This month we celebrate fatherhood. Whether it happens the
old-fashioned way or not, becoming a father is the easy part. But
actually being someone's "dad" for the rest of your life? Now
that's the stuff that counts. There's more than one right way to
interpret the role, though. In fact, you may have noticed that
there are as many ways to father as there are fathers.
No matter what kind of father you are, one thing's for sure:
fathers matter to their children.
Your impact on your children's lives, both good and bad, cannot
be overstated. But don't let that paralyze you with fear.
It irks me that even today, popular culture often portrays dads
as bumbling idiots who can't snap a onesie to save their lives, let
alone spend an entire afternoon alone with their kids without
losing one of them at the park.
The truth is, most dads are quite capable when left to their own
devices. Make no mistake, though, dad isn't mom. And thank
goodness. Though it's helpful when parents collaborate and set
consistent expectations regarding discipline, chores, homework,
etc., dads can and should feel free to do their own thing when it
comes to parenting their children-and moms need to let them.
Contrary to popular belief, children can survive-and often
flourish-when parents, even those not living together, do things
What matters is the love, not the details.
For example, my husband Todd is often up and out of the house
long before my kids and I are awake each day, and sometimes he
returns from his job in Chicago after everyone has gone to bed. One
night he volunteered to make a school lunch for our son out of
something left over from a spicy meal they'd just shared. I was
thrilled to have one less lunch to conjure and Noah was delighted
with the departure from my relatively anemic turkey sandwiches.
This soon became a habit, an extra way for my husband to connect
with Noah during his absences, and before long he began making
Holly's lunches, too. I'm usually able to look past the extra
cookies he packs and see the big picture. After all, these lunches
are really love notes in disguise from a dad who just wants to
connect with his kids.
Children don't need perfect fathers, they need present fathers.
It's just not enough to make these babies. It's the follow-through,
dear dads, that makes a man a good father. It's the being there to
help her make friends with the monster under her bed, having
patience with her little-kid ways even when you're bone tired,
noticing her pain when she tries to tell you about how she was
picked last for kickball again and reassuring her that she's
beautiful when she anxiously sneaks a peek in the mirror. It's
cheering from the sidelines when you'd rather be golfing and making
sure she studies for her test when she'd rather not.
By the way, your children don't care what car you drive or how
important your clients are. Or whether you have a big house or fat
bank account. You may care about those things, but your kids really
don't. It's true, they need for you to provide for their basic
needs-no small feat anymore-but what is really essential is showing
Jennifer DuBose, M.S., C.A.S., is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in Batavia.
See more of Jennifer's stories here.
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