By Margo Graf
Most dads enter the realm of fatherhood without stopping and asking for directions. Parenting books gather dust in the corner, as the proud new father relies on instinct and improvisation skills. That being said, there is no educational system that can quite prepare a person for taking on the role of a parent. Moreover, there is no one way to raise a child–even if you have already had a child, you must change your technique according to each kid’s personality. Every situation presents its own challenges and rewards. As parenting goes, you will learn from each experience no matter what.
On Sunday, June 20 we celebrate fatherhood with a holiday that took many decades to gain acknowledgement in the U.S. Now, it is the perfect complement to Mother’s Day and a much needed Thank You for our fathers. Many of whom may not get the recognition they deserve. (Take my father, for instance, who piloted a house of four stubborn women.)
This day, albeit for me it should be every day, is a great one to return the gratitude. I will never be able to repay my father for what he has given me–in terms of unconditional love, protection, advice, forgiveness, education, and overly-safe first cars (Ford Crown Victoria, yikes)–my father has been my unwavering shepherd.
And as only a parent knows, the love one feels for their offspring is like no other. The bond between a father and child is so special. Since it is unlike that of the mother–growing the child within her–it is formed on a different level of love and energy. Father’s do not have the nine months of development, literally creating from within, so it is ever so important they foster their relationship at birth.
Fathers may be the unsung heroes when it comes to raising kids. As most are not able to stay home after birth, it is a sacrifice not commonly recognized. And as I am sure every father can attest to–they endure plenty of sleepless nights, deal with the same germs that float through schools, and spend their free time cleaning up toys.
So, in honor of fathers everywhere, new and grand, we have gathered advice that encourages each man to be the best father possible:
- Time flies, so cherish it. As most fathers do not have as many opportunities to be hands-on during the childhood years, make sure to truly treasure the time you have together. Before you know it, they will be off to college, moving away, and beginning a new chapter.
- Love even when you are upset. Teaching and showing your children how to love, even in stressful situations, will directly relate to how they lead their lives. Avoid yelling, show kindness.
- Patience is the key to sanity. Do not worry, parenting gets easier! But…it will take time, energy, and practicing patience. Again, remember anger and frustration are not what your child needs–love is. (That goes for children young and grown.)
- Make bad jokes. This is fathering 101. (Here a book can help.) It is written in the description of fatherhood that when friends of your children come over, you must unleash your plethora of painfully corny dad jokes.
- Teach responsibility, grow independence. Make them do chores and show them that hard work pays off. Be able to say “no” when necessary, it teaches them valuable life lessons. (It is not all fun and games, right?) It is very important you are not too hard or too soft on your kids; balance is crucial.
- Encourage imagination and play along. This is the best time to let out your inner child by nurturing your child’s creativity. It is also very important for developing the relationship, as well as a good way to relieve stress and grow together.
From all of us daughters, sons, and mothers who are so fortunate to have great fathers: I am so glad to be 50% of you. Even when you told me “no”, made me pull weeds for days on end, and embarrassed me countless times with stories and jokes…Thank you, Dad–for everything.