I always get a little teary and deeply touched when I see a dad walking along holding the hand of his young daughter or son. I sometimes eavesdrop on their conversations and delight in their laughter and banter. There is no more secure time in your life as when you are holding your dad’s hand, skipping along with crazy legs and not a care in the world.
My own dad did not have a lot of time to hold my hand and skip a long. He was a World War II veteran who worked long hours to provide for his family and often came home exhausted. He wasn’t usually in a frame of mind to deal with four rambunctious kids.
At times, dad came home in a good mood and he was relaxed and chatty. I would hang on his every word as he told us interesting tales about his childhood or other funny stories and jokes. My dad was also an expert carpenter, letting me help at a young age with projects that taught me building skills I have used all my life. I also loved the impromptu family Sunday outings my dad would initiate for French fries or ice cream at our favorite fast-food restaurants. It was these special, out-of-the-ordinary things we did with dad that made a lasting impression on me.
While I largely remember my dad for these fun times, I simply never expected him to care for me the same way my mother did. During my childhood, parental roles were more rigidly defined as father, breadwinner; mother, stay-at-home mom and caregiver. It was a model that worked well enough for a while, but due to sweeping social and economic changes, parental roles began to evolve and today they look quite different from baby boomer times. Fathers have also awakened to the importance of their roles and want to care for their sons and daughters more actively on a day-to-day basis, not just for the special or fun times.
As I was writing this story, I came across a blog by Scott Behson called Fathers, Work and Family. He talks about his involvement in the everyday work of raising a child and creating space for special times and moments. I liked his opening statement, “If we want to be remembered as good dads, we have to both put in the hard work of being a good father and also carve out time for fun, memorable shared experiences with our kids.”
Behson's two pieces of advice are:
1.) “Do the everyday, sometimes unnoticed work of being a good father.” While the day-to-day humdrum of homework, baths, discipline, and care-giving are “less glamorous,” they are extremely important and create a constant, loving presence in kids’ lives.
2.) “Punctuate the everyday with occasional bursts of something memorable.” These are the special things you do together with your kids, the interests you share, the impromptu outings, and memories you look back on and still smile about.
To read more on Scott Behson's blog, go to Fathers, Work and Family.
There’s also good solid evidence about how important the roles of fathers are in the lives of children. Research conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has shown that children with nurturing, involved, and playful fathers reaped tremendous emotional, cognitive, and social benefits into adulthood. Children who develop special bonds with their dads:
- Have strong verbal and cognitive learning skills
- Achieve early and continued academic success
- Develop better social connections with peers and friends
- Become emotionally healthy, stable adults that can handle stress
- Feel confident about exploring the world around them
- Possess solid self-esteem and an ability to make the good choices in life
Wouldn’t every dad want all this for his children? You bet!
My simple advice to dads is to get involved as much as possible with their kids. Carve out a niche with your daughter or son. Honor the differences in your children and figure out what each child needs to feel secure and enjoy being with you.
- Find an interest to share
- Play games together – sports or board
- Make time to just talk
- Build something together – a Lego or yard project
- Go out for a meal together at a favorite restaurant
- Comfort their bumps and bruises with tenderness
- Don’t be afraid to show affection
- Hold hands and skip
- Put your smartphone away and devote your sole attention to your child
- Do something completely unexpected now and then
It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized the important role my dad played in my life and understood that, sure, it could have been bigger and better. Dads today don't have to fit the defined roles of the past and they have many resources and ways to make times with their kids meaningful and fun.
Happy Father's Day!
Debbie School, FUNdamentally Toys
Debbie School, FUNdamentally Toys