When we need parenting advice, and we will always need parenting advice, no matter how with it we think we are, there are many resources at our disposal. The internet is a wonderful place to begin, especially helpful if you just google your question and click over to the first chat board you see on the query list. Very supportive and sound advice can always be found in those places. Chat rooms are much like Facebook comment sections, in their honest and friendly debates always respectful of one another’s opinions and not at all judgmental or pushy or troll like. Definitely give it a try sometime.
Or, if you are feeling less like a dismemberment through the Internet, maybe you could look a little closer to home. Like a mom friend, or your own mom.
Or perhaps maybe you can look to the dads.
I’m one of those lucky ones who not only gets to claim my dad is THE BEST DAD IN THE WORLD but I am also married to THE BEST DAD IN THE WORLD. Odd how they could both share the title, and equally odd when I see many others claiming the very same prize. But let me just be clear, the votes are in, the academy has spoken and the trophy has gone to its proper owner (or owners, in this case. They have joint custody.)
And because of this very fancy title, I realized there are some really great Dad Skills I could learn from these two, skills that would really add something to my own repertoire of mom skills, the skills I just have not been able to quite master.
1. Be silly.
Nothing says Dad Skills like a good game of tickle/wrestling/goofiness. Daddy Monster is the orientation class I don’t remember attending prior to delivery of our first child but it seems to come naturally with Dads. Nothing sends those kids into a fit of giggles quite like their Dad’s tickles and goofy rough and tumble play. The grins are infectious. They are engaging in the best kind of way with anticipation, back and forth, eye contact, and joy. To the Dad, it’s just fun and silly and way easier than actually preceeding with bedtime. But to the child, it is a dream of a developmental learning activity. While I can master a good snuggle on the couch, I would love to learn to channel some of this silly energy into my play.
2. Be patient in the midst of chaos.
I joke (sort of) about the amazing talent my spouse has for tuning out screaming and whining children. And while he would never admit it, I’m sure my dad was quite masterful at this as well. What appears to be a selective hearing problem, I am learning and am able to admit is actually more a greater level of patience for the chaos. The crying and the whining and the clingy neediness of children is a necessary hazard of this career path, and also happens to be my kryptonite. I can do all things if the children just didn’t cry. But they do. And while I want to lay on the floor and cry with them, Dad is able to takeover with the calm reassurance of Mother Therese. He is not flustered but merely goes about his responsibilities. And I know the children respond to this. Dad’s poker face is on point. This is why there are two of us.
3. Be present in the moment, no matter what the day looked like.
Mike once shared a story with me about a man and the tree by his front door. Every night as he returned home to his family, he would pause at this tree. He would touch it ceremoniously, leaving all the troubles from the office at this tree, planning to pick them up on his way out the door the next day. This allowed him to walk into the door and be present with whoever needed him however they needed him.
This is something I admire about my Dad. I know his job of school administration was occupied by its fair share of stressful encounters and ongoing mental responsibilities. His calendar was filled with meetings and classes and finishing a dissertation that would never end. Nonetheless, when he was home, he was present. He listened, he engaged, he responded. In my child mind, my dad’s life was super easy and fun. I see this in my own children’s father. He may release an extra long sigh after we put the kids to bed and dump on me the day’s worries, but for the few precious moments he has with our children, he makes it count. This is honorable and something I still strive for.
4. Don’t feel guilty.
I’m pretty sure there is a reason you don’t often hear the word “Dad Guilt” in the same way you hear “Mom Guilt” thrown around. Both my dad and Mike pursue careers that are fulfilling and beneficial for the community. These careers also take them away from the everyday responsibilities of raising a child. But I have never not once observed a sense of guilt over this decision, or any parenting decisions for that matter. (Wait, I take that back. My dad recently admitted to guilt over the Under Dog swing push he gave that resulted in my broken foot at age three. Here, on the wide world web for all to see, I forgive you, Dad. You may let that go.) We make a thousand and one decisions in this parenting journey. And the ability to own the final decision and be proud of your work is a necessary skill for survival. It is what helps you demonstrate confidence to your child. And it also helps for better sleep at night. I continue to struggle with the last one, although my mom informed me it does not get any easier when your children have flown the coop. It might even get harder. Sigh. Still, I hope to find a way to own more confidence and less guilt.
This Father’s Day, as you remember the cool guy that raised you and the other one that holds your children, I hope you can take a moment like I am to find the Dad Skills they model. Because Dad Skills are greater than Google Skills anyday.