AM I A GOOD DAD?
Having recently been given more time with my two children, I think that I have made something of an important realisation about how to be a good dad.
The obvious things jump out, the pleasure of taking my son to playgroup, cooking with my son, having more time just holding my baby son – you know all the nice stuff. But I have been surprised by how full-on exhausting one whole day can be with them, they do not stop and that means I do not stop.
This is harder than I have ever credited it to be. I worked hard in employment, but there, I had coffee breaks, variety of task and a lunch break all to myself. I have yet to discover these worker benefits while looking after my boys. Even their nap times have been secretly arranged between themselves on a tag team basis. Their rule is clear; one of us will always be awake! A rule which is currently being applied at night time as well – they are under five, and good at it!
In this context of non-stop interaction with my boys, I find myself asking how am I doing? Am I a good Dad?
I don’t know about you, but I like to think that I am basically honest. But when faced with these questions above, I hesitate. I am worried that the answer may not be quite what I would want it to be. What answer would my sons give? What answer would my wife give? Perhaps most importantly, what answer do I give, if I’m honest?
You see this brings me back to my important realisation about the nature of being a good Dad. As a professional who has worked with teenagers and parents, I understand that being a “good Dad” is different from being a ‘perfect’ one.
Simply admitting that I find it hard sometimes and that I don’t have all the answers actually takes the pressure off me as a Dad. My honesty with myself is perhaps the most important aspect of my daily interaction with my children. What do I find hard? Where do I need help or advice? What are the situations where I need to say “I can’t do this”? When I have this honesty with myself, I feel better able to do what I do well as a Dad or can accept help offered to lessen the stress I feel. This personal honesty ironically leads me to become the good Dad I want to be.
Only when I have been honest with myself, am I able to be honest with others, most importantly for me, my wife and the children themselves. Where I am able to admit to my wife that I am struggling with something and that I need her help, our parenting stops being a male-ego driven contest, and achieves the strength of a unified approach.
With my three year old, I have found that I can chose to tell him I am upset, or finding something hard and he will often help me (or at least try). The alternative is an escalation in the battle of wills between Dad and son, which leads almost certainly to more problems than solutions. In talking about honesty with my children, I would include being able to say sorry. Where I have said sorry to my son for being cross, annoyed or getting something wrong it has more often than not, led to less tension and a better outcome. I also feel that it sets a good example to him about how you can move past problems.
So what would the answer be to my question, am I a good Dad? Well, I think, on the whole, I would like to say “not too bad”. But I know I am a better Dad when I am honest with myself, those around me and my children, even if their only answer is…
Updated: Oct 2017