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Fatherhood in the 21st Century

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Archive for April, 2009

This story has three parts.

Part 1

On Friday night I read an article about how to discipline kids (unfortunately, I can’t seem to find the article again, but if I do, I will post a link for you). To summarize, the author suggested that parents need to learn the difference between a BEHAVIOUR PROBLEM, and a SITUATIONAL PROBLEM. This difference might seem trivial – if your child is misbehaving, your child is misbehaving, right? Well, perhaps not. The author went on to say that if we learn to file our child’s behaviour under the correct title, we can learn to deal with the situation better. Interesting.

Part 2

Saturday afternoon Nick and I went to run a few errands. The last errand was a visit to Staples to pick up a new thumbdrive. In Staples, Nick saw a Thomas the Tank Engine calendar for sale (with big Thomas pictures on the cover). He had to have it. I said no, and he had a cry; nothing too serious, but a cry nonetheless.

It was now 5:00pm. To try and get him in a good mood before going home I thought I’d take him into the Toy’s R Us across the parking lot. There is a large display of Thomas stuff there, and a table with a train set on it that kids can play with. I thought Nick might like that, and if he was good, I could add a Gordon to the set at home.

The playtime was great; leaving the store was not. Nick melted down. Screaming, kicking, and twisting when I picked him up. I tried for a little while to calm him down, but nothing was working. I ended up carrying him out of the store while he screamed in my ear. It was now 5:30pm – supper time. He calmed down on the drive home, ate supper, and was wonderful for the rest of the evening.

Part 3

Sunday afternoon I had a couple more chores to do with Nick. The first was to buy a new cordless drill at Princess Auto (don’t laugh at the name, the store is AWESOME!). The second task was to pick up a couple of things at The Home Depot.

Princess Auto was excellent. Nick was interested, engaged, and having a good time. The time was 4:40pm.

This is where the moment of learning takes place. As I began to drive towards the big orange box store I recalled the article I had read two days before. Then, I thought about the events at Toy’s R Us. I realized that Nick was likely tired, hungry, and bored when I took him to Toy’s R Us, and that the store, which is designed to stimulate children’s senses, probably pushed him over the edge. I’m sure that playing with the trains didn’t help. Nick was misbehaving, sure, but more importantly, I had placed him in a situation where a 19 month old child was destined to misbehave.

I made a decision. Instead of going to The Home Depot, we went to the playground near our house. We ran around the grass, went down the slide a few dozen times, and then tasted some rocks (hey, he’s 19 months old). It was great fun. Nick enjoyed it. I enjoyed it. We went home, had supper, a bath, and then went to bed. It was the perfect end to a perfect day.

Summary

Obviously, we can’t pass the blame for our children’s behaviour off on other things all the time. Sometimes, screaming because he wants a train and I won’t buy it for him is simply bad behaviour. However, it is possible that, at other times, parents need to take a share of the blame. The trick is knowing the difference. If we think our child is at fault too often we become nagging parents, the kind you see swearing at their kids in the mall. If we assume that external influences are to blame too often, we become the parents who make constant excuses for their kids and never let them take any responsibility for their actions.

As with most things, the key is to find the proper balance.

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The time has come for Nick’s first haircut. Actually, it came a few weeks ago, but my wife and I have been taking turns coming up with reasons to delay the inevitable. I don’t know why exactly, except perhaps that babies don’t need to get their haircut…which of course means that Nick is no longer a baby, and that he’s growing up already.

Already! How could this be? He walks, and talks (kind of), he plays with toys and watches TV… When he was born people warned us that he would grow up fast, but I never imagined that it would be this fast. If there is one thing kids teach you, it is the value of time. It is truly the one commodity in our lives that we can never get more of.

Back to the haircut: A few months ago I found an old-school barber shop located in a hotel in the city. The barber shop probably looks the same today as it did 80 years ago; it is complete with barber poles, checker floors, and classic chairs. I had originally intended to start going there myself, but never did. It seems like the perfect place for a father to take his son for his first cut, and a great place to snap a few photographs.

I’m not really sure how he will react to getting plunked in a chair and having his hair cut; if the way he reacts to nail clippers are any indication it could be a bit of a wild time. The plan is for me to get my hair cut first, while he watches, and then have him follow directly after me. Hopefully he will be interested and comfortable enough to sit still and get it over with quickly.

I’m a sentimental guy, I’m already imagining this becoming a monthly ritual for the two of us; perhaps breakfast out somewhere together, and then a haircut, followed by a trip to the bookstore. Time flies pretty fast with these kids, and that seems like a nice way to spend some Saturday mornings for the next 16 years or so.
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There isn’t a parent out there who hasn’t made some mistakes. I don’t mean to pick on one individual, but at least you aren’t this guy:
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This is a really bad idea, folks. I know times are tough, but there has to be a better solution.

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