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Just Call Me Dad

Fatherhood in the 21st Century

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pumpkin

Daughter: Daddy! Let’s play baby. I’m the mommy, and you’re the daddy!

Me: How about we play strong, independent woman who likes to build things with science?

Daughter: (Thinking) No. We’re playing baby. You’re the daddy. Let’s go.

 

I guess she told me. 😉

Mar 12

So the other day my son puked at a birthday party.

In the  Kindergarten world, this really sucks. To top it off, the kid who’s birthday it was got freaked out, and made a big deal about it telling the other kids not to go near him because he would puke all over them.

I don’t know how a child goes from being one of the ‘cool kids’ to a kid that is picked on, but I had every fear in my heart that this was one of the ways. Thankfully, the other kids at the party weren’t as inconsiderate as the birthday boy – they did go near my son, and to ask him how he was feeling and if he was okay. Still, my heart ached that my son had hurt feelings or was somehow emotionally scarred by this.

I took the next morning off and took him out for breakfast to chat about his feelings. He did have some concerns about why the birthday boy behaved the way that he did, but it was clear in his mind that the birthday boy was acting in an inappropriate manner and that his other friends, the ones which asked him if he was okay, where behaving in the right way.

Sometimes kids have it all figured out before we even talk to them about things. A lot of the time I think parents can do more harm than good in situations like this by over analyzing or laying too much blame. Let your kids talk about their feelings, before you go and tell them how they should be feeling. That’s what I did in this situation, and it worked out pretty great.

I love looking for popular songs that have to do with the relationship between parents and children. There’s a ton of them out there if you’re willing to spend a few minutes on your favorite search engine.

A while back I came across this song from Kenny Rogers. It’s called ‘The Greatest’ and it’s not so much about the parent-child relationship as it is about the internal dialogue within the boy in the song. If you’ve heard it before, it probably brings back a little smile. If not, have a listen, and stay tuned to the end for a little surprise.

 

On Tuesday my son starts kindergarten and my daughter, who is 14 months, starts going to daycare. You watch your kids grow up, and you really don’t want them to. You want them to stay the same as they are RIGHT NOW, so that you can enjoy them this way forever. If they get older, they’ll change. Eventually, they’ll leave your home, move away, and you’ll only see them on holidays. I certainly get it.

On the other hand, every day they grow older they also grow wiser; learning new things and getting smarter and yes, more interesting.

If I had it my way, I’d keep my kids at just the right size so that I could hug them and squeeze them tight all the time. But I can’t. No matter what I do they’ll continue to grow. As a parent, I really have no choice but to accept it, and relish every moment that I do get to spend with them while they are little. Soon enough they’ll no longer want to cuddle with me at all. And that’s what I really fear.

I suppose the right thing to do is to push them to grow, to become the people that they need to be, to achieve the things that they were meant to achieve, and not to push my own agenda on them, even though they can learn so much from the mistakes that I’ve made. But, I suppose I’ve learned from the mistakes I’ve made too, and that’s why I need to give them the freedom to make mistakes on their own – to become everything that they should be, not a more practiced version of me.

I can’t stop time, so I might as well accept it. Even if I don’t want to.

I don’t know what it is, but my daughter loves to cry for me.

She’s almost 7 months now, and I’m just not very comforting to her for some reason. I cannot soothe her. This is frustrating on a thousand levels, not only for my ego, but also for my wife who has to bear the burden of putting my daughter to sleep several times per day.

Initially, I wasn’t too concerned about this. After all babies, like cats and dogs, tend to love those who feed them. Since my breasts, although very nice, do not produce any milk, it’s natural that I’m not number 1 on her list of favourite people. Still, I do give her bottles from time to time, and I give her almost all of her baths – which is something that she enjoys a lot. Still, over time it wore on me. Why didn’t she respond better to me? Why aren’t I a soothing shoulder for her to calm down on?

In reality, this is not that unusual. Dads just can’t provide the basic needs that babies need when they are little – unless they are completely bottle fed. Even then, baby lived inside mom for a long time. Her voice is familiar. Her smell is familiar. Dad is kind of, well… strange.

My new role is as ‘the fun one’. I make her giggle. I tickle her. I give her zerbits. When I can, I’ll continue to give her bottles, and I’ll keep trying to soothe and comfort her. Eventually it will happen. In the meantime, there’s no sense in beating myself up over it.

Small Boy with Assault Rifle

Thanks To TechAddiction.com For The Pic

Last year, when my son was 3, I noticed that a number of the kids in his preschool class were wearing Transformers clothing. I began talking to another father that I was friendly with and asked if his son really even knew anything about the Transformers, since he was only 3 years old. The reply surprised me. “Oh yeah, he loves the movies. I think he’s seen the first one about 50 times.”

My mind raced through the film. An all-out attack on a military base in the Middle East – bodies flying everywhere. A sexy Megan Fox. Machine guns, explosions, death. Is this appropriate for my 3 year old to watch? My mind flashed back to my childhood. I remember driving 100 miles to see Return of the Jedi on opening night, at the tender age of 4. When I was older, we had a video store on the corner that I used to rent movies from, and I recall renting any movie that I wanted to see – even R rated movies – well before the age of 12. Does violence in the movies have an effect on our children?

We tried watching the Transformers with our son. I skipped all the parts I thought were questionable, and watched the robot fight scenes. They didn’t appeal to him, and we didn’t even finish the movie. Problem avoided.

Fast forward one year, and things have changed. Now, my son wants to watch Transformers. He’s more familiar with the franchise because he received some toys as presents, and the other kids are bringing the toys to preschool more often. We watched it again, and this time, he loved the movie. I was very open with him –  I kept asking if he was scared, if he knew what was going on, if he knew that it wasn’t real. He said he wasn’t scared, that he knew it wasn’t real, and that he liked it. We ended up watching Transformers 2 the next night.

Last week I was in the basement, playing the video game Assasins’ Creed. This game, set in the 12th Century features a lot of running, climbing, and swordplay. Some of the swordplay is surprisingly graphic – the swords penetrate armour and flesh, protruding from the other side of the victims. After one particularly difficult battle I heard a voice behind me say “Go Daddy!” My son had come into the basement and had been watching from the shadows.

Once again I had a conversation with him.  And again he told me that he knew it wasn’t real and that he wasn’t scared by what he saw. I’ve seen no increase in his aggressiveness toward other kids, and he hasn’t had any nightmares.

My parents were not models of responsibility, and I would never let my son do many of the things that I was allowed to do as a child. But, I wonder sometimes if we are too protective in this 21st century. Bugs Bunny cartoons on Teletoon Retro have disclaimers before they air because of the ‘violence’ contained within, as if our children were going to drop anvils on each other. Last night I was playing Call of Duty: MW3 in the basement and my son came down again. He cuddled up beside me and watched for a bit. Then he got bored, and went back to his mom and sister.

I’d love to get my son interested in Star Wars. He’s the age I was when I was introduced to it, and I have fond memories of the series. In talks with other dads I’ve learned that they also feel this is the age to introduce them to ‘The Force’.

So, what to do? Well, I think we need to take that PG rating seriously – parental guidance means asking questions, talking to our kids, and making sure that they are okay with what they are seeing. There is obviously a moving line for this type of thing – what will be okay for one parent may be completely taboo for another. But in many ways, I think that as long as you are aware enough to be asking the questions, that you are probably responsible enough to make the right decision for your kids. In my case, I bought a copy of Transformers 3 to finish off the series with my son. And I’m looking for Star Wars on DVD. But I think I’ll keep those Sylvester Stallone movies locked up tight for a few more years.

I’d love to hear what you think.

Yesterday I made a coffee date with my son. It was for today. We left the house, drove to the local coffee shop, and hung out for about 30 minutes drinking hot chocolate and talking about Christmas and his friends and whatever else he wanted to talk about.

When we got home, I went back to work, and he played with his Mom and sister. My wife told me later that he said going for coffee with me was the best part of his day.

I was pretty worried about his feelings when his sister came in June. There have been moments he’s felt ignored, I’m sure of it. There’s not really any way to avoid it when you have a tiny baby – they need so much attention. Its good to know that something as simple as a cup of coffee can make everything right.

2011 flew by in this household. It’s been May since I posted here, and I’ve missed it. I started 2011 by saying that I would be back here more often, and I haven’t been. To be fair, it has been busy. My work has taken off this year, we had a new child (a daughter named Charlotte – YAY!) and as my son gets older he is getting more involved in activities. That’s my justification, though it is not an excuse. I recognize that other people have much more on their plates and still manage to create blog posts. All I can say is that I will try harder.

Merry Christmas!

My son told me yesterday when he woke up that he had sand in his eyes, sand that the Sandman had put there.

How ironic is it that we tell our children that there is nothing to fear in the dark, that there are no monsters under the bed, no gremlins in the closet, and that they are completely and totally safe in their beds, but then go on to tell them that a fat man in a red suit (Santa) sneaks into our house once a year without anybody knowing, that the tooth fairy can be so stealthy that she can literally take something from under his pillow without him knowing, that the Sandman comes into our house and puts sand in our eyes when we sleep, and that the Easter Bunny runs around hiding things in our living room, all without anybody knowing.

It’s no wonder kids have nightmares.