I recently read Joe Brainard’s beautiful little book, I Remember. Remembering his childhood, Brainard says, “I remember that life was just as serious then as it is now.”
I think this insight is crucial — the day-to-day life of children has the same high level of seriousness as do the daily encounters and strivings of adults.
The child building a bridge out of wooden blocks is as seriously at work as the cardiologist listening intently through his or her stethoscope to the patient’s heart.
As adults, we often tend to forget how difficult and confounding the world of the child can be, and the energy that it takes to address that world. Brainard’s comment made me think of the wonderful couplet from William Blake:
“Children’s games and old men’s reasons Are the fruits of different seasons.”
-Mike from Kentucky
Another kind of put-down…
I was surprised several years ago when I attended a seminar on parenting (not court mandated, thank you) and I learned that there are subtle put downs that people do not even think about.
One of these is the comparison put down: “You should be more like those kids in the show. They had it a lot tougher than you and they got their act together.”
Then there is the why put down: “Why did you just do that?”
It is better to teach by example than word and also by encouragement.
Kids are people. Now that seems like an obvious thing to say. But dads sometime seem to forget that.
For example you’re at a store and you hear a man say sternly to his kid loud enough for all to hear, “stop acting so stupid” or “shut-up you are really getting to me” or…well you know just fill in the blanks.
The first rule of The Manual For Dads is being there for your kids.
If you notice your kids, show interest in their thoughts and actions; if you demonstrate that you care about what they feel, then you are there for them. And they will have the security of knowing that they matter to you. And as you know, you are the most important man in your kid’s life.
But how can you be present to kids at different stages of life. Being present to a toddler is so much different than being present to a teenager (who is probably trying to establish independence from you). Each stage of life requires a different form of engagement. However the basic strategy of dadding is this: when you are with your kids, some of the time put your own thoughts away and show them that you know they are with you and that you like having them there. Continue reading →
Ben, a thirty-something father of three, had this to say about dadding:
In terms of “dadding,” I think the two things that have guided me are to “be there when you’re there- kid time is focused on the kids, not trying to multi-task other things,” and “know your limits. Like anything else, something I love for a few hours becomes painful for everyone if I do it for too long. When I know I’m going to have the kids for many hours, I develop a plan in advance for activities (parks, meals, walks, etc.) that will keep us all bouncing along happily.”