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Just Call Me Dad

Fatherhood in the 21st Century


Archive for October, 2009

When it comes to discipline the difference between telling and showing is often lost on parents, but our kids understand completely.

Telling is, of course, telling your kids what to do (and often what NOT to do). Sit down, don’t lie, don’t swear, don’t steal, don’t talk back to your mother, etc. This is the easiest form of parenting because we can simply tell our kids how to behave and then lose our tempers and get mad when they “don’t listen”.

Showing is the difficult part of parenting.

Do you tell your kids not to lie? Keep that in mind the next time the in-laws call and you ask your wife to tell them you are in the garage. Do you get mad at your kids when they swear? Watch your lips the next time you drop a glass in the sink or your favorite football team fumbles the ball.

The examples that I mention above are pretty easy to avoid because we can watch what we say when our kids are in the room. However, there are many other traps involving more complex behaviors that are much harder to avoid.

“Get outside and get some exercise.”

This was a favorite of my parents; it was usually said after supper when my Dad wanted to lay on the couch and watch TV. I heard him say it, but because it wasn’t something that he placed value on in his life, it wasn’t something that I placed value on in mine. I simply went outside until I thought I could come in again, or more likely, snuck into the next room and played with some G.I. Joes.

I’m sure that if you really think about it, you can come up with at least one thing you do that sends a mixed message to your children. Maybe you go to great lengths to strap them into their carseat, but don’t bother to put on your own seatbelt. Or, perhaps you talk to them about the importance of staying positive, and then complain about work all through supper. Whether your children are 2 or 22, they learn how to react and respond to life by watching Mom and Dad deal with the events that happen in their life.

Leading by example. It’s something I need to do more of.


If I could, I would probably live in a Norman Rockwell painting.

My family and I would live in a big white colonial home in Connecticut, and every birthday we would line the kids up against a door frame in the kitchen and mark their height off on the wood. When the time came we would do the same with all the grandchildren, and 50 years later when my wife and I were being moved into the old-folks home, the children and grandchildren would gather around the beat-up old door frame and touch the marks with a kind of love and fondness that only time can cultivate in our hearts. The house would be sold, and the new owners would move in, spackle over the marks, repaint, and restart the process with their own kids. The Circle of Life.

Of course, I don’t live in Connecticut, and despite the decorating that my wife and I do, our bungalow is not a colonial. In addition, the problem with marking heights on doorframes is that people sometimes move and you can not take a door frame with you. My solution? Double-sided tape. Let me explain.

While walking through the trim section at the Home Depot, I stumbled across a wooden corner bead, used to protect the corners of walls and various other things. This was not like the plastic corner bead that the rest of my house had, it was substantial, and an idea grew in my head:

Because the trim was so thick, it would not mate up properly with the crown molding or baseboard if I ran it from floor to ceiling. My solution was to cut it shorter than the wall, and bevel the top and bottom of the board. This piece served two purposes: first, it protected a corner that would get beat up, and second, it provided a place to mark the height of our children. Rather than gluing or nailing the trim into place, I secured it to the wall with two strips of double sided tape. In the event that we ever moved, I could simply pry the trim off the wall, paint a similiar piece of wood, and stick it back up. I like simple solutions, and this fit the bill.

There were a couple of other issues that I had to deal with. Because I was using tape to secure the wood to the wall, there was a possibility that the piece would move at some point when the tape got old. Also, if we ever did have to move it, because the piece does not go down to the floor, I would need a way to know how high to install the board in a new home.

My solution was to mark a line 12″ from the floor. This reference mark is checked every year to ensure that the trim piece has not slipped. If we move, I simply install the board so that the line is 12″ from the ground, and continue on marking it as usual.

Making the marks was easy. I took the measurement the hospital gave us on the day Nick was born, and scribed it onto the board. On his first birthday, I stood him up against the wall right before we had cake and made the mark. For his second birthday, he stood the day after and we drew the line. To ensure the marks remain after the Sharpie has worn away, I notched the board with a small file, and then marked over top of that. It should basically last forever.

There are now three marks on the wall for Nick. Only 47 more to go before I get sent off to the old-folks home. But in real-life, the board will come with me.

Fatherhood Friday at Dad Blogs