When the glove doesn’t fit

Sports has been different this past year that’s for sure. But with the Dodgers and Lakers winning championships, Bill is happy (he hails from Los Angeles) and we each still follow what we can. As we have finished college football, engage with basketball in the college and NBA ranks, we think about the focus so many have placed on sports competition. One dad asked us, “My son has no interest in sports. Should I be worried?” 

As fellow dads, we understand the concern because it is often viewed as “natural” somehow for guys to be attracted to the competitive, rough-and-tumble wide world of sports. Two questions come to mind: As dads, what might we be worried about? Secondly, what is meant by the word “natural”?

It’s a guy thing

Our guess is that dads don’t get too worked up if little Chelsea finds it more natural to climb a tree or put on a catcher’s mask than play with dolls. Why is that? We think it’s because if Chelsea exhibits interest in what is too often considered a more masculine activity, no worry … she’ll eventually grow out of it. Or who knows—she just may show up the boys! But if Devin isn’t interest in sports, it can be a reflection of dear old dad, and we can’t have that! Dads who love sports often hope their passion for touchdowns, fly balls and dunks will carry forth in their young sons. After all, males and sports are teammates, right?

The world is composed of exceptions, ironies and wonderful surprises. Tom’s uncle, who was not a sports enthusiast, was an accomplished organist. He also crocheted—not a typical activity for a man. He also worked in a funeral home preparing bodies for viewing and burial. He was a creative man of diverse interests. Were they masculine or feminine interests? Does it matter?

More than a baseball glove

If dad’s son doesn’t show any interest in sports right now, he may be a late bloomer. His interest in sports may emerge later. In the meantime, he may become enthralled with the flight of a hummingbird or the magnificent art of the spider’s web. That could indicate a passion for science or photography or nature. What are little boys made of … much more than a baseball glove.

Allow the natural to unfold

Dad, as much as you want your son to fit the mold, you can’t force him into your mold. As humans, we are allowed to cross boundaries and create new ones. We are free to be who we are. If you believe that your children can be anything they want to be … if you have encouraged them to follow their dreams—then you need to step back and allow the “natural” to unfold. It is not within your power to do otherwise. 

Summing up

• Realize that masculinity and sports are not necessarily synonymous.

• Introduce your kids to many pursuits, disregarding gender-specific tags.

• Instill values in your kids, and help them weigh their choices according to their passions and skills.

• Rather than force your son or daughter into stereotypical smaller boxes, encourage them to avoid boxes altogether.

• Allow your kids to grow at their own pace, along their own path—rather than be extensions of you. (It tweaks a nerve to say it, dad … but your kids are not you.)

• Be grateful that your youngster shows interest in positive pursuits, whether it involves a ball or not. 

By dads2dads

Handing Over the Car Keys

Quite a few dads suggested this topic to us: “How do you know when to hand over the car keys?”

Parents go through some gut-wrenching moments during their “tour of duty” as caretakers, protectors and defenders of their children. We certainly did. We anguish over some tough decisions as parents because what we think is best for our teenager is often directly in opposition to what he or she thinks is appropriate and even deserved. By nature dads have a difficult time letting go, giving up some measure of control, particularly when it comes to a child’s safety.

Unsettling statistics

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, over nearly 2,500 teenagers in the U.S. died in car crashes in 2018, far lower than the 70s and 80s but still troubling. Two in three deaths are males.  42 percent were single-vehicle crashes. Car crashes are one of the leading cause of teenage death, slightly below suicide.

So how can parents stay calm while handing over the keys? We’re not sure “calm” even applies here. There is hardly much calm while one’s daughter or son backs a two-ton hunk of machinery out of the driveway and heads down the street and around the corner out of sight. One way to lessen the anxiety, assuming that there has been adequate practice behind the wheel, is to discuss your rules and clearly state your expectations. (Note the emphasis on your.)

Make them your rules

We suggest the following—and by no means do we have the only or best solutions:

• When your teenager first takes the family car—and for the following two to four weeks—insist that he or she not offer taxi service. Many accidents are caused by noisy or disruptive passengers. Be firm—absolutely no riders for a predetermined period.

• After that period, allow your teenage driver to have just one passenger for another month or two. After that, set a permanent passenger limit. We’d suggest never more than three.

• Everyone fastens seatbelts.

• Demand accountability. Where are you going? Who will be with you in the car? When will you be home? 

• Demand that there be no calling or texting ever while driving. (And no proxy driver!)

• No drinking and driving. Period. Call dad or mom or Uber or Lyft.

• A ticket for a moving-traffic violation—speeding, tailgating, etc.—should result in a revocation of driving privileges for a month. (Any drug- or alcohol-related infraction by driver or passenger ought to carry the stiffest parental penalty of all. And, parents, if the offender is your child, you may have a bigger problem to address.)

Make ‘em stick

Every time you come to that stomach-churning moment when your son or daughter gets into the driver’s seat, make sure you say loud and clear: “Be careful. See you later. I love you!” And then … let go.

One final reminder: Be firm, don’t bend the rules, follow through on punishments—and love them no matter what.

By dads2dads

Where’s Your Focus?

Hey, dad, for our third resolution, we suggest that you focus on yourself.  You might say, “Wait a minute … that sounds a little selfish. You guys are always saying ‘Be there for the kids’ and ‘Pay attention to your kids’ needs.’ Now you’re saying, ‘Focus on yourself.’ What gives?”

We don’t mean that you should be self-centered. We mean simply that in order to give freely and generously to your children and spouse, you need to take care of yourself.

Adjust the stress level

A weak vessel holds little. Increase your capacity to be a good husband and an effective father by fortifying your mind and body. Take time to de-stress. If you’re constantly under pressure, impatient or agitated, you’re not going to be a very good listener. And we know these days are filled with pressure and uncertainty. Your ability to be in the moment will not be very strong if you’re distracted by stress. You will be quick to react in the wrong way, and your relationships will suffer.

Get physical

Exercising will help you to slow down, gain perspective and be a more responsive person. Many facilities are open with careful precautions and there are some things you can do at home like using that old elliptical that’s become a piece of furniture, or walking/running outside, or hiking. Physical activity improves your heart rate, blood pressure and ability to handle challenges. Check first with your doctor before you start an exercise regimen. Once you know your limitations … reach them!

We have found exercise to be a key ingredient in keeping us effective. The biggest challenge to overcome is our own list of excuses. (We’re not sure which one of us has the longer list.)  

And mental

Try some mental calisthenics. Make time for yoga, meditation, daily prayer or personal reflection. A destressing process such as this is important in reducing tension and increasing your ability to listen, to interact and to be more centered.

Eat To Live (not the other way around)

The body needs fuel. You are what you eat. All food is not created equal. Make sure your diet is supporting your ability to deal with the challenges you face. The better the food you eat, the better your capacity for meeting all the needs of an active day.

Treat yourself to some TLC. You may think you’re indestructible … able to leap tall sofas in a single bound. Have a frank talk with yourself, dad. You’re not the warrior you might think. You may not get nearly the miles per gallon of gusto that you once did. You need to stop and take the time … to take the time. Do it for yourself. Do it for those you love. Do it for life.

Looking ahead, we recommend that you increase your value. Focus on the three resolutions that we have suggested in this series. (1) Step up to the plate and be a dad. (2) Improve your relationship with your spouse. (3) Focus on yourself. You’ll enhance your focus on everything and everyone else in your life. It’s worth the investment, and we know you can do it. And let us know how it’s going.

By dads2dads

Good Parenting Requires Good Partnering

Dad, it’s important to step up to the plate and be a good dad —  showing up, listening, paying attention … those things that are sometimes challenges for us. Your role as a dad is vital in today’s turbulent world. Effective parenting—being a block for the young chip—can help resolve many of the problems we face. Good fathers help make good kids. You’re probably already doing a pretty good job. Look for areas where you can improve. We all have them.

Strengthen Your Partnership

Parents who become immersed in raising a child also can drift apart and become strangers. They lose the spark, the harmony, the adventure and the reward of a relationship. When their child grows up and moves on, they find themselves married to someone they don’t know. They may discover that the person they thought they knew changed over the years. They are still together but lonelier than they’ve ever been. That’s a lonelier feeling than being alone.

Clear Your Calendar … and Clutter

In order to prevent estrangement, rev your engines. Cherish your relationship. Keep in touch with each other’s feelings. Maintain a sense of your “coupleness” within the larger role of parents. You can do this by spending some time with each other, away from the kids — having a regular night out, taking turns making an occasional special dinner or simply talking together in the evening. The paradox is that “simply talking together” isn’t simple. It requires clearing the clutter, focusing and—here comes that word again—listening.

You’re busy. You’ve got a lot to do and many things on your mind. Just remember, quality counts. It’s not the amount of time so much as how it’s spent that makes a difference. Small changes can produce important improvements. So when you’re listening, listen well. It’s usually more important than talking. Pay attention. Ask questions. Avoid judgment or defensiveness. 

Share household chores. Try to make daily life easier for each other. Understand your partner’s concerns, fears, and, yes, frustrations. Be empathetic. Make your relationship matter. 

View It From Your Child’s Perspective

It’s hard raising a child and the work of being an effective parent really doesn’t get enough attention. Parents who do it well don’t get enough credit. Be one of those who do it well. If you’re married, be grateful for that other person you love. If you’re separated or divorced, try to view your partner from your child’s perspective. It is important to maintain a calm, supportive environment. It’s not about you—it’s about raising a healthy, successful child. (And health is particularly important in this time of a pandemic).

Each of you has strengths and needs. You can be a better parent by combining your skills, balancing your abilities and strengthening areas that needs improving. You already have the desire and the will to raise successful, loving children. Recognizing the importance of your partnership is a key ingredient in this process.

By dads2dads

Three Resolutions

 As we said, the new year arrives and we resolve to make many improvements in our lives. The beginning of the year is a good time to reflect on how last year went, and what we want the new twelve months to look like. 

We’d like to talk about reflection and direction in order to chart a slightly new course. We’ll keep it simple because we really can’t handle too many changes all at once. Perhaps you can’t either. And perhaps we just need some fine-tuning.

OK, your first resolution to keep for 2021: 

Be a father.

It sounds simple, right? Well it’s not. Being a dad is a hard job. It requires growing up, being patient, setting an example and showing respect and understanding. It’s truly a tall order.

Being a dad is a unique role because it comprises many parts: cheerleader, teacher, role model and mentor.

Those Precious Fleeting Years

As Steve Martin says in the movie, Father of the Bride:

You fathers will understand.  You have a little girl.  An adorable little girl who looks up to you and adores you in a way you could never imagine.  I remember how her little hand used to fit inside mine.  How she used to sit in my lap and lean her head against my chest.  She said that I was her hero.  Then the day comes when she wants to get her ears pierced, and she wants you to drop her off a block before the movie theater.  Next thing you know she’s wearing eye shadow and high heels.  From that moment on, you’re in a constant state of panic. You worry about her going out with the wrong kind of guys, the kind of guys who only want one thing–and you know exactly what that one thing is because it’s the same thing you wanted when you were their age.  Then she gets a little older and you quit worrying about her meeting the wrong guy and you worry about her meeting the right guy.  And that’s the biggest fear of all because then you lose her.  And before you know it, you’re sitting all alone in a big, empty house, wearing rice on your tux, wondering what happened to your life.

For Starters—Always Be There

So this year, think about what it means to be a dad and how you can be just a little bit better. Fatherhood requires patience, expects maturity, demands discipline, involves setting an example, and calls for respect and understanding.

You can start simply by being there for your child. Try listening better. Be reliable. Dependable. Trustworthy. Pick her up when she falls. Listen when he speaks. And always, always respect your children.

By dads2dads

Resolved:

2020 has been difficult. No doubt about it. The new year arrives with hope for a calmer, safer landscape in which to live. And, we traditionally make resolutions. We resolve to be better dads, to get healthier, to finish projects, etc. The years of fatherhood are littered with resolutions. We don’t keep many of them. We mean well, but we get busy and forgetful — tired and lazy.

Still, now is a good opportunity to conduct a personal review and start those improvements that can make a difference for us and for those we love. The key is to focus on areas of highest interest to us—and to be specific about what we want to accomplish. 

Be a father. It sounds simple, right? Well it’s not. Being a dad is a hard job. It requires growing up, being patient, setting an example and showing respect and understanding. It’s truly a tall order. Being a dad is a unique role because it comprises many parts: cheerleader, teacher, role model and mentor.

Be a listener. Clear the clutter from your mind. Take control of your ego and don’t insist on having the loudest or last word—or fixing something. Cherish the fact that your kid is speaking to you.  ListenGet to know him or her better. What an incredible new start! 

Be a partner. Couples immersed in raising a child can drift apart, lose the spark. When their child grows up they find themselves married to someone they don’t know. Rev your engines, embrace change, and cherish your relationship. Keep in touch with each other.

Be a child. Sometimes it’s good to see things from your child’s perspective. Delve into his feelings. Notice her moods. Ask for their perspective. Be open to listening. Watch for opportunities to connect. You’ll learn a lot.

Be calmer.  Focus on yourself a little. Fortify your mind and body. Take time to de-stress. If you’re constantly under pressure, impatient or agitated, you’re not going to be a very good listener. Your ability to be in the moment will not be very strong. You will be quick to react in the wrong way, and your relationships will suffer.

Get physical. Exercise will help you to slow down, gain perspective and be a more responsive person. Physical activity improves your heart rate, blood pressure and the ability to handle challenges. Check first with your doctor before you start an exercise regimen. And, of course, practice good pandemic habits by keeping distant, wearing a mask whenever possible. Once you know your limitations … reach them!

Get mental. Try some mental calisthenics as well. Make time for yoga, meditation, daily prayer or personal reflection. A de-stressing process such as this is important in reducing tension and increasing your ability to listen, to interact and to be more centered.

Get nutritious. The body needs fuel. You are what you eat. Make sure your diet is supporting your ability to deal with the challenges you face. The better the food you eat, the better your capacity for meeting all the needs of an active day.

By dads2dads