Ah, the New Year’s resolution. As the year turns, many of us have made resolutions to eat better, exercise more, find more fulfilling work, etc. Have we made a resolution to do something differently in how we parent that might make us an even better mom or dad?
I found myself thinking about this question yesterday. Instead of trying to figure out my “dad resolution” then and there, I considered the successes I had as a dad last year.
As I reflect back, my single biggest success as a dad last year was making a stronger connection with my son Will (my only son, sandwiched between two very chatty and charismatic daughters). After considering an array of complex options, tactics and even professional assistance, I came up with the brilliant and original idea (that’s sarcasm) to spend a few hours with him (and him alone) each weekend.
Our first few “dates” consisted of driving around shopping plazas, trolling for soda and newspaper machines, so that he could run out and check them for change. He also wanted to hit up grocery stores with Coinstar machines (those turned out to be a serious jackpot). That’s what he told me he wanted to do, so I went with it. I used to check the same machines obsessively as a child, so perhaps there is something hereditary going on here.
I saw an almost immediate change, not only the way he engaged with me but also with other adults. He was a happier kid. It was both shocking to me and invigorating. We started calling our time “Misters Before Sisters”. Soon we were going for hikes, eating ice cream, buying “his” and “his” skateboards. He even decided he wanted to do Cub Scouts, and I somehow became the Den leader, which has lead to a range of activities from camp outs to door to door popcorn selling (at which he excelled, go figure). It all started with one simple decision, to spend some one on one time with my son, and blossomed in ways I couldn’t have imagined.
“I saw an almost immediate change, not only the way he engaged with me but also with other adults. He was a happier kid. It was both shocking to me and invigorating.”
If I learned anything last year about parenting that I think is of use for other dads (and consequently perfect for the way we think as men) it’s to not over complicate your role in your child’s life. If you want to come up with a resolution for how to be a better dad (or mom) this year, find one that involves more of you…on their terms. You may not have a passion for discovering small change in rusty newspaper dispensers, but maybe you get just a little excited when your son finds a shiny quarter and flashes you an even shinier smile.
Of course, there may be bigger things at play beyond your capabilities, but I’m pretty sure more focused time with any child won’t hurt. Imagine the possibilities if we each resolved to find one way to do that this year, and then executed on it? That’s the kind of resolution that is not only worth making, but also worth sticking to. MOMS AND DADS, DO THE DOODY!