On July 25, 1997 my life changed! The change was immediate and long lasting. I am who I am today partly because of the events on that day. That day 19 years ago our son entered the world. A few days later we left the hospital to begin life as new parents in our own home. Enclosed in the assortment of material and supplies the hospital sent home was a pamphlet from The Family Source of Florida entitled, “10 Ways to Be a Better Dad.” Now that Andrew is away from us for his sophomore year at Faulkner, look back and hope I was and am to him the Dad they describe.
Here are their suggestions along with my comments:
- Respect your children’s mother! Amen and amen. Children need to know their parents love and respect each other. This will form the foundation of their own marriage in years to come.
- Spend time with your children. That day over 19 years ago seems like yesterday. Now that little bundle of joy wears shoes two sizes bigger than me and looks down on me in the eye when we are standing. In just over two years he will be graduating college and taking the next step of adulthood. Take time to be with them and enjoy playing and being active together.
- Earn the right to be heard. Talk with them while they are young. Talk about difficult subjects that are age appropriate. Offer to help and help them with their struggles now and they will turn to you in trust later.
- Discipline them with love. Children need limits to keep them safe and to help them grow. Set those limits and lovingly enforce them in appropriate ways.
- Be a role model.. Your children will naturally look up to you when they are young. Be a GOOD role model of what a father and husband should be. They may not tell you so when they are teenagers, but they will still admire you in someway especially if you are consistent when they are young.
- Be a Teacher. Parents, you are your child’s first and primary teacher. Do not rely on the school or church to be your children’s only teachers. Teach them about right and wrong and encourage them to always perform to their best ability.
- Eat together as a family.. This gives your family the opportunity to debrief their day. You can talk about the good events and the emotional events; all the ups and downs of their daily activities. This gives you opportunity to listen to your children and therefore to know them. Which in turn gives you the right to offer guidance. They also hear about your day and how you cope with daily events.
- Read to your children. Amy is an elementary school teacher. She teaches young children who are new to reading. She can tell which children have parents that read to them. These children are better prepared to read and want to read because they see a love of reading modeled in the lives of their parents. Andrew is an avid reader (or he was while at home) and that inspires me to become a more regular reader.
- Show affection. This is not easy for some men, but we need to demonstrate love to our children. Hugs and kisses are great when they are little. As they mature, expressions of affection need to change. They will let you know how they want you to show love. Now athat Andrew is a man, we “man-hug” (a handshake that leans in to bump shoulders) as well as showing affection in other ways such as doing things together, the occasional fist bump, and things like that.
- Realize a father’s job is never done. My son is leaving the nest. Even when he is grown and he begins his own life and eventually a family of his own, if he is anything like my dad’s second son, he will still look up to his dad and look to him for love and advice.
BTW, thanks Dad for being a great example of all of these things.