I find it hard to believe but this is my one hundredth “A Dad’s Point-of-View” column. How best to celebrate this milestone? I’d like to look back at the previous 99 and choose the strongest ten ideas among them and briefly share them with you, by giving the title of the column and a short summary of what may be the little pearl of wisdom that came out of the 800 plus words contained within it.
1. There’s No Such Thing as Quality Time.
I learned early on in my parenting that the often-quoted notion of “Quality Time” was bunk. The only thing that matters to our children is “Quantity Time” since the only time they will open up is when they are good and ready. You can’t schedule time with your children the way you might with a business appointment and the moments that will surprise you the most are when you least expect it. There is no such thing as quality time, only quantity time.
About five years ago, I survived a car crash that should have left me dead or worse. A man I greatly respect, Dennis Prager, has often said that the single most important ingredient to happiness is gratitude. That accident reinforced, very dramatically, his words to me. Too often we are living our lives waiting for that something we think will make us happy rather than counting the blessings right in front of us.
3. My Kids Aren’t Me, in Spite of Sharing the Same DNA
I learned a valuable lesson about parenting before I became a parent, when I was a Big Brother to a little girl. We shared nothing in common. I learned to bond with her in spite of our differences and found that experience to be the best prep course for parenting my own two boys, who also turned out to not fully share my interests. Too many parents think that just because their children share their DNA (which of course is not the case in adoption) that their children should share their same interests. All this does is set a pattern of hurt and disappointment for both child and parent. Don’t do this. Support what your child is interested in rather than push him or her to do what you want them to do.
4. Words That Hurt, Words That Heal
The power of words can be as harmful as the power of a fist. With the advent of modern technology, we’ve seen the damage that a simple text can do to a middle school child when something hurtful is spread around about him or her. And, like a leaf blown in the wind, it can’t be retrieved. It is incumbent upon us as parents to teach our children to watch what we say, what we write, and what we text and to model good behavior in this regard and not gossip and not disparage others with casual disregard.
5. Best Friend or Best Parent
The job of being a parent is not being our children’s best friend, yet too many parents confuse the two and try to be their children’s buddy. To achieve this buddy status, they forego being their best parent. That may mean not being strict, not holding high standards, or relaxing them when their children pout or throw a tantrum. Being the best parent you can be may sometimes mean your son or daughter doesn’t like you at a given moment. So what. Being liked isn’t your job. Being their best dad or mom is!
6. Do Women Need Men?
A popular feminist slogan of the 1960’s and 1970’s went something like: “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.” “We’ve come a long way, baby” is another slogan, I believe, from a cigarette that was marketed to women during the same general era. More bunk. Women need men just as much as men need women. It was foolish to think otherwise back in the hippie days and it’s foolish to think so now. The fact that women now can earn as much and can do what men can do just levels the playing field but doesn’t change our inherent natures.
7. A Story of Giving
One of the blessings of my writing and radio show is meeting people from all over the world. I met a group of children from a girl’s school in Ghana, Africa, through my “A Dad’s Point-of-View” Facebook page. My family began sending them books and soon my readers and radio show listeners were also sending them books, toys, and other things. We all learned the blessings of giving and charity and how when we give, we get so much more than we ever could expect.
8. There Are No Perfect Friends
My mother taught me this basic lesson and I kept on forgetting it as I kept on wanting my friends to be perfect. Just like me. Ha! I also saw how my own boys got into spats with their friends over silly and unrealistic expectations of their friends. My mom always said that if you wanted perfect friends you wouldn’t have any.
9. The Family Dinner
I read somewhere that the children from families that share meals together suffer fewer problems than those that don’t. The family dinner is essential glue for my family and something that belongs as a ritual in every family. As our children grow older and their friendships and extracurricular activities intrude more and more upon their lives, it is easier to allow the family dinner to drift away. We parents must insist on having a family dinner at least once a week, period.
10. Walk a Mile in My Shoes
Empathy is a simple but very important word. How often do we pass a homeless person without a thought or glance? Or hear a friend’s problem and promptly forget about it? Until you really do as the song says and walk a mile in someone’s shoes, you can’t really know what he or she may be going through. Too often we are caught up in our own problems, big or small, to pay attention to someone else’s problems, which I suggest, are usually bigger than ours. A little reflection upon someone else is a good thing to do now and then. It is good for your soul.
I hope these short reflections from these columns give you some pause to consider the blessings in your lives, maybe to think what you might do to help a friend or neighbor, or to simply hug a loved one and offer a kind word or thought. For me, it’s on to the next hundred.
Get Bruce’s new book and Limited Edition (of 500) Poster, A Dad’s Point-of-View: We ARE Half the Equation at Amazon, iTunes, BN.com, or The Store.