Please show this to all the men in your lives. In it they will find the simple secret of what all children want from their fathers.
Here is what I need from you. When I am a baby, take care of me. Bathe me, feed me, and diaper me. We will have fun while you are doing those things. You might not do things perfectly but I really don’t care about that, I just want to be with you and I will hold on to the memory of a strong, solid, but gentle man.
When I am a toddler, play, play, and play some more. Rough and tumble me and make me laugh. Let me explore. Encourage me to find my own abilities. Let me try and fall and try again. If I am a boy don’t tell me it’s nothing when I cry, don’t belittle me for needing my mom, or being scared or even being angry when I can’t get my way. These are my natural emotions and the more I can express them out loud with you the safer I will feel. This will help me be more sure of my feelings and I will not be ashamed to be vulnerable. If I am a girl look at me with adoring eyes and delight. Encourage my physicality and playfulness and my assertiveness. Scoop me up when I am sad and hold me close and stroke my hair.
When I am a little older, take me to school sometimes. I will feel so proud to show off my dad. Talk to my teachers, get to know my friends. They are important to me even though I am a little kid. Take me out on your own. We don’t always need to have mom with us. Let’s have our own adventures, our own special things we do. Teach me to do all the things you can do, but if I like to do something else better, come and learn about that. I feel important when you are interested in the things I like.
You can go to work and love your job, but don’t stay there when you really could be with me. Don’t talk on the phone or stay on your blackberry when you come home from work. If you always work or you are always distracted I will come to feel unworthy. Play puzzles with me, build with legos, read to me, watch me swim in the tub. When I am not listening tell me what is right. Try not to yell. Put me in my room, or take something away, but don’t hold my wrong doing against me. All kids misbehave. That is what we are supposed to do while we are learning about the world. Don’t push me to the best at everything even though you will want me to be the best that I can be. It makes me feel loved if you accept that sometimes I’m just OK or even not so good at something.
The most important thing, Dad, is that you be brave enough to be honest with yourself. What ever has hurt you in life will become a part of our relationship. Pay attention to that. If you have been neglected don’t neglect me or smother me, if you have been hurt physically, don’t hurt me or be so afraid of your anger that you withdraw. Tell me about your growing up so I can understand you. Let me know your story. Control your anger, be kind and respectful to my mother and give her love. Listen to her, spend time with her, show me how to treat women or what I deserve from other men. I love to see you two having your own private love affair. Show me how to love and be loved. Give me space and freedom and confidence and teach me respect and kindness, and that all people matter.
Never leave me, ever. I know you can’t imagine that now, but some dads do. More than you think. Never stop rooting for me, having faith in me, believing in my abilities and telling me that you love me and are proud. Care about the details in my life not just the generalities. Put me to sleep, snuggle me, kiss me on my neck and belly, and I will feel like I am the biggest gift in the world to you.
Don’t worry dad, you’re going to be great! Have a Happy Father’s Day!