Just discovered a great new Dad podcast, Dads Unplugged, which introduced me to the work of John Badalament, author of The Modern Dad’s Dilemma: How to Stay Connected with Your Kids in a Rapidly Changing World. John was interviewed recently on the Dads Unplugged podcast, and he got me thinking about a great many things about being a Dad.
One of things John mentioned in the interview that has resonated with me is his question of who taught you to be a Dad? John says that no one ever talked to him about Fatherhood. No one ever told him when he was a boy that they believed had what it takes to be a good Dad.
It’s more than missing mentors and role models. In fact, I think we have a lot of models and mentors for great Dads around (and, as an aside, I think there have always been great Dads – it’s not necessarily something new with our generation. I have something percolating in the back of my head about this so called “changing role of Dad” thing that I am suddenly finding irksome, but that’s another post). It’s just that there is not a lot of open discussion about what it takes to be a great Dad with those who matter the most – our sons.
I am not talking about publicly writing our blog posts, or carrying out these conversations over beers or on Facebook with each other, as important as those activities are. We Dads ARE connecting and having those discussions about what it takes to be a Dad. That is happening.
But what John says is missing are those conversations we have with the boys in our lives about what it takes to be a great Dad. It is about arming them with the belief and the confidence that they have the tools within them to someday be great Dads theselves, and then seizing the opportunities as they come up to help them refine those tools.
I am guilty. I don’t think I have ever consciously thought that while I am playing with my son I am preparing him to be a Dad. I am preparing my son for lots of things in his life. How to work as part of a team, how to think for himself, how to solve problems, how to treat and respect women, how to tie his shoes. But I haven’t ever consciously thought that I should be teaching him to be a great Dad.
I can’t tell you how uncomfortable typing that last line made me feel. Like I have just discovered some innate truth that I should have known all along. But the truth is, it is something that had never occurred to me, beyond consciously trying to be the best Dad/Husband I can be in the hopes that I can model behaviour for him. But what John is saying is, while that is important, modelling alone isn’t enough – we have to be explicit and act consciously if we want our sons to be great Dads. As powerful as our modelling is, we can’t expect that our sons are going to get it just by observing our actions. It is, I think, an important point, and one that I need to pay attention to.
Here is some more from John.