I’ve written some personal details in other posts so that I could communicate who I am and maybe help you understand my voice as you read these posts. I understand that total strangers won’t care much for my life story and that’s okay. In this post, I shared about my dad and a quick glance at my relationship with him. I reflected on that post and realized that I learned a lot more from my dad than I realized.
Here are 5 reasons why I am a better dad than my dad.
1 – Emotion is not a bad thing.
As a man, it’s tough to show emotion. There’s a tremendous amount of vulnerability in shedding tears or letting another person know that they broke you down and made you lose your cool. Many times, there is more shame in the fallout than there is in the initial outburst. I have no hesitation in showing my emotions. I am very reactive to a situation. My kids do something and I flip and yell and stomp around the house like an animal that’s broken away from it’s cage. I revert to my base response as a man. I don’t hit people, but I have kicked in a door or thrown something out of rage. I’m not saying this is right, it’s just what has happened. I don’t think that there is anything wrong with these emotions, but the way they are channeled and displayed to my children and wife is something that I need to address. I’m a grown man. There is no reason for me to be stomping around like a spoiled child when something doesn’t go my way.
My father chooses to lock away his emotion for whatever reason. I have shared that I have only seen him explode with rage during my formative years and I don’t blame him a bit. I would have probably strangled the young me. But for the most part, my dad doesn’t show emotion. It’s hard to read a person that is a blank canvas. He smiles and laughs, but it is all very reserved. I know that my father loves me and is proud of me, but I can only say that with a tinge of second guessing on my part. I, on the other hand, wear my emotions on my sleeve. I have been told many times that when I am happy, the whole room is happy, but when I am down, I take everyone and everything around me down with me. I’m still working on the balance, but showing that emotion can be a good thing once that balance is obtained. I never want my children to have any tinge of doubt that I love them and that I am proud of them. I tell my kids that there is nothing that they could ever do to make me stop loving them. I’m not afraid to hug and kiss my children. I want them to go to bed every night knowing that their father loves them and that there is no reason to ever doubt that. I don’t want them to second guess my love the way I do my dad’s. Even though it’s a very small amount of second guessing. It’s still second guessing.
2 – It’s Okay to Say No
I was a spoiled brat growing up. My dad never said no. He would usually just say, “We see.” and then let us forget we asked the question and move on to something else. I got what I wanted and if I didn’t, I threw fits. I’ve had to deal with that as I grew up and became a husband, a father, and a responsible human being. I drive my wife nuts with this bratty attitude that still rears its ugly head from time to time. As stated in point #1 above, I can make life pretty hard on her when I don’t get my way. But as I have raised children and have seen the effect on a solid stand when we say no to something, I start to understand why this is so important for me to get over. How do I expect my kids to accept no as an answer when I respond to no with a fit of my own? It’s foolishness I tell you!
As I’ve grown as a parent, I have grown more comfortable with “No”. There could be a false fear that my kids will end up hating me or resenting me for not giving them the newest doll or newest video game. I’ve never had one of my kids mad at me for any extended length of time when I didn’t allow them something. Although, I would never be able to count the number of times that I gave in and the gift was no sooner tossed to the side as a remnant of a happy time so long removed. I’m talking about a day or two at best. I am left feeling duped and reminding myself to not fall for it the next time it happens. It’s still tough to say “No” to my kids, but I see the benefits in it every time I do it. That does make it easier each time.
3 – There’s Nothing Wrong with Holding Your Kids Accountable
I can remember growing up and never having to do any work around the house. I can only really remember destroying things in our home. I remember the two bedroom apartment that my brother and I shared with our dad. When my dad was at work during the day, I would wreak havoc on the place. I remember setting off fireworks in the apartment. I would set a Black Cat under a cup of ketchup and light it off. I would drill holes in the bathroom wall that was adjacent to my bedroom just to annoy my brother. I drilled a hole in the bathroom door and stuffed a Black Cat into it and set it off. Thankfully I got over that!
I never cleaned my room. I don’t remember if my brother cleaned our shared room or if my dad just did it, but I recall it being messy most of the time. I’m sure all of this irritated my dad, but there was never a change in the expectation. Kids will amaze you when you set an expectation and hold them accountable to their actions. It’s a lot of work and it’s a process, but if your kids are held to a standard that dictates that they keep their room in order, then they will follow that process. Before too long, the process becomes a habit and the struggling is gone. The process is rough and there were times when I was ready to drop it and just let them run a muck, but I don’t want my kids to struggle with accountability. I want their word to mean something. Everyone will tell you that their word is their bond. But we all know the truth that follows. For some reason or another, people will try to find some loop hole or figure out a way to get out of that bond. I have found that’s the tough part with keeping my kids accountable. Not too many other parents are doing the same and so I’ve had to incorporate the letdown and disappointment that comes when others are not held accountable. All I know is that I want my kids to be accountable and take responsibility for their actions. It’s not a perfect science, but I try to communicate with my kids my expectation as their parent. I confirm that they know the expectation and if they fall short of that, they know that there will be consequences. I’m talking about things like keeping their rooms clean, helping with laundry, taking care of household chores, things like that. At some point, I figured out how I needed to adjust my way of thinking from when I was younger. I don’t want my kids to have to figure it out for themselves, if at all. Is it that bad of a thing to have personal accountability and responsibility?
4 – I Want My Kids to Know My Dad
Two things on this. My wife does a much better job of keeping our kids in touch with our extended family and my dad’s family was in Thailand, so it made family visits a bit of a challenge. With that being said, I do try to keep my dad looped in with my family. I have talked before about how hard my dad worked while raising my brother and me, so now that he’s retired, I don’t fault him at all for taking it easy and taking time for himself. We don’t see him as much as we like, but I do constantly bring him up in conversation and make sure that they know who he is and where they come from.
My mother passed away before The Thinker was born, so they only know her through pictures and stories. I want to make sure that I provide the opportunity for my dad to know my kids and vice-versa. With each generation, we are another step removed from our Thai heritage and I don’t want that to be the case. I still have a lot to learn about my dad, but I want to know it so that my kids can know it.
5 – I Want to Share Interests With My Kids
My dad enjoyed tinkering with electronics and he would let us dink around with TVs and VCRs when they were beyond repair. My grandmother would always comment that that is the reason why I am good with fixing things. I never thought much about it, but I guess I really did enjoy breaking things open and seeing how they worked and what was inside. My favorite thing was operating my dad’s desoldering iron to pull components off of circuit boards from broken TVs.
I’ve tried to keep this fun tradition alive with my kids. When a household item breaks, I will gather the family around and work with them to figure out how to take it apart. I also work towards staying connected with my kids to see what things interest them. I love seeing what sparks their imagination and what draws them. I fight to be patient to see what kind of adults they will be and what their future holds for them. I want them to share their passions and dreams with me, even if it’s something that I have to struglle to be interested in. Sadly, video games seem to be the big thing for Stonewall right now. Or at least him videoing me while I watch videos of “hard core gamers” playing and documenting my commentary about how much of a waste of time it all is. He gets the biggest laughs out of my “old man” perspective. It came back around! My dad could not have cared less about my gaming skills. But at least I have an interest of sorts, right?
I know this post might come across as a bash to my father, which is not my intention.
I have great love and respect for my dad. I’m not sure what he’d think of my posts about him. It’s a good thing he doesn’t really do the internet. I think that a sign of a good dad is one that wants his children to be and do better than they did. I want my children to be way better parents than I am. I don’t have defined expectations because I think that would just box them.
My dad has told me that he is proud of the father that I’ve become. I have no problem giving him credit for his part in that. I also know that he would have no problem admitting that I am a better dad than he was. Which is what he had hoped for all along.