Marriage Vows are Really Parent Vows
November 23, 2011 · Posted in Fatherhood, Mental Health, Parenting, Relationships, Teens · Permalink · Comments (0)

When times are good with your children, you can’t even imagine not wanting to be a parent. When difficulties arise, from the typical and small, like constant temper tantrums, to the  unthinkable, like diagnosis of Asperger’s, or juvenile diabetes, or your teenager in the grip of an eating disorder, your mettle as a parent is tested to the limits.

You may wish for an escape–that is natural. You may seriously doubt your capacity to parent, but as with nothing else, you are committed for life. You are on the journey no matter what. This lead me to think that the marriage vows, which can and are retracted for many of us, really belong to our children.

“I take you______to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, cherish, till death us do part.”

It is to our children that we make this vow. Everything else in life can really be changed.

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The Secret of Fatherhood
June 19, 2011 · Posted in Fatherhood · Permalink · Comments (1)

Dear Mothers,

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.

Dear Father,

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!

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The Sperminator, Etc.
May 26, 2011 · Posted in Fatherhood, Media, Parenting, Relationships · Permalink · Comments (0)

Now let’s make a prediction. Arnold Schwarzenegger will go on to make many movies, millions of dollars and maul more women. Maria Shriver will grieve and comfort her children and learn deep lessons about herself and move on to a new more fulfilling chapter in her life. Any dissenters out there? It is embarrassing that time after time, our culture continues to not only disregard men’s bad behavior but even reward it with more money and more celebrity. The culture is so out of control that we really have to rely on ourselves as parents to teach our children, and in this case, boys, how to be respectful and loving people.

Sexual harassment, inappropriate uses of power positions, and betrayal in relationships are happening all around us. From Arnold Schwarzenegger to male students at Yale, from the head of the International Monetary Fund, to soldiers using rape as a widespread war weapon in the Congo. The truth is that the objectification of women is alive and well in 2011.

I look back at the hopeful naïveté I had in college that rights for women and equality and safety would just keep increasing and increasing. In many arenas of life for women there have been tremendous gains. In the realm of safety and respect for the physical and emotional life of girls and women, unfortunately, things have not changed much and are actually exacerbated by our culture.

As parents, we need to remember that respect for women and girls needs to be a primary lesson to boys. We need to model as mothers the self respect and intolerance for even benign “boys will be boys” behavior, and fathers have a tremendous responsibility to teach their sons what is really means to be a man. To embody the bravery it takes not sink down to lowest common denominator of human behavior.

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When Dad’s Play With Kids They help Their Marriage
April 7, 2011 · Posted in Fatherhood, K-5 Kids, Parenting, Work/Family Balance · Permalink · Comments (0)
Click here to find out more!
A recent study in the Developmental Psychology Journal reports on the correlation between parenting responsibilities and spousal relationships. The study, conducted by Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan, found that the more play time spent between father and child, the more encouraging and collaborative the parenting relationship would be.
Greater father involvement in play was associated with an increase in supportive and a decrease in undermining coparenting behavior over time. In contrast, greater father involvement in caregiving was associated with a decrease in supportive and an increase in undermining co-parenting behavior.
Children greatly benefit when both parents have a role in the custodial duties as well as play time. Here is one way to reduce the tension between shared tasks like meal-time, bathing and getting ready for school. Recognize your inevitable differences and try not to be so critical and controlling of one another. It will be incredibly helpful for the relationship to accept that everyone has their own way of doing things. And for dad’s – watch and learn from the person who has been, for the most part, in charge of caregiving responsibilities. Much benefit  will come from seeing what works for your spouse. Along the way, you will adapt your own unique style of parenting that can compliment your wife’s.
Click here to find out more!
Click here to find out more!
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A View Into The Mind Of A Child
February 17, 2011 · Posted in Fatherhood, K-5 Kids, Parenting, Play · Permalink · Comments (0)

If you want to get the best window into how a five year old thinks read The Room by Emma Donoghue. Told from the perspective of a five year old boy, this story of a mother and her son captive in a small room for years gives incredible insight into the way children process information. It also shows how the creativity of a parent and the power of relationship can help us all cope with even the worst hardship. The audio book narrator, in this child’s voice, is so believable. I laughed out loud at his adorableness, felt his fear and understood and remembered what it was like to be a little child so in tune and reliant on the emotional state of my mother. The book is also a powerful commentary on what children really need vs what we think they need. Two thumbs up.

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What Kind Of Play Will Help My Baby Learn?
July 20, 2010 · Posted in Education, Fatherhood, Infant Development, Parenting, Play · Permalink · Comments (0)

educational-toys-leftYour baby is always learning. Whether you are singing to your baby, shaking a rattle for them, or running errands, your baby is taking in the world and learning. When it comes to play, the trusted adults and the physical world are your baby’s best playmate. No need for fancy toys – simple rattles, balls, books and blocks will do. Playing peek-a-boo, singing, crawling around and tickling will do more for your baby than any organized class for infants.

Of course, the kind of play that you engage in with your baby depends greatly on his attention span and tolerance for stimulation. Parents can quickly learn the signs that a baby is enjoying the play or needs  a break and is becoming overstimulated.  Clearly a smiling and laughing baby is having a great time – keep it up!  A baby who diverts his gaze away from a parent or turns away is needing a break. Usually a baby will give one of these more subtle signs before crying.  Of course, if he begins to cry, then he is unequivocally saying “enough!”

And moms-pay attention! Research has shown that active play with kids, the kind most typical of dads, affords kids great advantages in terms of their social competence, emotional development, as well as verbal reasoning and problem solving.  So let their dads play away and don’t try to get them to play like you. They have their own style and it is just as important as more toned down play.

Let your baby explore the world on their own. Using their own senses and being the masters of their fun is important as well. If they are content and “doing their own thing” you are not being neglectful. Let them keep growing that ability to entertain themselves.

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My Father’s Daughter
June 17, 2010 · Posted in Adult Children, Fatherhood, Parenting · Permalink · Comments (1)

Well that was a long time ago. Almost 50 years. So many other snapshots have been taken, by the camera, in the mind:  the good, the bad, the ugly, as in all relationships with one’s father. But this is my favorite. It captures the best part of being my father’s daughter. There I was, just being me, looking out at the world, holding my ball, red Keds ready for jumping and dancing. There he is, just looking with love.

I am not whitewashing the complexity. I am just going for the essence. I am grateful beyond belief for that adoring look. It has immunized me from many of life’s trials. It has given me drive and confidence.

Hopefully, each of us can find one essential, wonderful thing about being our father’s child. Despite how many other parts of the relationship may be fraught or disappointing, or complicated– on Father’s Day let’s just honor and be grateful for that one thing.

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The Quality of Mood, Not “Quality Time”
April 6, 2010 · Posted in Fatherhood, Mental Health, Parenting, Work/Family Balance · Permalink · Comments (2)

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Tara Parker Pope’s recent piece Surprisingly, Family Time Has Grown in her New York Times Blog Well, takes a closer look at the amount of ‘family time’ in the modern working-parent household. Citing research from the University of California and the Pew Research Center, she writes that time spent with children has actually increased for both mothers and fathers since the mid 1990′s (with mothers still doing the bulk of parenting). The post goes on to say that working parents still suffer from guilt, constantly worrying about spending enough time with their children. The main point of this article is to relieve this distress, and show that parents are doing a better job than they think.

Pope leaves us with important food for thought in the last paragraph of her article, and it is this finding that really caught our eye. She refers to Ellen Galinsky, President of The Families and Work Institute:

Dr. Galinsky notes that although working parents typically feel guilty for not spending more time at home, children often have a different reaction. In a landmark study published as “Ask the Children” (Harper, 2000), she asked more than 1,000 children about their “one wish” for their parents. Although parents expected their children would wish for more family time, the children wanted something different.

“Kids were more likely to wish that their parents were less tired and less stressed,” Dr. Galinsky said.

This excerpt indicates that the quality of the parents mood, not the amount, and nor the exact activity or “quality time” that parents strive for is most important to children. This should not be a big surprise, of course. Whether one had a stay-at-home mother, a working mother, a dad who was home at six, or a dad that spent most time at work, it is the emotional state of that parent that stands out over time.

The “Ask The Children” study is a road map for parents about what children really want. Children wish parents were more rested and calmer, less stressed. They need us to take care of ourselves as best we can, so that time spent together is not time for them to worry about us.

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Detachment Parenting?
April 6, 2010 · Posted in Buddhism/Parenting, Fatherhood, K-5 Kids, Parenting, Preschoolers · Permalink · Comments (3)

VelcroStripsAttachment is a parenting “buzz” word.  Detachment is a Buddhist one. The combination of both is the dynamic duo of raising children. The western definition of attachment is a connection, a deep desire to care for, protect and be a part of someone’s life. It is the foundation of healthy emotional development.  Yet, attachment in the Buddhist lexicon has more negative connotations.

Attachment is like a craving. We hold on tight to ideas or things with the false belief that they are unchanging. We attach to moods, emotions, and phases as if they are constant and everlasting. This explains why we are blindsided by change, hopeless when things feel hard and get overly invested when things are going swimmingly.

Here’s an example:

Your child has been sailing into the classroom so far this year and says goodbye with a confident wave. You become “attached” to this phase and behavior.  The inner dialogue is self congratulatory, and you are flying high on the pride and gratification that comes from having an independent kid.

After your vacation, you walk into the classroom that first day back and your son is whiny and clingy. He doesn’t want you to leave. Your heart is pounding, your face is flushed, you worry “What’s wrong with him?” and “Why is this happening?”  Simultaneously you feel angry, truth be told, because your clingy, whiny kid is embarrassing. You finally peel him off and spend the rest of the day feeling sick with worry.

Detachment, in the Buddhist sense, means you have a separate observing ego talking you down off the ledge. The observer reminds you that all things must change, that being resistant to going to school is as common a phenomenon as loving to go–maybe even more common. The detached observer is not detached from your child, actually you are more tuned in because you are staying calm. Using detachment, you are caring for him by not escalating anxiety to the point where he believes that feeling hesitant to go to school one morning will become a major problem for his mother and therefore, him. Detachment approach helps you calm the choppy waters of your internal world so that your response is not reactive but helpful.

Don’t think for one second that this comes easily. Cultivating an attitude of detachment takes practice, practice, practice.  I wish I had this perspective twenty years ago when my kids were small. Since there is no lack of opportunities to practice detachment when you are raising children–by now, I might be at monk status!

Thank goodness it is never too late to start. The muscle of attachment/detachment in it’s wonderful east/west combination becomes stronger the more it is used. You are more grounded, less reactive and a much sturdier rock for your kids to rely on. So maybe there’s a movement here, “Detachment Parenting”?

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A Father’s Perspective: If I Could Do it Over Again
April 1, 2010 · Posted in Fatherhood, Parenting, Work/Family Balance · Permalink · Comments (0)

fathers_kids_13Soho Parenting sent a survey to fathers about their hopes, regrets, and role models for fatherhood. Men ages 40-79 replied.  Every response had one thing in common. Each and every father wished they had, or did, work less. They all regretted not spending more time with their children.

A recent piece by Michael Winerip in Generation B in The New York Times echoes this. He reports on men who have small children while in their fifties and sixties. They feel happy to have children late in life, when the pressures of work and their own ambitions are less front and center.

“I was bad about this the first time,” said Mr. Albinus, who has a daughter, 37, and a son, 28, by two different women in his native Denmark. In his 20s he was building a career as a political reporter covering Parliament. “I had to be there long hours,” he said. On days he was supposed to pick up his son from child care, he often couldn’t. He would call his wife, who was also working full time, and they’d argue about how he never did his share. “I’d get to day care late, my son was crying, it was terrible,” Mr. Albinus said. These things leave scars; at one point, the grown son, now a film director in Denmark, stopped speaking to him for a year….“For my little son, I’m always there,” he said. “For my older son, I missed too many birthdays.”

One father in our survey lamented that his own father worked too much.  He set out to be different with his children, but somehow it turned into the same situation.  It is important to remember that even with intention and awareness, it is an uphill climb to really make a change from what you experienced as a child.

This is a heads up for parents to sit together and really talk about their priorities, values and plans. Children need their fathers and fathers need their children. See what changes you can make to insure that father’s time with their children is not optional or marginal. Not everyone gets a second shot.

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