I’ve been a dad for about five years now and I think I’ve learned a lot of things within that time. That is to say, I’ve grown as a parent. At least I think so. After five years the responsibility and daily duties of parenthood are easier to handle. That’s not to say I’ve learned everything there is to know, everyday they are challenges but now I have some experience upon which I can draw to get through it.
And after five years I think I can provide some tangible guidance and advice in the parenting department. These items I’ve shared below are purely from my experience. Epiphanies, if you will, that have come to me through the years in the rare moment of solitude. So without further ado, here they are.
Children prefer an activity over TV. We all know that children can sit in front of a TV for hours on end but it’s also not the best use of their time. I know I always cringe whenever I notice our son has been on the couch for a long time. So, as much as I can, I try to give him something else fun to do and almost every time he gladly abandons the TV. It’s like he is just waiting for a chance to play with glue, paint, glitter, and things like that. Interestingly, every time I did this, all his cousins would gather around and want to join in on the activity. So don’t try to fight against TV time, you don’t need to. Just provide a creative alternative and enjoy the moment. You may also need to make some room on the refrigerator door.
Tickle attacks are gold. Many situations try the patience and sanity of children and, in turn, they try our patience and sanity. So whether it be temper tantrums, tiredness, or just plain rude behavior a well executed tickle attack can help diffuse the situation. My wife is especially good at this. After a few laughs and everyone has caught their breaths, you can try re-establishing your boundaries.
Teach them everything. Think back to your own childhood and I’m sure you can vividly remember a time when a caring adult took the time to teach you something new, no matter how small. So look for the interest and curiosity in life and expose your child to it. If you notice them curious about something, help them explore it. It will help them realize there is a world of wonder around them and years from now, they may hold one of those moments dear to them. A word of caution, this may lead to endless “why” questions, in fact, it most definitely will.
They need their own friends. If your family is any thing like ours, the younger children often end up playing with the older sibling and cousins. Nothing is wrong with that but sometimes, the older ones want to be with their friends and don’t want the little ones to tag along. So, they need their own friends but not only for this reason. They need friends their own age who like doing the same things they like and are at the same level developmentally. Just like any of us, they need their own peers to play with, get in trouble with, laugh with and discover things that are new only to them. So embrace his friends, introduce yourself to their parents, and when you are acquainted enough start hosting some playdates. Enabling your young child to connect with their friends outside of school can only help their confidence and give them a sense of belonging. As a bonus, everyone in your child’s circle will also benefit from the deeper friendship.
Teach them to have confidence in their own knowledge. When our son started learning to read he was picking it up very well. However, when we read together, he would often hesitate at some words, even though he knew them. We encouraged him to say the word he was thinking of or start to sound out the letters. Many times he got the word correct. He just needed to learn to trust himself and have confidence in what he already learned. Children have an amazing ability to absorb knowledge but sometimes they need guidance to pull from that knowledge and confidence to apply it to their world.
I need to grow too. I told my wife the other night that I had only prepared mentally for fatherhood up to the stage of our son being a toddler (1 1/2 to 3 years). I looked forward to him talking, walking, running, and everything else that happens in that time. Now he is 5 years old, almost six, and he shows so much development. He is not a baby anymore, he is a little individual with his own thoughts. It’s mind boggling and I am in uncharted territories. I don’t know this part of fatherhood but I’m trying to keep up and keep ahead of him. I have to grow up as a father as much as he is growing up as a child. Every now and then he throws a wicked curve ball at me and you know what, I’ve gotta swing. Sometimes I hit that ball and sometimes I miss but the important part is that I’m never out.
You have to put other things on the back burner, for now. When I first became a dad I didn’t have time for anything else. In fact, it’s still hard to make time for personal pursuits but I realized early on that it wouldn’t be forever. So I didn’t mind things like taking a long sabatical from the gym. Yes I do enjoy exercise and I still have squeezed in an occassional run over the years but for the most part I have been a family man 24/7. This year my son started “big school” and I’ve finally started a semi-regular exercise routine again. So, for me, it was important to put in the time at the beginning but it’s also important to get back to some of those things I love doing.
Parenting has always been mostly tough to me but there are times when things come into focus and I can see life clearly. When I figure out little pieces of the puzzle and life becomes a little better. Hopefully, in a few years I can look back at these words and still see myself in them. And know that they still ring true. That maybe they are timeless, sound, points of being a caring parent.
Now it’s your turn. I’ve showed you mine, now show me your’s. What little pieces of wisdom have you learned in your personal experience as a parent?