Originally posted 2/18/13
My wife likes to remind me that when I watch the kids, it's not called 'baby-sitting', it's called "FATHERING". I have been a Dad now for over 11 years. I love my kids more than most things, but there are days it can suck your soul right out of your nose-holes. If you are a dad, or about to be, this is for you. I have put my together my personal fathering tips just for you...
These are a MUST-HAVE for any dad. I'll admit, when I saw these first come on the market, I thought they were just a bunch of hype. After traveling over 200 days a year, I decided to give them a try...WOW. If they can block out screaming toddlers on a 747 in flight, why not at home? I remember how deaf my Grandpa was, but I now realize something: he wasn't deaf... he was just ignoring everyone! My great-grandmother also used this tactic. You would have to scream in her face to tell her dinner was ready, but whisper the words "nursing home" 3 rooms away and she'd say "I heard that!" Noise-canceling headphones are great for blocking out that precious kid-static that can drive you insane. In fact, I'm wearing them as I write. It's a motivating musical sanctuary wherever I go. You can save the hard-of-hearing routine for later.
Dedicated Man Space
Man Caves are all the rage now. Manly. Sophisticated. Pricey. They don't have to be though. You just need a place to retreat and recharge your manliness. After a long day of fathering, you need to reflect and make a game-plan for the next day. I have used all sorts of places:
- Garage...standard go-to for every man. Surrounded by tools and oil slicks. Enjoy.
- Shed...just add a stool, and use the lawnmower as your coffee table.
- Attic...this is what I currently employ as man-space. (I share with the cats...man-cats only)
- Large Closet...this worked great, until my wife overtook it. Now, I'm in the attic.
- Burn Pit...burning trash is not only convenient, it's inspiring and metaphoric.
- Truck...just sitting in my truck can sometimes provide solace. (Prius won't work...TRUCK)
Establish Your Territory
I have my seat at the dinner table. It's mine. You cannot sit there. Ever. Why? It's in the perfect defensible position: you can see all doorways, monitor the driveway, and closest to the gun. (I have all my military and law enforcement family and friends to thank for this paranoia) It's not only a defense tactic, it teaches my kids that this is my 'Throne away from Throne'. If I'm not in the bathroom, this is where I'm sitting. Kids need constants, routines, and structure. Whenever guest come over, my kids inform the UN-informed "That's dad's seat." Usually awkwardness follows, until they move, and balance is restored to the universe.
I also let the wildlife know 'This land is MY land, this land ain't your land, I got a shotgun and you ain't got one..." Animals, like children respect boundaries, but they have to be defined. I live in the country, so marking territory is not a big deal. For you city-dwellers, it can be more difficult. Use your imagination...or an old water bottle.
Lead By Example
Your kids will copy you, like it or not. You are the greatest teacher they will ever have. (2nd greatest if you count your wife) They will say what you say and do what you do, so be careful. I try to make conscience efforts to inspire greatest in my kids, like:
- Sharing the remote...when I'm done watching TV
- Eating vegetables
- Keeping a job...for more than 3 weeks
- How to blow their nose, without a tissue...invaluable
- We are NOT lost...we are just taking the scenic route
Put Those Kids To Work
If there is one thing my dad taught me, it was how to work hard. That is the one big thing I want to teach my kids: to work hard and take pride in your work. It's something we all see in this new generation of slackers that is making our coffee and flipping our burgers...ungratefulness. I don't want to sound like a grumpy old man, but when I see a person slacking off at their job, it drives me INSANE!
Instill in your kids the self-respect of hard work. Have them unload the dishwasher, and if they complain, do it the Old-fashioned way! Mow the lawn, dig a hole, pour a driveway, lay tile, butcher a chicken...get creative! You won't have this Free-labor Force forever (about 18 years...wait, the average is now 27 years...my bad)
My kids used complain about what we had for dinner. So I would let them help make it. Wash the squash, crack an egg, whatever. Then if they complained, I'd say "well you made it." Funny how the tables turn. They started helping more, and took pride in helping. Let them do more, and teach them to do it right.
"When I was a kid..." Stories
Remember these? Of course you do! Everyone does. These are not only great to reminisce about, but to teach these kids about the good ole' days. My dad grew up without indoor plumbing, an outhouse, and canning their food...because they HAD too. I grew up without a cellphone, internet, and smoking-sections in restaurants! My kids complain about driving to Dallas at 75 mph while playing Angry Birds. Try 55 mph and car-window surfing with your hand for a good time. Remember playing jump rope with the phone cord while your mom was trying to talk?
Remind your kids how rough you had it. As their father, it's your duty to remind them how soft this generation has become. Tell them stories of riding in the back-dash...legally. Tell them about rabbit-ear antennas. Tell them about your old pager and searching for a payphone. Tell them!
Make Them Bacon
You want respect in your house? Do want to be revered as 'The Great One?' Do you want legends to be told of your kind deeds to future generations? Then make your children bacon. Bacon is the ingredient to a great marriage and successful fatherhood. If you are thinking turkey bacon, YOU ARE DEAD TO ME. That's not even real.
Thick-sliced and smoked. If I teach you nothing, learn this: DO NOT SKIMP ON BACON. Your children will love you and respect you if you cook them the pig-candy. They will defend your honor and look into your soul with teary-eyes of joy when you make them bacon.
I hope these help you out. I would love to hear some of your dad-tips as well. I'm always adding to my arsenal!