All right dads, this post is for you. And moms, you’re not getting a pass either! Sometimes I know some of the articles we post touch on heavy topics. I know being a dad is not a light topic either, but let’s lighten this one up a little. Because I know my dad would like that. He has a great sense of humor. It’s one characteristic that made him a good father.
So then, what are the characteristics of a good father? Guys, is it all about being a provider? Maybe it’s those tricks at car and home maintenance you’re always harping on. Or it could be that time you taught us how to throw a nasty curve ball. It could even be all these things. But let’s admit it—there’s plenty more to it.
The coolest thing about fathers is that they are always evolving. It could be said that dads today are nothing like dads of the past. And that is indeed a very good thing. Could it get any better? I think so, and here’s how. Fortunately, most fathers today are making this a pretty easy post to fill out.
Don’t Be Your Dad’s Dad
I know, it’s a little obvious. How can a guy be a good father if he’s caught in a time warp? The answer: not very likely. I mean, taking care of the money, the lawn, and the cars, that’s all good. But what about the rest of us, the 99% of us who craves a father’s attention? Honestly, the male persona is not quick to change. And ladies, we are as much to blame for that. Who doesn’t like the image of a stoic cowboy saving the day and riding off into the sunset? How many heroes in books and movies portray throwback images of men that we fall for every time?
Cue Don Draper entering the room. Yeah, he’s the stereotype of a man’s man. If you allow yourself to believe that is what a man is supposed to be. But father material? Not really. Not even close. Still, Don knew how to carry himself and dressed to impressed. So maybe in the wardrobe and swagger departments he checks off a few boxes.
But guys, the choice is yours. Don’t be your dad’s dad. Loosen up. Show your inner self. Be you around your kids. It’s the only way they’ll get to know you. I remember my grandfather’s funeral and hearing all these stories from his guy friends. You know what? This was a side of him I never knew. I felt cheated. He was always a kind man. But he never let his family see what was on the inside. It was full of hurt and beauty. And he carried that around without sharing.
Make Your Presence Known
Ever heard the saying, present but not there? My dad was that way. As a father, he came to every game possible. But did this make him a good father? It pains me to say this, but no. And I’ve discussed this with him, so dad, if you’re reading, thank you!
But seriously, how many dads just show up out of duty? It’s not just a part of fatherhood, but a part of life in general. At times we are all guilty of this, moms and dads alike. However, I get the time constraints many dads face. Even today, most men are working long hours to provide for their families. It’s no wonder that they show up at a game or performance with no emotion left to spare.
Don’t do that.
If you’re there, let us know it. Go beyond the cheers and applause. Sure, we live for that. But we also live for your acknowledging our performance. Let us know what stood out. Gently remind us how we can improve. Show us you’re engaged with us.
Better yet, do more than show up.
Step in and show us what you got. Yeah dads, you can do it. If it’s a sport, help the coaches with a practice here and there. If we’re performing, get to know the lyrics or script. Rather than be a passive audience, ask us questions about it. Delve into what is making us tick. On a rainy day, put your phone down. Likewise, ask your kids to do the same and talk to them. I know, it’s not just a dad thing here. But starting the conversation is what makes for a good father. If you want your kids to trust you, then be available to them.
Time is Money
Time is money—crack that whip! Really? Think about it. What is one thing we can always make more of? Um-hmm. Money. Dinero. Greenbacks. Get out there and work. It’ll pour in. Make it rain.
Dads, you are appreciated for all your hard work. It does not go unrecognized. My dad worked his you know what off. But for what? A heart attack and hours away from his family. Hardly worth the effort if you ask me. Eventually my dad quit his second job. And our family, well, we got by. I think we were a little better off actually. Why? Because Dad was home. And Mom wasn’t run ragged.
So that one currency we can’t make more of, yeah, you guessed it. That would be time. It’s finite. And it’s the one thing kids want most. After your attention, that is. It all ties in with being present. Put in the time, and you’ll be more than a backdrop. You’ll be part of the picture. No one said it would be easy. However, a day off here and there never really hurt anyone, did it?
And how will you do all those dad things with your kids if you’re never home? It’s the chicken and egg theory. So don’t chicken out.
Show Those Emotions
Fortunately for modern men it’s acceptable to shed a tear every now and then. But showing emotions is far from a tear drop rolling down the face. Sometimes, you have to open up. It’s much harder than faking a tear, right? Put the quiet man of the nineteen-fifties behind you. It was a long time ago anyway. It’s all right, even expected, of fathers to show more than a little emotion.
But how, you may ask. Life is filled with teachable moments. Just today, my own daughter asked me why the worm on the driveway wasn’t moving anymore. “Because it’s dead,” I told her. You know what? She started to cry. I knew she was sad. What did I do? I took the time to ask her how she felt. We all can lend a shoulder to cry on. That’s nice, but it’s easy. It doesn’t take much effort.
There will be plenty of opportunities like this, dads. Jump at the chance. Remember my grandfather? I never knew he felt emotions, or pain, like the rest of us. I often wonder if he would still be here today if he hadn’t bottled all that up inside of him. So, when your kids ask how you are feeling, you don’t have to dump on them. But remember, it’s that human touch that makes life bearable, because life isn’t always easy.
So if you want to go beyond average in the realm of fatherhood, show those emotions. Cry at funerals. Suffer with us when we lose a game. Ask us how we’re feeling, and why. Being emotional is a lot like telling a good story: show don’t tell. Your kids will know when it shows. And that’s what really counts.
Define Manly Things Your Way
“Be your own man.” I hate those words. A strong statement because of the intent behind them. What’s in this statement? Simply, it carries on worn notions of manhood. The rugged individual, no display of emotion, all work, and no play (or the other way around). I remember those words from my grandfather to my dad and uncles. It never insinuated that they should make their way in the world on their own terms.
Instead, it meant to struggle alone.
Dads, it’s the last thing we want. See also, “Show Those Emotions,” above. See? Everything is tying in together nicely.
It’s refreshing how the definition of masculinity has begun to evolve. True that it has taken some time, but we’re getting there. So guys, man up in your own way. There’s no right or wrong way about it. We love our fathers because of who they are, and we want to see more of that. Show your sons how they can be a man, no matter how they pass their time. Reading a book is manly. As is writing a poem. How about dancing? All are right up there with swinging a baseball bat or casting a line.
The secret? Own it. It will show. Don’t balk at things you enjoy because of how you think you will be judged—or worse—to please someone else. You know why? Because your kids are watching.
Everything you do is manly because you’re a man. You own your manhood. Your personality is your own. Want to be a good father? Show us how you really are your own man. Chances are we’ll take that cue from you and turn out to be more than comfortable in our own skin.
Dad Outside the Box
All of which brings us to the next point. Dad outside the box. You heard it right. Don’t settle for traditional roles for the sake of tradition. Feeling like staying at home is more your thing? Then don’t be afraid to make it happen. Let’s be serious, your coworkers are cool, but they’re not your kids. If it’s your thing, go for it.
My dad knew nothing about cars. But he made a killer omelet. Don’t fake the dad role. If you can’t fix a car, then don’t. If hammers and you don’t mix, save yourself a trip to the ER. It’s a new world out there for moms and dads. If you want to be the best dad possible, it’s as simple as recognizing your talents and passions. Then unleash them.
Imagine the power in that. A man thumbing his nose at tradition (in a good way) and doing what drives him to succeed. A man who lets his creativity fuel his drive. That’s the kind of role model kids need in a father. Save the morass of nine to five living for the office. When you’re home, be a dad by your own rules.
You’re Not Mom, But…
Okay dads, here’s some advice. You’re not mom. And you never will be. And for you moms, the opposite is true.
But sometimes dad must play both roles. It happens and it’s totally cool. This is where all the above steps come into action. Channel your modern masculinity. Be present and in the moment. Take the time to work through any situation. Show your emotions. When mom isn’t home, you’ll be called upon to show the tenderness that comes so naturally to most moms. It’s not easy, I know, but you can do it. After all, you’ve read this far and have been nodding your head all along!
It’s all part of making fatherhood your own role. Take ownership of it, and the rest will come naturally.
I remember a conversation with my dad years ago. I asked what I could do to be a better parent. He couldn’t give me an answer. Because of that, I didn’t know if I’d ever figure it out. But I maintained hope that one day I would be able to impart a little bit of wisdom to my kids in that department. After all is said and done, maybe I’ve demonstrated enough of the good to have made a difference in their approaches to parenting.
But I think I do know the answer.
Throw away the old play book.
The rules have changed. Being a great father, a dad, is easier than ever. All you need to do is be yourself.
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