Two weeks ago, I wrote about “Work Day with Dad”. In the article, I told the story of a number of dads who had changed their children for the better by simply hanging out with them. The act of taking your children to work, or taking time from work to be with your children, is especially impactful. This response from my friend Stephen, a very dedicated father of two young children, highlights the importance of doing just that!
Your story about Dads spending time with their children at work was very inspiring, Warwick. I always love reading your posts, and they are always so informative and very inspirational.
Although as a father, I may often struggle with raising our kids the “right way”, I have come to the realisation that there is no such thing as a “right” way, just that we can raise them the “wrong” way.
When we begin to place too great expectations on our kids, we end up doing more wrong than right. We tend to mould them in ways that they are not meant to be, and this can cause so much angst and resentment in the kids.
I have recently found out the hard way when I smacked my eldest daughter for back-talk and unruly behaviour. I became a strict parent (like my parents) who relied on rigid styles of parenting to discipline the kids.
The end result was: a child who began to lose the love for her father, and even worse, the love for herself. She started to say things like, “I am not worthy of being loved, I wish I was never born, I hate daddy.” It was heartbreaking to hear these things; it made me realise that I had overstepped the mark and lost touch with her.
I had to take a long walk around my suburb (this was late at night, I didn’t return home until midnight) to remove myself from the anger I was feeling towards her disrespect, and to get my headspace cleared so that I could comprehend what I had done and what I should have done, and what I could do better next time. I was in tears, thinking how bad I was as a parent.
I was thinking, how is it that people like you, Warwick, and your son Nathaniel Marsh, can raise so many kids whilst I am struggling with just two?
What I had realised was that my relationship with my eldest daughter had slowly deteriorated over a long period of time, and that I was about to lose her totally. She was not the little baby that I had to do everything for or that I had to tell what to do, but a young girl who is capable of making her own decisions and doing things for herself.
I knew that I was the one who had to change and change quickly. I realised that, unlike the younger daughter, I had not spent much time with the eldest daughter because life got in the way — I was busy working; she was going to school five days a week (unlike the younger one, with whom I am able to spend time on Tuesdays when I generally work from home).
So, my solution was that the day after the confrontation, I held my eldest daughter back from school and we spent the day doing things together, like going to the climbing gym, spending some time at my workplace, walking around its grounds looking at frogs in the duck pond and having lunch together, sharing memories and re-engaging with each other.
It was a complete turnaround compared to the evening before. She began valuing our time together, re-establishing some form of relationship that involves the two of us talking, rather than screaming at each other, and easing tensions at home. (Although there may still be times when this may occur, the level is much less.)
I have learnt that what I was used to at home when I was younger, is not suitable in the current family unit. I was a totally different kid to the ones I have, and what fitted in those days does not fit the same way these days.
I still have some ways to go, but I know that I am not alone, and as long as there are people out there like yourself who are always there to bat for the dads, I am never alone, but I will always have a network of support that I can draw upon.
Thank you to Warwick and your team at Dads4Kids for all that you do for our family and families all over the nation.
I think Stephen’s response to his challenge was brilliant. Rather than run from the problem of losing his daughter’s heart, he “held (his) eldest daughter back from school and (they) spent the day together doing things together, like going to the climbing gym, spending some time at Dad’s workplace, walking around its grounds looking at frogs in the duck pond and having lunch together, sharing memories and re-engaging with each other.” It is called proactive fathering, and we all need to do it as much as we possibly can.
Take some inspiration from my friend Stephen, and be who you need to be as a Dad to your children. You can never underestimate the value your children place on just being with you in your daily dad life. And by the way, indoor rock-climbing gyms are not such a bad place to go to hang out with your children.
Yours for the right way to bring up children,
[Photo by August de Richelieu