When I was young, I was a momma’s boy. Yes, I said it. I don’t mean that I was a wuss. It’s just that I defaulted to mom for my comfort. This was not to say that dad could not be comforting, but mom had the right words and touch for the moment. However, when anything heavy went down, I quickly ran to dad’s shadow. Heavy did not mean that I was feeling bad, or needed encouragement. Heavy was that I thought I was going to die.
As I became a father, I wanted to give my children more than a feeling as if I was an alpha male lion. I wanted to be a part of a more nurturing role. I never wanted to be mamma, but just included in some of that stuff. I never felt like my dad had failed me in this area. I was not correcting a wrong. I just consciously wanted to do more.
I had to learn some things to be effective in the area of comfort. The first thing was to learn how not to be dismissive to my children’s concerns and fears. I think it is easy for men to roll their eyes, laugh off, or even fuss at kids when they express worry or concern at stuff that does not bother “us”.
In the sentence following my last one, I started to say that we as men feel a certain way about child concerns. I erased that sentence. I don’t think we feel at all. I don’t think we even give it a second thought. We blow it off or dismiss it. How do we stop that? How can we see what they see? This may sound dumb, but I started lowering myself to their height. I would kneel or sit. When I started this, I really didn’t know what I was doing, thinking, or trying to fix. It’s just when I caught myself, I didn’t want to dismiss them. Whether I had the answer or action they needed, I just wanted them to know that their worries, anxiety, and concerns were worth my time.
Let me say that I did not bat 1000 on this. I’m sure that I may have walked or thought past an opportunity to grow even more in my relationship with my kids. However, when I was spot on, it could open up wonderful lines of communication. We had some of the greatest talks. There were times that I could not fix their problem or make their fears go away. This frustrated me. Like my father, I am a fixer. I want to make it better. I want to have a solution. Let me tell you that sometimes all you can do is be there.
This drive began with me when my oldest son was living with his mother 2 hours away. I wish I could say that it started from day 1. However, it really started as soon as he was not living under my roof. For 5 years until he was 10 (which was the age that he came to live with me until high school graduation), I wanted to be the dad that he needed/wanted. I wish that I could say that it initiated as a noble cause. I wish I could say that I had an epiphany. My initial efforts were to compete against my “X”. I wanted to be a better parent than she was. The only thing I could constantly do was to be there. I had nothing else to offer. I just wanted to be a man of my word and make my son feel like he was a priority.
The competition mode that I had with my “X” did not last long at all. I could see that just my going to see him was all that he wanted. NOW there was an epiphany. I saw his love and confidence in me grow. The event that killed the competition happened on a weekend that I was going to go see him. I was not consciously competing with his mother anymore. I was driven NOT to disappoint him if possible.
That weekend, a hurricane was blowing in from the Gulf of Mexico. It had not landed, but there was heavy rain. Did I mention that I only had a motorcycle at that time? I decided to try and beat the storm before it got worse. I made it to see him. All was well. However, I was not going to be so lucky on the way home. I ended up driving my bike in downpour rain and strong wind. I was soaked, scared, and thought I was gonna die. However, it ended up fine and I had put the trip out of my mind. Sometime later I was not able to make a trip and felt so horrible. It was then that my son crushed me with understanding and grace. He told me that it was okay, “you drove your bike through a storm to see me”.
Dads, it is about the effort. It is not knowing what to do and say. We are all going to have victories and failures. That is not what your kids will see. They will see your heart. They will see how important they are to you. You won’t fool them. My oldest son’s words changed my drive and set the tone for how I would try to be for my 2nd and 3rd child. This did not mean that I would always be successful.
Get down to their eye level. Listen to them. Show them that they are worth your time. They just want you. You can be more than a tough guy, more than an alpha lion. You can be a huge comfort to your children. Give it all you got. Be the best dad possible.