What it Means To Be a Dad

Fathersday 3152

Because I write a column about my experiences, people mistakenly think I’m a “parenting expert.” Excuse me while I stop laughing. I’m no expert. I’m just trying my best not to mess things up. Still, I’m often asked what I think it means to be a dad. Well, if you really want to know…

The era of the “passive dad” is long gone. It’s no longer vogue to pace around in the waiting room at the hospital handing out cigars; dads are invited to be in the delivery room for the birth of their child, and that’s a great thing. And it’s no longer de rigueur for a man to come home from work, plop in his easy chair and read the paper while his wife makes dinner and tends to the children; dads are encouraged to help in the kitchen and help with the kids. That’s a great thing, too.

Heck, society no longer mandates the man of the house work and the woman stay home. Based on changing attitudes, better paying jobs for women and numerous other factors, dads are accepting the new challenge of being the primary caregiver. According to U.S. Census data, about 160,000 American men now call themselves “stay-at-home dads” and 2.9 million American preschoolers are cared for by Dad, while Mom has a job outside the home.

This “modern dad” concept takes work, for sure, but being an involved father is incredibly fulfilling. Better yet, the active involvement of a dad is a pretty good way to ensure the development of great children.

Whether you are a stay-at-home dad or one with a demanding work schedule, there are some specific ways to provide your child with the unique influence of a father’s love.

First, creating wonderful children is largely about modeling appropriate behavior. From a very young age, kids pick up on the words and deeds of their parents. If Mommy or Daddy says or does something, then it must be right. “Daddy knows everything” is a typical mantra for children. As a father, simply be aware of your actions. You don’t have to be perfect, and you don’t have to be Superman, but you should act the way you expect your children to act. Don’t berate the Little League umpire if you don’t want your child to do the same.

Second, fathers offer something a little different than mothers. Many dads enjoy being the family comedian or the one to roll on the floor and dig in the dirt with the kids. Dads should relish these roles and connect with their children through play, or whatever other positive method suits their personality. In other words, do what you do best.

Mick Cochrane, author of “The Girl Who Threw Butterflies,” and the father of two sons, explained this aspect of fatherhood: “Being silly is one of the great untalked-about joys of fatherhood, don’t you think? Kids love to see otherwise reserved and dignified adults making fools of themselves. When you’re about to become a father, everyone tells you about the responsibility, the long hours – nobody talks about the belly laughs.”

What it comes down to, is that parents just want their children to be happy and healthy. Conveying happiness, joy and hope is essential. Let your children know, in word and deed, you love them. As a dad, make it your goal to provide regular moments of joy in your children’s lives. And this has absolutely nothing to do with the amount of money you spend on your kids. It has to do with recognizing life’s simple pleasures – reading to your kids, celebrating a birthday, playing catch in the backyard. Dads can take an active role in all of those moments.

Dan Yaccarino’s children’s book, “Every Friday,” provides a great example. Written from the son’s perspective, it tells the story of a weekly father-son breakfast date and the bonding that results from their morning walks.

Of course, fathers also need to prepare children to deal with life’s challenges and disappointments. Dads can do this by listening to their children, providing appropriate support, and offering advice from their own experience after reflecting on their own childhood and relationship with their father. What things did Dad do well? What didn’t he do well?

Finally, don’t be afraid to make mistakes, and don’t be afraid to adapt your parenting style if you find your current style is not effective. Again, no father is perfect, but you should know that being there for your children is a precious gift in itself. By taking on kid-related tasks (from changing diapers to helping with homework) and house-related duties (from vacuuming to paying the mortgage), you are showing responsibility for your family … which benefits everyone.

Brian Kantz would like to reiterate: He is not a parenting expert. Still, if you’d like to pay him a large amount of money to talk to your group about parenting, he can make some stuff up. Visit Brian online at briankantz.com or drop him a note at thenewbiedad@yahoo.com.