Raising Powerful Girls
A couple of weeks ago Goldie Blox posed a question on Twitter asking dads to tweet in how they raise powerful girls. They made use of a few of mine and made the above graphic. Sadly they didn’t include my suggestion to set your girls up on a bench press.
I put forward some good tips there. I wish I could say that I abide by them all of the time. I try to follow this advice. Sometimes I am too distracted or busy doing other things to give my daughters they attention they deserve.
Do as I say not as I do – or maybe both
I write lots of nice words about fatherhood, parenting and being a dad. Sometimes I feel they are just words. This is Father’s Weekend ( I gave us a promotion) and so there are lots of people writing and thinking about fathers.
I try to be a good dad and support my daughters. There are many days when I suck at this task. Days when I shout more than I’d like. Days when I am more focused on a computer or phone screen than on the kids in front of me. Days when I am busy sanding wood and building my woodworking business and not playing with my daughters. Days when I spend more time telling the girls what to do and what not to do than I do listening to them and challenging them to dig deeper. There are days when I am so frustrated with one or more of my daughters that I just want to leave the house so that I don’t grind my teeth down to the gums.
Some days I feel like I am doing more talking about parenting and fatherhood than actually parenting. I do try to do all of the things I sent to Goldie Blox. Seeing my words captured in this graphic is cool. It also reminds me that I need to make more of an effort to do these things more often.
Tribute to my Dad
This week I had the opportunity to participate in a discussion about fatherhood on a local community radio show along with Mike Reynolds who writes at PuzzlingPosts.com. We share a similar mindset about fatherhood and parenting daughters. Julie Lalonde who hosts the show was very generous in letting us talk and me ramble. I am a slow talker when I am thinking through what I want to say.
During the show Julie asked us who our role models are in terms of how we parent. Mike went first and talked about how he had learned from the relationship he had with his dad. I said something that I am a little uncomfortable with. I said that “my relationship with my dad isn’t awesome.” My parents split when I was a kid and as a result I guess I am a little jealous of other guys who grew up with their dads in the house and who have strong relationships with them now as a result. So in comparison to people like Mike and his dad it is true that my relationship with my dad is not awesome. (I am conscious of the fact that my dad will be reading this blog post).
My dad lives ten hours away and has for many years. He followed work and landed where he is now. That means my family and I see him once or twice a year. It means that my kids occasionally get to see him via Skype and I talk to him every week or so on the phone. It means that our relationship is not as close as it could be because we are physically separated and have been for a long time. That said, he is planning on moving closer to us this year and we are looking forward to that happening. It will mean a lot for my kids to have their Poppa relatively close by.
Parenting Role Models
I wasn’t really prepared for the question and was sort of answering in comparison to Mike’s response. I haven’t really considered the question in the past. Basically I am just making up parenting as I go. My brain has continued to process this question and if I were asked it now I would give a different, more thought out answer – probably more concise too.
From age nine on I was raised primarily by my mother who is my primary parenting role model as a result. That said both of my parents taught me a lot about parenting. Both of them were single parents and the key lesson I learned from watching them is that there are no such things as men’s work and women’s work. They both did what needed doing. Both of my parents cooked, cleaned, did laundry and worked outside the home to pay the bills. As a result I did not grow up with any sort of notions about what household tasks I was supposed to do as a man or as a dad. I just do what needs doing and that is true in work and at home. Both of my parents took my brother and I on summer road trips which live on in my memories and both of them treated the other with respect even though they were no longer married.
My dad taught me that quality time as a parent doesn’t necessarily require a great deal of quantity. He was my primary parental support when my girlfriend and I discovered she was pregnant when we were teens. He taught me that free speech means letting other people express their opinions even if you vehemently oppose those opinions. He taught me how to make big decisions in life. He taught me to wear my name tag on the right side of my chest. These are lessons I carry with me and use in my life as an adult.
He also unintentionally taught me lessons about parenting or at least about the kind of parent I want to be. Part of my determination to be an engaged parent and dad comes from the fact that I did not live with my dad and as such he was not able to be an engaged parent on a daily basis. I don’t know how engaged he was before he moved out because I don’t have any memories of daily life. I just have fragments of memories and of moments. I do remember that he had a crack at solo parenting one summer for a month or so when my mum went to study at Oxford in England. I presume he did ok since my brother and I survived the experience. The only thing I really remember from that experience was that someone stole the pump for our pool. – Seriously, who steals a pool pump? I want my kids to have memories of me being around and engaged with them and their lives. More importantly I want to be available to them whenever they need me.
So it is true that I don’t have an awesome relationship with my dad, that doesn’t mean it is bad, just not what I would like it to be. It is also true that I learned a lot from him that informs how I parent. As I indicated on the radio show, fatherhood is evolving. We are going through generational change. I and many other dads I know in person and online are trying to do a better job of it than our dads. I presume that our dads did the same. We learn from those who have come before us and we look for opportunities to improve. Hopefully I have improved over the past eight years of parenting. As I indicated above, I still suck sometimes. I know the kind of parent I want to be. It is a bit of a idealized vision and life keeps getting in the way.
Thanks to Goldie Blox for reminding me what I want to be doing every day and thanks to Julie Lalonde for forcing me to think about my parenting role models and dig in to what I learned from my dad and how that impacts me as a dad. Thanks also to Goldie Blox for their great toys!
The other thing I learned from my dad that is something I hold close.
What did you learn about parenting from your dad?