The following is a post by Michael Mitchell @ Life to Her Years
If you haven’t checked out his blog, you should. He posts short ideas to help dads with daughters be better…well…dads.
I’ve been reading a lot of books and blogs lately on fatherhood and raising girls. From what I’ve read, there seems to be at least five common threads (probably more) running through most of the stuff that really speaks to me. Maybe they’re not really rules. Maybe they’re more like tips… tips, hints, suggestions, guidelines, or something like that. Whatever you call them, in no particular order, here are five:
1. Love her mom. Treat her mother with respect, honor, and a big heaping spoonful of public displays of affection. When she grows up, the odds are good she’ll fall in love with and marry someone who treats her much like you treated her mother. Good or bad, that’s just the way it is. I’d prefer good.
2. Always be there. Quality time doesn’t happen without quantity time. Hang out together for no other reason than just to be in each other’s presence. Be genuinely interested in the things that interest her. She needs her dad to be involved in her life at every stage. Don’t just sit idly by while she add years to her life… add life to her years.
3. Save the day. She’ll grow up looking for a hero. It might as well be you. She’ll need you to come through for her over and over again throughout her life. Rise to the occasion. Red cape and blue tights optional.
4. Savor every moment you have together. Today she’s crawling around the house in diapers, tomorrow you’re handing her the keys to the car, and before you know it, you’re walking her down the aisle. Some day soon, hanging out with her old man won’t be the bees knees anymore. Life happens pretty fast. You better cherish it while you can.
5. Pray for her. Regularly. Passionately. Continually. Let her know she’s got another daddy in Heaven who loves her even more than you do. She may not believe you today, but she’ll need that assurance someday when you’re not around.
Alright dads and daughters who’ve been one or the other longer than me and mine, what have I forgotten? This list is by no means (nor was it meant to be) comprehensive. Anything else you’d add?
There’s a story of a family sitting on their porch in a small Texas town on a hot day with little intent on doing anything. I remember watching the video in my organizational behavior class during graduate school. They were all sweating, drinking lemonade, and I am pretty sure playing cards. After a silent moment, one of the family members suggested they go to a cafeteria (fine dining, I know) in Abilene a significant drive away. No one objected. They went. The film then showed them back at home, probably the same lemonade, and all of them still sweating. Soon they realized that no one wanted to go to Abilene in the first place, it was simply a suggestion, but in order to avoid making anyone feel bad, they went.
Ever since viewing that film, I always look for the times in my life when I am “on the road to Abilene”. Here’s a good example, which happens quite regularly in our home. This actually just happened again on Saturday night. I got on my computer in our bedroom to check a few blogs I follow regularly. I had decided I wanted to just be on for a few minutes and then my wife and I would watch a show together. She started to read a book, and I kept consuming information, which is something a lot of us would be considered pros. After an hour, I realized we just showed up in Abilene. I am sure neither one of us wanted to spend that hour that way, but we did. I was in the driver’s seat. I’ve learned that my wife doesn’t interrupt me when I am on the computer, and she shouldn’t have to ask me to get off the laptop. It is my decision. I decide where our “car” is driving, and when we will arrive there. No offense, but Abilene doesn’t sound like more fun than watching an episode of our favorite TV show (hopefully they never stage an episode in Abilene).
Looking back, a number of questions come into my mind:
- · Was reading those blogs how I really wanted to spend my Saturday night? With my new job, I am gone 12-13 hours a day, and do not have the time I had while I was in school to be with the wife and kids. I was definitely on my way to Abilene
- · Who was I putting first? My wife was sitting next to me and instead I was learning about someone/something probably thousands of miles away from me. The relationship with my wife and children should come first.
We need to regularly assess how we are spending our time. Are our actions lining up with our beliefs? If you asked me Saturday night what matters most to me, I would have said my wife, but my actions were obvious. My wife was second place to something of little to no significance.
If we all decided to act in harmony with our beliefs, I think all of us would be more productive and provide more value to those around us than we currently do.
My plan this week is to put my money where my mouth is and act in a way that shows what my priorities really are.
Our family is different just like everyone else’s family is unique. This past Christmas we were lucky to have all of my brothers and sisters in town, which means 14 nieces and nephews (counting my two children) spending a lot of time together. In the span of that week we experienced sick kids, tired kids, kids not wanting to share, etc. What was fun to watch is the different styles of each parent.
What was different about this time for me was that I realized how different each niece and nephew are, not only in comparison to my children, but even to their own brothers and sisters. As soon as I gained that insight, I stopped comparing parenting styles, thinking one is better than the other. Yes, there are basic principles that all parents should seek to include, such as, listening, patience, and consistency to name a few, but at the same time, each child needs something a little bit different.
Sometimes it is time out, sometimes it is special privileges, it all varies from situation to situation and from child to child. I truly feel there is no formula to how to be a good parent. All parents should seek to love and understand their child and learn the needs of their children, which I have seen great examples of in my life.
So many of us try to replicate parenting styles of certain books, or others we know in our lives. Sure it worked for them and their kids, but what works for them may not work for you. Why? Because you and your child are different people than they are. Look for principles rather than specific applications in other parenting styles, then seek to apply the good principles in a way that fits your needs.
What principles of parenting have you learned from?
There are many times when we see our children do something that causes us to be proud.
For me, the first time this feeling came was when my daughter folded her arms and bowed her head for a prayer. I started thinking, why did she do that? We never asked her to? Then it hit…we did it first.
I am not going to be a parent who says, “do what I say, not what I do.” That will get my children no where in life. Instead, I would rather set the example and show my kids what I expect of them. Instead of leaving my dishes at the table after a meal, I can put them away in the sink, and then it becomes much easier to ask them to do the same. Instead of letting piles of stuff stay on the floor, I can keep my room clean and make my bed, making it easier to expect them to do the same.
The power of an example is huge.
Again, these good things in my life came from good examples around me.
If there is something I do not like about my child’s behavior, I should ask, do I do anything that says that behavior is acceptable to her? What message are my actions sending?
For me, I gained my love of exercise from my father’s example of rising early each morning to go running. I remember eating cereal on Saturday mornings when my dad would come in the door in his sweaty running clothes looking energized and refreshed. It has never been a burden for me to exercise because I always saw my dad exercising. Now, my daughter is always asking to go outside to go running and we will take her running around the block a few times.
What are some things y’all learned from your parents, good and bad?
So over the past few months, I realized there were things I chose to waste my time on, which I didn’t even want to be doing. Maybe some of you know what I mean. You sit down to “take a break” from work, cleaning, the kids, and find yourself 15 minutes, 1 hour, maybe even a few hours later feeling like you just wasted away precious time from your life. Trust me, I think we have all been there. Now, I’m not saying we shouldn’t take a break once in awhile, but sometimes we need to do other things instead of wasting our time watching television, or surfing the internet.
The hard part is changing. It is always difficult to change. What keeps us from change? The fear of not being connected, worried that we’ll be even more tired if we actual use our brain power a little longer to do something creative, or read a book. There are countless reasons. I decided to flip the switch on one thing, in essence, an experiment. I did it and it feels great…I have not been on facebook for over two weeks and I love it. Since it is an experiment, I had my wife change my password, but I am not quite ready to give it up completely. I am not against completely getting rid of my account. Maybe I just don’t have the guts to burn a bridge with a website quite yet (maybe that tells you how bad of a problem I had when I use phrases that are usually described with our interpersonal relationships to describe my relationship with an inanimate object).
What do I do instead? I spend time with my kids, I spend time reading, I spend time on what I care about. I spend time helping out around the house. Sometimes I just sit and watch. I would rather not be reading endless updates from acquantances about what they had for breakfast, that their husband is currently cutting his hair (really??), or what song someone has listened to and what news articles they are reading. I would rather live my life, than following the lives of others, that apparently are so important they feel the whole world needs to know how their date went last night.
How long will I stay away? It’s indefinite, but the longer I stay away, the more I want to stay farther away.
What distractions have you given up recently?
Prior to becoming a father, I had time to sleep in, go out when I wanted (even afford to do so), go visit friends, run at anytime of day, and a host of other activities at my convenience. What’s changed? My family takes precedence over my wants. I want you to realize I said wants there instead of needs. The question then becomes, what are a father’s needs?
Those are a few of the basics. There are certain things I cannot forego in order to be a more effective father. I need to eat, and healthy for that matter. A father needs energy to keep up with his kids. I need sleep (the amount of sleep is going to differ by each person, for me, it is about 7-8 hours of sleep to feel energized). The topic of sleep is definitely one for another post. Shelter is an obvious need. Finally, fitness…for me, I need to be in good shape to have energy to play with my kids. It is important to me.
These needs didn’t change since I was a bachelor and had no children. I had these needs before, but the difference is how I meet these needs. Instead of going to bed at 1 a.m., and waking up at 10 a.m., I now have to go to bed earlier because my kids wake up at 7 a.m. regardless of how much sleep I got. Also, in order to take care of my body and still pay attention to my children, I need to exercise when they are asleep (this has changed a bit since we bought a double jogging stroller). I have tried to workout at home when the kids are awake, but it has become difficult to finish a workout with them asking for juice or snacks or for me to read a story.
Rule #2: Your needs are not always the most important.
I take care of these needs to be a better father, but I have realized I can care for myself, without taking time away from my children. Let’s face it, for those of us who work, we already take enough time away from our children.
Would I change this?
Not at all. I love the discipline I have learned by putting someone else’s needs ahead of my own. I love the joy I feel when I get to spend time with my children, knowing I have taken care of the important things in my life.
What are some ways you have adapted to take care of yourself while having children?