing the laughter of family in the other room: always, always a very special delight!
I love hearing my wife pray for the family she loves so dearly and serves so faithfully.
I love being a friend as well as being a dad.
I love being a father-in-law and being friends before the term “father in law” becomes a reality.
I love memories of my dad loving me.
- With two caring parents there is not one right way and one wrong way, but two different ways.
- How you act when you are with your children teaches them how to act when they grow up.
- Share your ideas about parenting with your children’s mother if possible. Listen to her ideas.
- Fathers can show their sons how to grow up to be loving and caring and able to get on well with others.
- Girls and boys both need time with their fathers.
- Show your children that men can be gentle in a tough world.
- Fathers have an important role in teaching their children that it is all right for men to cry or to ask for help.
- When fathers are involved in daily care of their babies it builds special bonds that are important to children.
- As they get older children need to know that you like them, even if they choose different ways of doing things from you.
- Even if you don’t see your children a lot, you can still build happy memories in the time you have with them.
- Children need love – love to children means time and attention.
This is a guest post from Leo Babauta of Zen Habits a father of six children.
Being a father can be a wonderful thing, once you get past all the gross stuff, all the stressful events, the loss of privacy, and the bewildering numbers of ways you can screw it up.
But other than those few things, fatherhood is wonderful.
Every dad has fears that he won’t be a great dad, that he’ll mess up, that he’ll be a failure. It comes with the job.
Unfortunately, what doesn’t come with the job is a simple set of instructions. As guys, we often will skip the manual, figuring we can wing it … but when things go wrong, it’s nice to have that manual to go back to. Fatherhood needs that manual.
And while, as the father of six children, you might say that I’m qualified to write such a manual, it’s not true — I’m winging it like everyone else. However, I’ve been a father for more than 15 years, and with six kids I’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t, what’s important and what you can safely ignore (unlike that odd grating sound coming from your engine).
What follows are the fatherhood tips I wish they’d passed out to me upon the delivery of my first child. It would have helped a ton. I hope they’ll help you become an even more awesome dad than you already are — feel free to refer back to them as a cheat sheet, anytime you need some help.
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The Awesome Dad Cheat Sheet……18 Fatherhood tips They Should’ve Handed Out At The Delivery Room
- Cherish your time with them. One thing that will amaze you is how quickly the years will fly. My oldest daughter is 15, which means I have three short years with her before she leaves the nest. That’s not enough time! The time you have with them is short and precious — make the most of it. Spend as much time as you can with them, and make it quality, loving time. Try to be present as much as possible while you’re with them too — don’t let your mind drift away, as they can sense that.
- It gets easier. Others may have different experiences, but I’ve always found the first couple of months the most difficult, when the baby is brand new and wants to feed at all hours of the night and you often have sleepless nights and walk around all day like zombies. It gets easier, as they get a regular sleeping pattern. The first couple of years are also a lot more demanding than later years, and as they hit middle school they become almost functioning, independent adults. It gets easier, trust me.
- Don’t look at anything as “mom” duties — share responsibilities. While there are a lot of good things from our grandparents’ day that we should bring back, the traditional dad/mom split of parenting duties isn’t one of them. Some men still look at certain duties as “mom” duties, but don’t be one of those dads. Get involved in everything, and share the load with your baby mama. Changing diapers, giving baths, getting them dressed, even feeding them (you can give them breast milk in a bottle).
- Love conquers all. This one sounds corny, but it should be at the center of your dad operating philosophy: above all, show your children love. When you’re upset, instead of yelling, show them love. When they are upset, show them love. When they least expect it, show them love. Everything else is just details.
- Kids like making decisions. While it is easier to be an authoritarian parent, what you’re teaching your child is to submit to orders no matter what. Instead, teach your child to make decisions, and he’ll grow up much more capable — and happier. Kids like freedom and decisions, just like any other human beings. Your job is to allow them to make decisions, but within the parameters that you set. Give them a choice between two healthy breakfasts, for example, rather than allowing them to eat a bowl of sugar if they choose to.
- A little patience goes a long way. As a parent, I know as well as anyone how easy it is to lose your patience and temper. However, allowing yourself to react in anger or frustration is not the best thing for your child, and you must remember that. That means you need to take a deep breath, or a walk, when you start to lose your patience. Practice patience with your child and your relationship, and your child, will benefit over the long run.
- Sense of humor required. There will be times when your child does something that might make you blow your lid — writing in crayon all over the walls is a good one, as is dumping some kind of liquid on your couch, or sneaking out and taking your car to meet up with friends. While you need to teach your child not to do these things, it’s better to just laugh at the humor in the situation. I’ve learned to do this more often, and it helps me keep my sanity.
- Read to them, often. Whether you’re a reader or not, reading to your children (from the time they’re babies onward) is crucial. It gets them in the habit of reading, and prepares them for a lifetime of learning. It gives you some special time together, and become a tradition your child will cherish. I read with all my children, from my 2-year-old and my 15-year-old, and love every word we read together.
- Don’t be the absent dad. The biggest mistake that dads make are not being there for their children. Always, always set aside time each day and each week for your children. Don’t let anything violate this sacred time. And at those big moments in your child’s life — a soccer game, a music recital, a science fair — do you very best to be there. It means the world.
- Let them play. Kids really develop through playing — and while it might seem obvious, you should allow them as much free play as possible. That’s aside from TV and video games (see below), aside from reading, aside from anything structured or educational. Just let them play, and make things up, and have fun.
- Spark their imagination. Free play, mentioned above, is the best way to develop the imagination, but sometimes you can provide a little spark. Play with your kids, creating forts, dressing up as ninjas, role playing, imagining you’re explorers or characters in a movie or book … the possibilities are endless, and you’ll have as much fun as they will.
- Limit TV and video games. I’m not saying you have to be Amish or anything, but too much of this type of entertainment keeps them from doing more imaginative playing, from reading, from getting outside to exercise. I recommend an hour a day of “media time”, but you can find the amount that works for you and your family.
- Learn the “firm no”. While I’m all for giving kids the freedom to choose, and for free play, and lots of other freedoms, there should be limits. Parents who don’t set boundaries are going to have children with behavior problems, who have problems when they grow up. And if it’s not good to always say “yes”, it’s also not good for the child to say “no” at first … and then cave in when they throw a temper tantrum or beg and plead. Teach them that your “no” is firm, but only say “no” when you really feel that it’s a boundary you need to set.
- Model good behavior. It’s one thing to tell you child what she should do, but to say one thing and do another just ruins the message. In fact, the real lesson your child will learn is what you do. Your child is always watching you, to learn appropriate behavior. Excessive drinking or smoking or drug use by parents, for example, will become ingrained in the child’s head. Bad manners, inconsiderate behavior, sloppy habits, anger and a negative attitude, laziness and greed … all these behaviors will rub off on your child. Instead, model the behavior you’d like your child to learn.
- Treat their mother with respect, always. Some fathers can be abusive toward their spouse, and that will lead to a cycle of abuse when the child grows up. But beyond physical or verbal abuse, there’s the milder sin against the child’s mother: disrespectful behavior. If you treat your child’s mother with disrespect, your child will not only learn that behavior, but grow up with insecurities and other emotional problems. Treat your child’s mother with respect at all times.
- Let them be themselves. Many parents try to mold their child into the person they want their child to be … even if the child’s personality doesn’t fit that mold. Instead, instill good behaviors and values in your child, but give your child freedom to be himself. Children, like all humans, have quirks and different personalities. Let those personalities flourish. Love your child for who he is, not who you want him to be.
- Teach them independence. From an early age, teach your children to do things for themselves, gradually letting them be more independent as they grow older. While it may seem difficult and time-consuming to teach your child to do something that you could do much faster yourself, it’s worth it in the long run, for the child’s self-confidence and also in terms of how much you have to do. For example, my kids know how to wash their own dishes, help clean the house, clean their rooms, fold and put away laundry, shower, groom and dress themselves, and much more — saving a lot of time and work for me. Even my 2-year-old knows how to pick things up when she’s told to do so.
- Stand together with mom. It’s no good to have one parent say one thing, just to have the other contradict that parent. Instead, you and mom should be working together as a parenting team, and should stand by each other’s decisions. That said, it’s important that you talk out these decisions beforehand, so that you don’t end up having to support a decision you strongly disagree with.
What was the most memorable moment you have of your father? As you sit pondering the issue, think about how does one go about picking out the most memorable moment out of so many that have gone before? Would the most memorable one be that one instance that is difficult to erase from one’s memory bank? The one some one one can freeze in a memory bubble, and take it out and view it every time one thinks of his or her father?
Is it recalling the first time this most important man in one’s life held you, tickled you, tucked you in, or gave you a welcoming smile after returning home from that first day of school?
Most kids wish their fathers knew more about them: their Challenges, their Emotions, their Lives. With that feedback, what follows are the ten things that teenagers with their fathers knew about teenagers.
1. “I am not a child anymore.” Almost more than anything, teens want respect for their status as maturing young adults. Continuing to be treated as a child feels demeaning. Fathers recognize, however, that teens come in varying stages of maturity, and it is important to tailor your reactions to your teen’s level. As they reach early teen-hood, try to be aware of their situation and work at treating them a little more at an adult level.
2. “I act like I’m ready to be an adult, but I am scared to death of becoming one.” Whether or not your teen is ready to be treated like an adult, he or she is typically overwhelmed with that impending responsibility. Recognize that for all the bravado a teenager can muster, there is significant fear of the unknown. Dads who are able to blend a little respect with a little sensitivity for their situation can be a great resource for their teens.
3. “Friends are becoming more important to me.” Part of the transition process through which teens progress is moving from dependence on parents to independence. It is a process that we support and are excited about as fathers—after all, we want our children to become responsible, independent adults at some point. Part of that process involves a gradual separation from parents to others, including friends. This is natural, expected and appropriate. So don’t be too concerned or get hurt feelings when your teens would rather “hang out” with friends than stay home and play games with the family.
4. “I question lots of things that I didn’t used to question.” A big part of the maturation process is learning to think and feel for one’s self. Teens who were very obedient children may start questioning why they do things that you tell them to do. They may question your judgment. They may question basic beliefs and values that your family has embraced. This questioning process is healthy and normal. Try to stay available to help them through some of that questioning process if the opportunity presents itself.
5. “My hormones are doing weird things to me, and I can’t tell you why.” We have noticed with our sons that when they become teens, they become short-tempered and tend to raise their voices a lot, especially when they are under stress. They may start feeling uncomfortable around friends of the opposite sex, even when they have been friends for years. They may want posters on the wall of which you do not approve. But mostly, they just feel—they don’t necessarily understand why. Recognize that hormones may be at the root of some uncomfortable teenage behaviors. However, don’t let them use it as an excuse. Teach them that even though it is hard, hormones and “flash points” can be controlled.
6. “I hate ‘THE LOOK.” Moms and dads develop over time what teenagers know as THE LOOK. This may be expressed in a stare, glare or grimace that lets them know they are in trouble. Keeping the lines of communication open can minimize the times you use THE LOOK and can help them identify other ways of knowing that they are causing you stress.
7. “Sometimes, I just need to be alone.” Teens have a tendency to withdraw a little while they are figuring out their world. They may be pretty chatty with their friends, but may retreat into their own space when at home. This tendency is also natural and for the most part should not be alarming. If it becomes extreme, then you should be concerned.
8. “Sometimes, I just want you to listen.” Dads often tend to want to be problem-solvers and jump right into a conversation with advice. Resist that temptation and try from time to time to just listen. Many times conversations between parents and teenagers is a chance for a teen to “work it out on their own” with you listening in. Give them that chance to learn to deal with life’s issues rationally and reasonably without you jumping in to solve the issues.
9. “I need you to be consistent.” While teens often rebel at parental authority, they expect and feel most comfortable when parents stick by rule and behave consistently. Don’t constantly change curfews—have a rule and stick with it. The consistency will help give your teen something to rely on—an anchor in the storm of life.
10. “Walk your talk.” Teens get frustrated when parents say one thing and do another. Keep your commitments—they would rather have no promise than a broken one. If we have a family rule about television or video games, mom and dad should live by the rule as well. Set a good example and keep your commitments, and your teen will have greater respect for you.
~Any man can be a father. It takes someone special to be a dad. ~
Thank you Dad for all the memories, but most of all, thank you for being there.
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