A Dad’s Reflection on His Own Reality and Role in Parenting
This is the time of year that Father’s Day is celebrated and I want to share some thoughts as a husband and father of our two young children – a boy just about to become 11 years old and a 6 year old daughter.
Being an “everyday-kinda-guy” seeking to provide for the family, meeting the non-financial needs of our kids as a father is not easy. I am growing to realize that what my kids need emotionally from me is not the same as is expected from Mom. They want me to play with them and do stuff with them when I feel like doing something else. Many times I get home from work feeling the need to emotionally get away to my own world to unwind. Life itself can feel so emotionally draining at times in just trying to deal with my own concerns of providing for their future. The danger is that my concern for the future makes me deny my kids of the attention they need from me now in the present.
We Do Make An Impact On Our Kid’s Lives
Research suggests that in the area of play, fathers spend a greater percentage of their relational time with their kids in play activities in a style that tends to be more physical and exciting than the ways mothers tend to interact. Our tendencies towards “horseplay” , for example chasing them around the house as a “scary bear”, or lifting and twirling them over our heads for an “airplane ride” allows them to experience the thrill of being just a little scared, but amused and aroused at the same time. This bit of information was taken from chapter 6 of the book “Raising An Emotionally Intelligent Child” by Dr. John Gottman with Joan Declaire . I was pleasantly surprised to relate 100% to these comments as it pertains to me and my children. My little girl would make you think she is being really scared but her excitement and laughter confirms that she is also having fun at me being the scary-bear-or-some-other-such-creature. They definitely don’t look to Mom to chase after them or for “horseplay” – in our family context.
Dads, Kids Need To Feel Our Presence As Much As Seeing Us There
I read further along in chapter 6 of the above mentioned book in which one Levant was quoted as stating (and countering) the observed traditional stereotype that
“……a father is someone who works hard, who isn’t around much, who criticizes more than he compliments, who doesn’t show affection or any other emotion except anger – no longer applies”.
The quote from Levant goes on to state that
“…men are supposed to be sensitive, caring, enlightened dads who are really there for and involved with their kids…the only problem is many men don’t know how to be that kind of father, for the simple reason that their own dads weren’t that kind of father to them.”
I am sure many dads can relate to these statements to some degree and if nothing else, it should inspire food for thought as we reflect on our own parenting situation.
I think there is a beckoning for us dads to not only be there physically for our kids but be there emotionally as well. Emotional involvement includes enjoying an activity together and also getting into their world through empathy. We should seek to connect with how they are feeling about the moment and not just enjoy the moment from our dad’s point of view. We can come away with having had fun with our kids and never realise the impact the time has had on them. We can think they had a fun time so mission accomplished but missed out on appreciating the impact or imprint the time with us has had on their minds and hearts. Quality emotional presence with our kids can help us get grounded in life and take our appreciation of family to a higher level. I am realising that sometimes when I come home and want to get away by myself, if instead I were to take a few moments to forget about myself and unselfishly throw my emotional attention into my kids’ world and “smell the roses” in their world, I would feel much better. It reminds me that the world is not just about me and my perceived problem in the moment. It doesn’t mean that reality stops but being there emotionally for them really helps to keep life in perspective.
Be Aware Of Your Kid’s Everyday Needs As A Father
We should always seek to stay tuned in to our children’s everyday needs as they grow even as we try to find a balance between work life and home life. The authors of “Raising An Emotionally Intelligent Child” also encourages that as dads we should seek to do this regardless of the nature of the relationship we may have with the mother of our kids. I totally understand this point as all household relationship dynamics vary but our kids still need us in spite of our imperfections living in an imperfect world. We are their dad and contrary to what many may say or want us to believe, our kids need us physically and emotionally in their lives.
But hey, this is just a brief thought from a dad who like many of us, never had a chance at a practice run and then return to the real world to be the father to your kids; never had a chance to pre-clone them to sharpen my skills to become confident and experienced at this thing and then return to real life to be the most emotionally caring super-dad…but it’s a life long journey of learning.
As fathers we can become so preoccupied with providing for our family that we can unintentionally loose sight of how important spending meaningful time with our kids is to their development and emotional character. They may be disappointed in the moment that we can’t buy them the coolest stuff their friends may have. However, if we stay emotionally connected to them while we explain why they don’t have these cool things and be there for them while they deal with the alternate reality – be it a “lesser” present or an activity together instead of the “perfect” gift. However, dads we are demonstrating to them that we care. We are letting them know that in spite of their feelings of disappointment(s) they do matter to us and that their feelings of disappointment affect us too. After the immediate moment of disappointment has passed, quite often our kids will remember feeling loved, feeling that they mattered and that you actually care.
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