After conducting focus groups with other dads, we have discovered two things: (1) we are not alone and (2) most dads suffer in silence.
If you’re the father of a teenager, you’ve experienced a roller coaster of feelings – love, fear, frustration, anxiety, anger, joy, loneliness and hurt. Nobody prepared you. There weren’t any parenting classes in school – no neighborhood chat groups for dads. Most of you are not sure you’re doing it right, and you don’t have anyone you can talk to about it.
Finding The Frequency
Moms commiserate and connect. Moms are better at and more willing to seek out those opportunities for social interaction with one another. Also, moms probably spend more time in the doctor’s office, at school or in the grocery store where those encounters with other moms naturally unfold.
Dads aren’t on the same frequency. First, we don’t easily admit to having a problem that we can’t fix. We’re fixers. It’s in our DNA. Second, we don’t often seek out the counsel of a fellow father because … well, hey, we’re fixers! We’ve got it covered. Third, when we are among other dads, we talk about … you guessed it … fixing things: cars, chain saws, drippy faucets. We pretend there are no rattles or leaks in our relationship with our kids as we stealthily scan the shelves for answers at our local bookstore or on the internet. Few titles, however, really speak to us as workaday dads. Where do we turn when there’s no guidance?
Preparing a Path
Teenagers, male or female, go through periods of maddening self-centeredness, independence, arrogance and irresponsibility. The overarching condition in which they live and breathe seems to be their incredible assuredness that they know what’s best. That’s because, “Dad, you just don’t understand.”
They’re right! Sometimes, we don’t understand at all! And they don’t understand us.
How do you admit you’re struggling with being a good dad? How do you balance career, marriage, and your roles as father, husband, wage earner and a fun guy? How do you respond with love and understanding when you come home from a tough day at work to discover that a tornado carved a path of destruction through your son’s bedroom, the living room and kitchen? And the note reads: “Had to run. Will call later. Need the car tonight.” Sound familiar?
We love our kids. We want the best for them. But we also want them to realize that their existence depends upon our clawing out of bed every morning and going to work. While they announce nearly every day that they can’t wait to live in their own condo and make their own decisions, we want to remind them that they live under a roof compliments of mom and dad. While they choose to ignore the dirty carpet, their dog’s empty water dish (with an emphasis on their), and the astronomical electric bill, house rules still apply.
Next week we’ll introduce a ghost that haunts us and, as we’ve been told, other dads. Let us know what haunts you as a dad. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.