Observations On Being A Dad
Becoming a parent is easy, but being a parent is really hard. Having a close relationship with your child can help get you through the tough parts. It can also be one of the most rewarding relationships you can have. Now, I don't have any degrees in psychology or child rearing, but I do have two kids who are hard working and responsible, don't do drugs, and never went through a phase of being embarrassed by Dad. Does that make me Mr. Know It All when it comes to kids? Absolutely not. But there are a few things I have learned that I can pass on. A lot of this is applicable to moms and dads, but being a dad myself I have chosen to address this to my fellow dads.
Don't Just Be There For The Fun Stuff
I have a friend (who shall remain nameless) who is constantly posting on social media about how much he loves his kid. And he should, he has an adorable 2 year old daughter. He travels a lot for work and when he is home he takes a lot of pictures and posts them. Recently though, his wife had an appointment on a Saturday morning when he was home. He became so upset about having to stay at home for one morning to take care of their daughter that the resulting argument almost ended the marriage. He was yelling about how he had to fix breakfast and change two dirty diapers. I couldn't help but think, So what? She is your child too. Your partner was not the only one responsible for the creation of the child, they should not be the only one responsible for taking care of them. You know that trapped feeling you get at work all week, when you can't wait to get home and away from it all? If your partner is a stay at home parent, this is how they feel too. They deserve a break every bit as much as you do. Another thing I have discovered, feeding your baby, changing their dirty diaper, rocking them in your arms at two in the morning when they can't sleep, all of these things make you feel closer to the baby in the end. This will forge links that will last long past infancy. It is important for you, your baby, and your partner that you do not take a hands off approach to being dad. Get in there and get your hands dirty.
Don't Forget About The Fun Stuff
It's easy to play and have fun with a baby. They are so cute, and you can play with them sitting in one spot. When they get older they want to run around and roll on the floor. It is a lot harder, but still needs to be done. Roll on the floor with them, run around in circles, play all the games they like to play. Don't just plop them in front of a t.v. or hand them a tablet. Use your imagination with them, pretend you are pirates or dinosaurs. If you have girls, play Barbies. Maybe you think you are too manly, or you don't know how. It will be worth the joy your kid gets from you playing with them to make the effort. Just give it a try, it is easier than you think. Children are naturals at playing, just follow their lead. You will be making not only a strong bond, but great memories. Just like you should not be afraid of getting your hands dirty by taking care of your kids, you shouldn't be afraid of getting them them dirty playing.
Share The Things You Love
If there is one way to build a bond and have common ground, it is to share interests with your children. If you are into sports, watch games with them, teach them to play, practice with them. If you love old musicals, watch them with your kid. If you love books, read with your kid. Actually, I recommend that last one just on general principles anyway. Another thing to keep in mind is to not get caught up in gender stereotypes. Don't think that only guy things can be shared with your boy and only girly things can be shared with your daughters. I am a geek, with all that this implies. I have a son and a daughter. I shared Star Wars, comic books and video games with both of them, even though at that time those things were considered very much to be boy things. I have a great relationship with them now as adults, and the three of us always go see the new Marvel superhero movies on opening night together. It's pretty special and I am really glad I didn't limit it to just one kid because the other happened to be born a girl.
Take An Interest In The Things They Love
Your children are going to develop interests of their own. And you will inevitably find some of the things they love to be terrible. I have read books that were terrible, gone to movies that were completely stupid, and gone to see bands in concert that I cannot stand. I wouldn't give up a minute of it. I got to see my kids and how happy they were to be there, and to have me there with them. That makes it all worth it. Every once in while, I have discovered that I really did like something that I hadn't expected to like. This is icing on the cake. Not only are you showing an interest in your child's interest and spending time with them, but you have found something new to enjoy for yourself. Even if you really don'y like it though, it is worth putting up with in small doses to make your kid happy and help strengthen those bonds.
Sharing Is Good, But Don't Overdo It
If you spend just a few minutes on social media, you will see someone's pictures of daddy daughter dates, or game night, or something along those lines. There is nothing wrong with sharing an image of you and your kids having a good time. But don't get so caught up in documenting and sharing that you forget to actually enjoy being with your kids. Put down your phone and give your kids your full attention. Make sure they know they are more important than your Facebook friends. The memories will mean more if you are more invested in them, even if there are fewer pictures of them. Forget about showing everyone what a good time you had, and just have a good time. Don't worry about showing everyone how close you are, and just be close. Trust me, you will remember the good times you have even you forget to take and share a single picture of it.
Don't Neglect Your Partner
One trick to raising happy kids which is not obvious, is to occasionally spend time with your partner without your kids. These days there is a tendency with some to make everything about the kids to the detriment of everything else. Your kids will be happier though, if you and your partner have a good, happy relationship. This isn't to say that single parents can't have happy kids, or that toxic relationships should continue for the kids' sake. What I am saying is that if you are in a relationship, you should take steps to keep it healthy. Your kids don't need to deal with the fallout from your bad relationship if it is not necessary. Many relationships fail through simple neglect. So, get a sitter, take your partner out, or just stay in and have dinner. Don't just sit and watch t.v. Talk and laugh and touch base. If your adult relationship is good, it will make your relationship with your kids better.