by Mickey Mansfield
Dear Dads… be the best dad that you can be. You will make more of an impact than you know. Yep, “Dadding” is hard, but worth it.
“Dadding” is one of the most exciting, yet terrifying journeys of your life. You can be the best dad and you’ll still get those well wishes and misguided advice that will swirl around you. Yep, a few key points are left off of the brochure to Dadland.
The 10 hardest things about “Dadding”
1.You will have to go from good cop to bad cop in 0-60, so buckle up, Buttercup. The joys of discipline. We all want our kids to do right and eventually enter the world as strong, responsible, and moral adults. We want to impart lessons and be respected, all while being able to have some sort of a friendship with our children when they are adults. Basically, the goal is to raise an adult you would actually want to spend time with. Yet, none of us wants to be the dad whose kids hate them, or have nothing but memories of a strict upbringing and lots of yelling/punishments, which leads us to the next difficult thing about being a father…
2.Practice walking on a tightrope, now. The balancing act that today’s dad faces isn’t the same as what our fathers’ or grandfathers’ 9-5 schedule meant for them. Many of us work multiple jobs to make ends meet, and the toll of living in the cyber age is a pricey one to bear. Smartphones make it hard to put work away when we are home, so finding that work/life balance isn’t easy. Find time for your kids.
3.Focus on Quality vs. Quantity
The key here is focusing on the quality of time spent vs. quantity. This is made even more difficult for the single dad, whose children might not be with them every day. Making every minute count, and establishing a strong line of communication with your kids are both important.
4.You can’t duct tape them into bubble wrap suits. Here’s the thing… each stage seems like it’s the hardest yet, and at the time, it is. But try to appreciate each step, because eventually, it won’t be the fact that they aren’t sleeping through the night and you’re exhausted… it will be that you’re up waiting to hear that key turn in the door, hoping you were able to teach them how to make smart choices and protect themselves. As dads, that’s our thing.
5.Be the protector… and then let go. We are the protectors, but in this day in age it is harder and harder to do, especially as they grow. Gone are the days when the bully only harassed kids at school or on the playground. Thanks, again, to the age of technology, we have cyber bullies that kids cannot escape. Talk to your kids and teach them what to watch out for. Teach them to COME TO YOU when they need something and to talk to you. Don’t judge them – just listen and try to understand before you give your advice.
6.How can you help give them their best chance education-wise, when the homework is pretty much too hard from second grade on? We live in strange times, when a college degree doesn’t guarantee job security, but a strong education is still a major door opener. How can we compete with video games and the fast paced/ short attention span era our kids are growing up in? Talk to your kids – that’s how. Play with them. Get outside and do something with them. Your attention is easily the winner over a game – try it out and see for yourself.
7.Homework can be a bonding time. Homework is happening a lot more these days… more hours of homework when you are just getting home for the evening and you still have to fit in dinner, bath time for the kids, and get out a tiny bit of family time before falling into bed for the night and starting all over. Do what you can to make homework time fun, be there, providing support, help instill good study and research habits. Find educational apps to add to that brain-building bonding time, and end the night sharing a story. This is the stuff they will remember.
8.You won’t want to let them down, but also won’t want to end up with a bratty kid. As you are probably starting to gather, the running theme of the hardest aspect of dadding, is balance. Kids are growing up in an age of entitlement. There are nine-year-olds walking around with newer iPhone models than I have. Don’t let them be entitled. Teach the to be grateful and talk to them about that. Don’t buy them everything, even if you can. Teach them the value of hard work.
9.Give them more – but not more stuff. Yes, I want my kids to have more than I did, but at what cost does this come, and where do we draw the line? How do we provide what they need, as well as some of what they want (teaching them that important difference) while instilling a good work ethic.
10.Savor each moment, each milestone, each fight as they strive to break away and become independent, because your child will morph from demanding “my first” when feeding themselves into holding a hand out for your keys, in what feels like one breath. One day, you will be sitting there, wondering where the past twenty years went, wishing you could go back and do it all over again.