It doesn’t matter what type of father I think I am, what matters is how my children absorb and interpret my actions.
Written by: Avi Laviad
We raise our children as best we can, at least that’s what we think. But there might be a difference between what we transmit and what they receive and interpret. When I had tried thinking about what type of father I wanted to be, I realised that that is not the right question – the question I should have asked was what kind of father would I want my children to remember.
Here are 10 things I would want my children to say about me when they grow up:
That I was there for them, even when they did bad things
We are all human beings and we all make mistakes, and I want my children to grow up knowing that I’m always there for them, even when they make mistakes. I know that a day will come when my children will perform a stupid prank, and I will be mad at them and I will not understand how such jerks grew up in my house, but first I will always make sure that they are OK, and that they are safe and sound.
Then, I will stand by their side, opposing the school administration or the municipal inspectors and defend them. I will do so even when I know that they’re guilty, and it won’t matter just then that the complete south wall of his school is sprayed with graffiti. I will be there for them.
After this show of support, I will go back home with them and confiscate their cellphone, TV, and any other electronic toy for a month, until the only thing they will be able to play with will be their pocket calculator. There’s nothing you can do, love hurts.
That I made them feel that they can be anything they want to be
It is easy for us parents to get carried away and to want our children to grow up and work in high tech, accounting or any other profession with a consistent and high salary. So what if they are bored all day long and play solitaire in the bathroom at work, at least they will be able to pay their mortgage and take a vacation abroad every year. Unfortunately, such an arrangement may not suit our children, and unless their fans of office fluorescent lights, it might be better to give them time to find the real gift that they can give the world. Maybe they want to paint? Maybe sing and dance? Or maybe they’d like to be a tour guide in Siberia. We want our children to be free of chains, to feel that they easily turn their dreams into reality. They say you only live once, so why not live properly? As long as they don’t put themselves in danger, it sounds to me like a fair deal. Our jobs as parents is to let our children grow and experience the different flavours of life, but at the same time to also nag them to study and to have good grades. Who knows, maybe they’ll grow tired of their dream professions at a certain point, or God forbid maybe even fail in it. Maybe they will end up working at an insurance agency with a kitchenette and cookies, and this will suit their soul more, a soul thirsty for a bourgeoisie daily routine, lying around watching reality shows.
That I was true to my word
One of our biggest concerns is to disappoint our children. I want my children to grow up remembering that it has always been the right choice to depend on Dad’s word – and that whenever I had promised something, I had always followed through. It is difficult, because a parent can easily promise castles in the air just to get a little quiet at seven thirty in the evening. You might regret it, but it is better to keep a promise, even if the promise included enrolling your son in a capoeira class in which he will only end up taking one lesson, or go to the children’s festival with your daughter with earplugs and Adderall. If you’re not sure that you’ll keep your promise, don’t promise, take some time to think and tell the brat to “let you sleep on it”, even though a good night’s sleep isn’t something we remember having.
That I was unpredictable
It’s easy to get sucked into a routine of showers, laundries, paying the bills and the general daily tasks. Routine is important, and boundaries are sometimes even more important, but our children will always want to break both, and that’s OK. I want to raise children that will know that Dad’s word is strong as a rock, but on the other hand, river water can pass in between rocks. Between all the rules and the everyday boundaries, I will occasionally let them devour ice cream after they had brushed their teeth, and I will skip school with them in order to watch a movie in the cinema with a popcorn container as large as their heads. Surprises do not have to be limited to birthdays. It is the spontaneous experiences, the times we let the children have something even though they were sure they wouldn’t be allowed to, those are the things that will help our children realise that life is not black and white, and that they should experience all colours in between – because that’s life, unpredictable experiences swimming in a sea of routine and boundaries.
That I gave them everything, E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G
I want to raise children that will live with the knowledge that I, his father, was always willing to give him everything – whether if it’s my time, the food in my mouth or my life. I do it anyway, without realizing it, I dedicate to them all my waking hours, from the moment I get home from work. They shower before I do, eat before I do, and usually pee before I do. Naturally they’re the top priority, and that’s how they should feel. My children and I are not two different beings, they are the natural continuation of my life. In their blood and heart beats my genetic trace, and they will always be my top priority – and I want them to know that if, God forbid, a time comes when a choice must be made between me and them, the answer is clear and automatic – their lives first, whether they are four or fifty four years old.
That I was a role model for them
Parenting doesn’t come with a manual. OK, maybe today it actually does, and with lots of courses, workshops. Each has an agenda and a method of their own, and there’s such a wide variety that this excessive knowledge sometimes cripples parents. I would want my children to imagine what I would have done, and not to go solely by the instructions of the family health center and a good bestseller – I want to be a part of their intuition. I would want my wife and I to serve as an example, for my children to say that we were parents that empowered their children, loved and directed them. Parents who were authoritative on one hand, and warm and loving as well. I would want to know that it burns in them to become such parents as well.
That I made them laugh
People usually remember those who had made them laugh and those who had made them cry. And if one laughs anyway, then why not laugh wholeheartedly, and if one cries, let it be tears of joy and happiness. Laughter can solve many things – an injury in the playground, a fear of needles, and fears and anxiety of the unknown – laughter is a legal and natural drug that is available to all of us. Our children will experience triumphs and failures throughout the years, they will fall in love and will be disappointed as well. That is how life is, waves of happiness and pain, and after many years, when we remain as memories alone, I would like to be remembered with laughter and happiness that will warms my children’s heart in difficult times.
That I loved mum
It is natural to want our children to know that Dad loved Mum, Dad loved Dad or any other romantic combination that exists today. Statistics show that one out of every three couples gets divorced in the first years of their shared life, so for my children to fall on the right side of the scale, it’s worthwhile for me to show them what true love and a healthy partnership are. There are many who denounce marriage and claim that married life is not natural, and I ask: how is it that an old and longstanding friendship between two girls natural? And how about a friendship between men who served together in combat, still strong when they’re old men, is that natural? So why is romantic love and a shared life unnatural? Because one has to take the trash out every day? Because one sleeps with the same person for fifty years? I want my children to grow up and say that in between the endless stacks of laundry, their father had love, passion and a great friendship – and it all came naturally.
That I was simply a good person
You don’t have to volunteer at an animal shelter or in a soup kitchen in order to be a good person. It starts with the small acts, saying “good morning” to a sleepy neighbour, holding the elevator for an old man with a walker, or giving charity to a stranger, even if the stranger isn’t telling you the exact truth. It is important to be polite, humble, and to ask rather than demand. I want my children to grow up to be good people that will contribute to all around them, and not only receive from others, people that stand up for themselves, yet let others speak their mind.
As a parent, you can explain things from here until kingdom come, but it is all worthless if your children don’t see you act accordingly. Children are like a sponge, they absorb everything, and eventually they’ll imitate some of our behaviours, whether we want them to or not. I want them to grow up to be good people, and that some part of their behaviour, even if it is a small part, will be because they think their father is a good person.
That I was patient
Teaching a small child to ride a bicycle without training wheels is not an easy task, and neither is teaching children the alphabet, but we still do it because it’s important for us and our children. This kind of patience must be used further, even when it isn’t easy watching “Frozen” three days straight, or building a tower of blocks while your little one deliberates between whether to choose a red or a pink block, or when you must tell your children everything twice. Or twenty times. I want my children to take their time, not to rush, to try and sometimes even fail, until they finally succeed. I want to be patient with them, and I want them to remember that. To remember that even during the most stressful moments, when the whole world rested on my shoulders, I clenched my teeth and waited patiently. I want them to remember that when I asked something of them, I did it quietly, not forcefully and without yelling – because strength lies in the softly spoken word, and that when things are said quietly – they are the strongest in the whole world, and when they grow up I want them to think that their father was the strongest person in the world.