The kid is sneaky?
When my son was perhaps five or six, he started asking "why" to every order or request he was given.
It was out of character for him, and after a number of those mommy and daddy moments where the parents regress to intimidation, threats, and yelling, it occurred to me to ask him a simple question, "Is this a manipulation or do you need more information?"
So the next time he said "Why", I popped my little question on him, and he instantly (I mean instantly) smiled a devious and and nasty smile and replied, "It is a manipulation."
My jaw fell to the floor, and my naivete' got reduced significantly.
I managed to stay with my response to his why's and they eventually stopped, but I no longer was quite so trusting of his motives.
I was holding this kid at two days old and feeding him while I worked on the computer with the free hand, and looking into his big brown eyes, when I fell hopelessly in love with him. At that moment I knew what unconditional love was in a way like never before.
And this is the same kid who wept uncontrollably when Julie's cat died two years ago.
I have been a father for just about 11 years now, and I have done every emotion a father could do, and most of the behaviors, including some acts of forbearance that I think deserved medals, and some shouts of impatience, contempt, and irritation which have required making amends.
By most objective measures my kids are doing OK, grades, sports, reading, feedback from the neighbors, teachers, coaches, friends, but I am seeing what I consider the worrisome traits.
My son is 11, and has little of the kind of initiative I had as a kid, for earning money, for example. He is used to being entertained, and does little in the way of amusing himself, and does not appear to want to change.
That worries me, but I am not sure that I need to force the issue, because he is different than I.
I am self-employed and must work consistently to provide income, which means that there have been times when I have had to say no to requests for companionship.
Yet lots of my work has been at home, so I have been close by for a tease or a torment or a comment, and some blessings too.
Sort of drive by fathering, and I make it a point to connect with him often that way.
I believe our attachment is strong, and I am very proud of some of his choices.
For example, he loves baseball, and recently the Chicago White Sox had a tryout here for 11-15 year olds, and I took him, no questions asked, and although he was very scared, he ran out on the field and tried out. This time I did not offer him a choice, and blessed him when it was over for walking through his fear.
I know in indigenous tribes, young men are taken off by the grandfathers and uncles to a place where they are taught the rules and regulations and the spirituality of that clan or tribe, and that initiation may have an official confrontation with death in it, like hunting a lion.
When those young men come back to the village, they are treated as fully grown, with full voting and marriage rights, ect. as long as they follow the rules.
Should they chose to break the rules, they get adult punishments.
I worked hard with him during the attachement years to make sure he got what he needed in regards to attachment interactions.
Dad's have an important job to do with children and young men in particular, because of their greater aggressive endowment, and we had some text book kinds of interactions as we did the wrestling in the living room kind of get excited and get hurt and then calm down thing in the living room.
Dan Bulf's Guide to Fathering
A Fun Father's Guide from Dan Bulf.
"As I've been preparing and planning for the upcoming live event "I Thought My Father Was G*d," I saw a list of rules for being human. It made me wonder if there are any rules for being a father too.
Of course there are! They've been withheld! Maybe they were in that bag of free stuff we got when we left the hospital with Chris and Caroline. So, what are they? Well, in my opinion they're pretty close to those "human" rules - we dads can be human sometimes. I've worked to define them and I'm sharing them with you.
Although the language is directed at fathers themselves, I believe we all have played this fathering game and should be aware of the rules. Don't break the rules, punishment is swift and harsh ... well, maybe not.
1. You are responsible. Gulp. What you make of their lives is up to you. Double-gulp. What you do with them is up to you, it's your choice. You may like it or hate it, and sometimes both. They are your responsibility for the entire period this time around.
2. Teach them. You are enrolled in a full time, informal school called fatherhood. Whether you're shaving in the bathroom, screaming at traffic or holding the door open for someone, your little sponges are taking it in. You are always teaching.
3. Learning is optional. Lessons are being provided to you all along the way. You may choose to ignore them or to use them. You may like the lessons, or you may think them hard and frustrating. They will help you "win" if you pay attention.
4. There will be a test. Oh, you will be tested. You will get push-back, you will get to the proverbial "end-of-your-rope." Knowing this, how do you want to respond? When your response gets an "F", are you ready for the retake? Go directly to number 5.
5. You don't know everything. Admit it, you don't. They'll appreciate the truth and you won't be wasting your time making stuff up. One of the greatest gifts you can give your child is the gift of teamwork and problem-solving, how to figure stuff out together plus on their own.
6. You will lose it. See rule # 4. The funniest and most painful stories come from these moments. Take care of yourself to best deal with and release painful emotions. Look for outside support to vent and to get yourself together: a wife, a brother, a workout, a walk. Laugh about it later if possible.
7. Play. Stop being so serious all the time! No one plays with their children better than dads. Roughhousing is encouraged. Enjoy it!
8. You know what to do. Just as your body knew how to be born and knows how to die, you know how to father. We've buried our core values under the made-up roles of protector, provider and procreator. The answers to life's questions lie inside you, all you need do is listen and trust.
9. You may ignore Rule #8. Ask for advice and support. When rule number 8 just isn't working, ask for help. Man-up and ask for what you need. This is the most underutilized, yet most powerful, rule. Back to GO and do not collect $200 if you don't follow this one.
10. You will need to let go. Maybe it's the other way too: they will need to let go. Perhaps the most difficult rule! Letting go is difficult and rewarding. It is not an end but a new beginning. And, I never want to let them go, I need to use rule #9 again.
11. Love them. It's not enough to know it, you gotta show it. Just as dads are expected to show their anger, be sure to show the flipside as loudly and openly. Hug them, put a note in their lunchbox, acknowledge them. Love them and you all win the game.
Now that it's all clear, fathering is a snap, right? I do believe that we can all win if we stay awake and take positive action in our lives.
How about you? What do you think? Let's talk about it at I Thought My Father Was G*d on September 17th at 7p. Click here for details.
Get real, stay real.
So Where is the Guide?
The guide is inside me I believe, living in my heart. Is it possible to parent from the heart?
Is it possible to parent from the heart when he with malice aforethought torments his sister who is six years younger than he is?
It is, but it is not easy.
About eight years ago, I saw on an EEG list serve mention of a tool called HeartMath, which is a heart rate variability biofeedback tool.
Learning how to manage the times between heart beats has been a huge gift to me as a parent.
My heart has a brain of its own, and it can learn and make decisions independently of any other brain I have, and the heart's brain is affiliative and cooperative.
Can you imagine getting on the same heart beat as your son, and talking with him?
You are right, that one could be a stretch, but I have marriage counseling clients who I have trained to get on the same heart beat to talk about their marriage.
I hook them up to separate computers, teach them to manage their own coherence, then ask them to hold hands and work on keeping their dual heart beat in coherence.
That is not an easy task, but both participants learn that they must be regular attention to their physiology, and their connection, in order for that connection to be strong.
Fathering needs to be done from the heart too.