It may sound simple or it may sound terribly hard, depending on your lifestyle, but this is probably the most important advice I can give you as a father. Life has a way of getting complicated, hectic, and worse overwhelmingly busy, but nothing should ever preclude me from making time to spend with my children. I hate to admit it, but now that I am divorced I actually spend more time with my kids than I did while I was married. The truth is that even though I might of always been physically home after work while I was married, many times I really wasn’t there mentally and emotionally. The frustrations that had somehow managed to fill up my mind when I finally had time off from work, found a way to create an ocean of emotional space between me and my parental life. I was more preoccupied about my own needs than I was about my children’s needs. Interestingly, now that I look back at it all I realize that preoccupation had a way of filling so much of my mind that neither their needs nor mine where actually being fulfilled. What a terrible waste of time and way to live. If I had a chance to go back in time and do it all over again, I think that I would make a major effort to spend a lot less time worrying, and a lot more time doing something about it.
I opened this post with a harsh reality that might make it sound like I was lacking in my role as a father. Realistically I don’t want to beat myself up too much because I do realize that I am a lot tougher on myself than I should be. Enough counseling and advice from people that know me well enough have taught me that I tend to not give myself enough credit for my devotion as a father. In my heart I know that I have not been neglectful in my duties, I just always find images and moments in my mind in which I wish I would of snapped out of an emotionally down moment sooner than I actually did. Would of, could of, should of, are all part of my checks and balances in parenting but are not always that healthy of an approach to living life to the fullest. Still, the advice is sound, solid in its content with respect to being a good parent. If at all possible, always make time for your children. One hour of sharing goes a really long way in their need to feel important in your life. Nothing does a better job at ruining a child’s self esteem than a parent not giving them the proper attention at the right time.
I see it all the time in the life of the people around me. Too many adults today are in the middle of their lives and still seeking the approval and attention of their not so attentive parents. I was fortunate to have parents that made their children the number one priority in their lives. The dedication of my mother and father was much more than just admirable, it was amazing. However, this is not the case for too many other people for so many reasons that it would take a book to name each of them in writing. I have experienced through the most beautiful person I know and love what it is like to not get the time that you need from a parent. Her heart is in what seems to be a state of suspended animation, always waiting for any kind of affirmation and sign of approval, caring, value, and most of all love from her mother. Amazingly the caring part seems abundant in many gestures of financial support and the once in a while acknowledgment of her own ability to have raised very good children, but this is not good enough, not good enough at all. The lack of imparting real value to the smallest things that she is able to do are even apparent when her mother is sometimes not able to remember neither the big things and much less the little things about her childhood, and in fact even her adulthood too. This exposure to such an emotional lack of parental acknowledgement has made me realize how incredibly important it is for parents to be there not just physically, but also emotionally and in every sense of the word when they are giving time to their children.
I believe that when as parents I fail to prioritize the time that I share with my children, too much is left to chance with respect to their emotional well being. As a father I need to be there not just as an image or parachute to rescue my children when they fall, I also need to be there to validate their sense of belonging to something much larger than just their existence. Nothing can replace a gesture of pride and respect. My children need to know that I am not just the guard that keeps them in line, but also the repository in which all of their accomplishments are retained for their immediate access to nourish their self esteem. I cannot forget what they did correctly because they later made a mistake, that is poor parenting in my opinion. I cannot cancel the good with the not so good because if I do, then what is left is nothing. Nobody can grow to be a healthy individual with nothing to look back on in the way of success and accomplishments. What I am proposing is something that I can do without the need of special training, a degree in psychology, or having to read a dozen books on good parenting. I should be able to offer my children my time with the same commitment that I do so in my professional and personal life with others. Are my kids not just as or more important than anyone else?
Of all the things that I can change and do better with respect to the parenting of my children, always making time to be there for them is what I believe to be the most important. This is by no means a call for fathers to give up their personal and professional lives in order to spend all of their time with their children. What I propose is for us men to make a self assessment of our lives and how we intend to be effective fathers. The key is finding the right balance between the extremes of obsessiveness and neglect. Right there in the middle of those two extremes is a very reasonable place to set your goal and become the effective parent that your children deserve in their lives. If you believe that you are currently already doing it right, I applaud you. If you discover that maybe there is some kind of adjustment needed for you to do this adequately, you are half way there, what remains is for you to just do it!
This is the final post of the series of “Ten things men should know about parenting.” I hope that in each of these posts you have been able to find something that might be of use to you personally. My goal was to allow my words to serve you as an example of some of the things that we sometimes take for granted but should never forget. Of course I can only speak from my own experience, so I am sure that your life might have addendum’s to this list that could be significantly important and I might of missed. Please feel free to share with the rest of the class, more knowledge is always better than less. Leave your comments, recommendations, advice, and input so that we can all learn from you too.