Monday, June 21, 2010

Daddy: The Magic Word

I actually have a lot of guy friends who are dads, most have at least one little girl.

For them, and in memory of my Dad, here are some of memories of things he taught me:

Everyone should know how to check their oil and change a tire, boy or girl.

My dad explained, "I hated when my father said, 'because I said so,' so I won't do it to you kids." He always gave a reason for all his decisions. Sometimes 100 times over to the minutest details, but damnit, there was a reason!

Same went for stuff we needed to learn. Libraries were regular visits. So was polling Mom's Avon customers and his friends at work for stuff he didn't know. (You new dads are lucky: You have Google!)

"I may not always be right, but I'm never wrong." Just because. Kids get irony better than you think.

"I can be mean, y'know." Also, just 'cuz. Kids also get that sometimes you have to stick to your guns.

If you want something, build it. If you want something that will last 30+ years and impress your son and engineer son-in-law, learn how to build it right.

If you want something done right, learn how to do it right, do it better, and have a kid around who will ask the stupid questions you never thought of.

Also, have lots of books from different publishers on fixing cars. Just because it's in a book doesn't mean its right. (We all know that goes for Internet sources, too.)

Watch TV with your kids. Answer their questions during commercial breaks. Make sure Mom is available for certain questions - often from daughters - and/or back-up.

Let your kids share your excitement about new technology, gadgets, and scientific theories.

Have an agreement with Mom that you will always present a unified front, even if you don't agree on the punishment or crime. (My parents actually told me they did this.)

Openly question the information on TV, in books, or in any media - and encourage conversation about what you question.

Invest in a protective cup while playing with children who either have not yet injured their testicles or do not have testicles. (Just trust me on this one…)

Shin guards are also a good idea.

Teach your kids to respect the back and spine early - for all your health.

If your kid can walk, there's chores s/he can do and be responsible for. Respectful child labor is less work for you and promotes good work ethic.

Make your kids - boys and girls - bait their own hooks in fishing. Being squeamish over wiggling worms is pointless.

Find creative ways to clarify that it's good to ask for help when one needs it but not when one is lazy. Smart kids will test this line with frequency. (I learned reflective questioning at a VERY early age… "Well, what is it specifically that you need help with? What is it you don't know that is keeping you from…?")

Believe with all your heart that you kid really can do anything she or he wants to, and be willing to help learn all the steps to achieve that goal. (In my stint of wanting to be a lawyer, Dad set me up to talk with lawyers and ask them lots of questions. I realized I didn't want to be a lawyer, so we moved onto writing…)

Insist your child have a job as early as possible and set limits of what you are willing to pay for. Having one's own money is deeply empowering and also deeply humbling. My parents allowed me one new outfit each school year, and anything beyond that, I had to pay for myself. Granted, this wasn't "just" a Dad thing, but he was key in making it clear that a girl needs to be independent and self-sufficient - and that I had a right to any job I wanted.

Oh, and never let your girl take any crap from any boy. Let her know she's got the right, power, and responsibility to protect the health and safety of her body, mind, and soul. It was nice to know that if things went beyond my control, my Dad could still kick ass; but it was better to know how to do it - and that I should be able to do it - myself.

What are your favorite Dad memories that made you who you are? Who says Father's Day is only on Sunday?

Thanks Dads all over!


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