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"To Kill A Mocking Bird"
If you're one of those guys that fathered a child in hopes that one day you would have your own cheap labor force (housecleaning, food preparation, and snow shovelling), you're living in the 1950s, and missing the point. There's a thing called Unconditional Love; most moms have it (maybe not Joan Crawford), and all fathers must learn it in order to be a great dad. A key part of Unconditional Love is selflessness- putting others before yourself. The best dads do this by working up to three jobs to provide for their families or swallowing their pride and thumbing their nose at societal conventions to be a stay-at-home dad. But even in its simplest form (putting away everything else to spend time with your child), selflessness is one of the most important requirements of fatherhood, and one of the best qualities of a great dad.
True, many women frown on the fact that many men like to take things in to their own "hands"(as if this somehow means they don't need them) but for a father to be successful he must do exactly that. Dads can't rely on their wives to teach them about parenting, they have to do a little research on their own. And they also have to seek out good role models to model themselves after. Moms have enough to worry about without having to raise a child and a father at the same time. Dads have to want to be involved in the raising of their child and willing to learn what being an Involved Dad means in order to fulfill their "destiny." And it is the dads that are willing to educate themselves (by reading parenting books, going to doctor's appointments for the kids, and researching important topics and talking to other dads on-line) who make the rest of us look good. After all, knowledge is power, and the more you know as a father the more you can contribute to the raising of a happy, healthy child--- your own.
Some men wear bicycle shorts in public, others wear Baby Bjorn's. Both were once stigmatized as uncool, but show me a guy who can't sport a Baby Bjorn with confidence these days (sorry bicycle shorts, still not buying it). Confident dads are everywhere. These men don't care what society thinks about them; all they care about is being great, involved dads to their kids. They don't care what goes through your head when you see a dad easily feeding his child in a restaurant, or walking a contented child through a mall, or changing a diaper on a park bench in no time at all- they're just doing what comes naturally to them. In their minds, your issues with acceptable gender roles for moms and dads are YOUR issues, and it's not going to stop them from living their lives. Now, this confidence may be rattled a bit once their kids hit the terrible twos, but a great dad always knows he's up for the challenge even if those with prying eyes (and mouths) aren't willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.
Waiting nine months to meet your baby for the first time is a great lesson in patience, but it doesn't test it the way it will be tested once your child is really up and, well, running. But there's another test a soon-to-be dad can pass to prove he can survive the trials and tribulations of fatherhood. I call it marriage. Let's face it, if you can survive your wedding registry, with your wife grabbing sh@# off the shelves and begging you to get it all for her as you waste the better part of the day in a department store for things you don't care about, you can survive fatherhood. If you can survive the wedding process itself, with all the family in-fighting and the differences of opinion over floral and seating arrangements (without walking out well before the wedding day) you can survive fatherhood. If you can survive being married for more than a year (did you hear that Kim Kardashian) without wanting to flee in the middle of the night, you can survive fatherhood. If you can survive all of this (and so much more) without making your escape, you're all about patience, my friend. Need I say more?
If your girlfriend throws out the baseball glove your grandmother gave you when you were thirteen (days before she died) and you can learn to forgive and forget (not me, I dumped her a$$), you have one of the best qualities of being a great dad. Sure, it's not easy to watch your toddler flush your cell phone down the toilet, but realizing that your child's fragile ego is more important than any possession is a giant leap toward becoming a fantastic father. And, you can hold adults to any standard you want (see baseball glove story above), but if you can't be understanding when your child makes a mistake- finding a way to use this error in judgment as a learning experience- you're missing the idea behind being a great dad. After all, "punishment" is the lazy man's way of teaching his child a lesson. Great dads understand that it is always better to reinforce good behaviour than to draw attention to bad. But, God knows that's easier said than done.
A SENSE OF HUMOR:
Nobody wants Oscar the Grouch for a dad (although Barney would be pretty annoying too), so a great sense of humor goes a long way to creating a harmonious home life for you, your significant other, and your child. After all, if you can't laugh at yourself, or the numerous precarious situations you will find yourself in as a dad, you won't survive the first day. Smile and the whole world smiles with you; freak out when every little thing goes wrong and your world will be a miserable place for everyone involved. Great dads learn to find humor in everything- spit up, dirty diaper bombs being thrown at them, and even a little bit of chiding from their wives. Just the other day my daughter locked me out of the bedroom (while she was still in it). Was I upset? Not at all- I know how to unlock a door with a credit card. Being a great dad is an attitude - adjust yours accordingly.
I may not be the best example of this as I rarely get excited about anything, and I have a thing against public displays of affection (mostly when other people do it), but that never stops me from being a loving father to my little girl. Sure, I didn't jump up and down when my wife told me we were expecting (it was more like "Come again?"), and I didn't shed a single tear the day my daughter was born (I'm not a crier), but I am enthusiastic each and every time she learns something new and I never, ever miss an opportunity to show my affection whether it be a hug, or a nose rub or a kiss on her forehead. All men are not created equal, but that doesn't stop the best of dads from showing their enthusiasm for their kids each and every day in their own unique ways. I mean, you try showing enthusiasm when your daughter dances to Justin Beiber's "Baby" for the hundredth time... that day. I deserve a metal!
THE ABILITY TO TEACH:
I'm not saying you need your doctorate in education in order to be a dad, but the ability to pass on what you know about the world in an interesting way never hurts. Somehow I don't think "because I said so" cuts it with most kids, and if you don't have an answer for each and every "why?" a terrible two-year-old can come up with, he or she is going to eat you alive. And, no, we don't expect you to be able to do your kid's fourth grade algebra homework, but the good dads at least try (or look up the answers on the Internet). So while knowing why the sky is blue or what to say when your child asks you "where a baby comes from?" may not be your forte, they're going to learn about their world from someone. So unless you want it to be from an unreliable source (i.e. those who don't know how birds pollinate), the ability to teach, about the simple things in life (manners, ethics, how to fill out an off-track betting card), is an important characteristic all dads should possess... and the ability to make a working volcano never hurts either.
|Scene from "The Pursuit of|
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And together let's show the world what all great dads can do!