At its heart, this column is a monthly antidote to the poisonous notion that parenting is some charmed, blessed event that constantly fills parents with joy and wonder, as depicted in sentimental advertisements and your friends’ Facebook posts.
But for this month’s installment, in honor of Father’s Day, I’m going all squishy and sharing actual good advice given to me by dads with proven success in this parenting racket.
For example, my friend and former co-worker, Gerry, had minimal drama with his well-behaved kids as they reached adulthood. A few years ago, when I was absolutely furious with my son, Ben, for some wildly inappropriate behavior at school, he advised me to be my kids’ ally and trusted confidant instead of a disciplinarian.
They’re children who haven’t figured out the world yet, he explained. Try to remember what it was like to navigate new situations, and relate what they’re going through to a similar experience you had as a kid—then tell them about it so they know you understand how they feel.
Counterintuitive, if you ask me, but the advice worked wonders; Ben’s had excellent citizenship marks in school and generally better behavior ever since I started heeding it.
But the real secret sauce, Gerry confided, was simply: time. In order to be really close with your kids, you have to log a huge number of hours with them—even if the time is spent just watching TV together or reading in the same room.
He may be on to something. Recently, I asked my friend Walt how he managed to have such a friendly, tight relationship with his grown daughters. “Vacations,” he said. “We’re going to leave them nothing in the way of inheritance, because we’re spending it all on trips with them while we’re alive.”
Well! Greg and I did not need to be convinced of the genius of this advice. We got right on board with the wisdom of fabulous trips as the key to raising great kids. Having to actually
include the children is kind of a bummer, but we’ll take it.
But aside from the theme of lots of together time, I noted something else that links all the superdads in my life: The way they treat their co-parents—with tremendous love, honor, and respect. If treating Mom (or partner) well is one of the ways to make kids turn out great, then my kids have a chance aft er all.
To all the great dads out there, including my own wonderful father as well as the one I married: Happy Father’s Day.