It doesn’t matter what type of father I think I am; what matters is how my children absorb and interpret my actions. And there are certain things most fathers want their children to say about them when they grow up.
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 realized that is not the right question. Rather, the question I should have asked was what kind of father would I want my children to remember.
Here are 5 sweet things dads secretly wish their kids would say to them.
1. 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 they are okay, and that they are safe and sound.
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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 they’re guilty, and it won’t matter that the complete south wall of his school is sprayed with graffiti. I will be there for them, no matter what.
After this show of support, I will go back home with them and confiscate their phone, TV, and any other electronic toy for a month, until the only thing they can play with is their pocket calculator. There’s nothing you can do — love hurts.
2. That I made them feel they can be anything they want to be.
It’s easy for 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 they’re fans of office fluorescent lights, it might be better to give them time to find the real gift 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 like a fair deal.
Our job as parents is to let our children grow and experience the different flavors 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 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 bourgeois daily routine, lying around watching reality shows.
3. 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 always followed through.
It’s difficult because a parent can easily promise castles in the air just to get a little quiet at 7:30 in the evening. You might regret it, but it’s 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.
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If you’re not sure that you’ll keep your promise, don’t promise. Take some time to think and tell them to “let you sleep on it,” even though a good night’s sleep isn’t something most parents remember having.
4. 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, as are boundaries, but our children will always want to break both. And that’s OK.
I want to raise children who 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 theater with a popcorn container as large as their heads.
Surprises do not have to be limited to birthdays. It’s the spontaneous experiences, the times we let the children have something even though they wouldn’t be allowed to. Those are the things that help our children realize that life is not black and white, and that they should experience all colors in between — because that’s life: unpredictable experiences swimming in a sea of routine and boundaries.
5. That I gave them everything.
I want to raise children that will live with the knowledge that I was always willing to give them everything — whether it’s my time, the food in my mouth, or my life.
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I do it anyway without realizing it. I dedicate all my waking hours to them, from the moment I get home from work. They shower before I do, eat 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.
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 54 years old.
Avi Laviad is a writer, contributor to The Good Men Project, and blogger on his website, Hormonal Dad. He writes about parenthood, family, childbirth, pregnancy, and child-rearing.
This article was originally published at The Good Men Project. Reprinted with permission from the author.