We’ve already established the fact that I’m surrounded by boys. A husband and three silly, spirited, (sometimes) sweet sons. There are days I want to pull my hair out — like when doing puzzles becomes a full-contact sport or when I realize it’s futile to spruce up the house with seasonal flair because the boys will destroy it. But most days, I just want to squeeze these boys with all my heart, and I hope every day that I’m doing the right things to help them grow into amazing men.
We are lucky enough to live about 35 minutes from my parents, so my boys have a good, close relationship with them. When I think about the type of men I want my boys to become, I realize there’s a lot I hope they absorb from my own dad and the man and father I’ve seen him be.
Raising Boys: Here are 10 Things I Hope My Sons Learn from My Dad:
- Play. Play when you’re young, by yourself or with friends. And be playful when you’re an adult. Simply because it’s fun. It inspires imagination, it helps you connect. We rarely have a visit from my dad without at least one tickle tackle and a lot of laughter, or a new car track set up to race toy cars on. We joke that the maturity level of my husband and my dad are, well, about the same as my kids. But if that’s what it takes to have a blast together and make great memories, I’m all for it. Even if it leads to fart humor.
- Be there. For family dinners, for spelling bees, for dance recitals and sports games and band concerts. For impromptu talent shows in the family room and for all the “Dad, Mom, come see this!” moments that you should try not to pass off with an “I can’t, because . . .” Turn chores into together time — raking leaves, washing cars. . Be there.
- And when you can’t be there, buy keychains. It sounds weird, I know. But when my dad traveled for work when I was a kid, he always came home with a little something for my sister and me. Often it was a t-shirt or a stuffed animal, but over time it routinely became a keychain from whatever city he had been in, leaving us with a super-cool collection and knowledge of cities from Peoria to Nashville to San Diego. It didn’t matter what it was. It mattered that he thought of us while he was away (even if it was in the airport store).
- Participate. Know your kids’ friends’ names, and take an interest in what they’re all about. I admit to rolling my eyes recently and saying, in a slightly annoyed voice, “Yes, Dad . . .” when my dad, who recently rejoined Facebook, said “I saw that so-and-so commented on your status. Is she still in Australia? She has two daughters, right?” But I secretly appreciate — and always have — the fact that he always knew my friends and has cared to keep up on how they’re doing. He’s part of my life. And they’re part of my life. So they might as well know each other. Not to mention that having common ground, or common knowledge of people, can help with conversation when there may otherwise be a lull — i.e. the teen years.
- Have a signature food. Something you make that is undeniably delicious. For my dad, it’s grilled cheese (with the bread “uniformly brown” and just the right amount of cheese, spiced up with various mustards depending on your taste preference) and fried egg, which really is flat scrambled egg but is amazingly tasty and completely impossible for me to replicate. These are his go-to specialty meals that are quick, easy, and sure to be a fan favorite every time. Ask any one of his grandchildren what they love about him, and “his fried egg” or “his grilled cheese” is sure to be on the list.
- Get it. It’s hard to get things right in parenting, but somehow, we all seem to triumph. One thing that has always amazed me about my dad is his ability to just “get it” when “real-life” stuff is going on. He’s able to cut through the clutter and focus on what matters. He takes ailing friends out to lunch to help their families, to lift spirits and to spend quality time together. He gives solicited advice on big decisions like selecting jobs or buying houses. And when my dear friend from college died and I couldn’t drive to the funeral that was 2.5 hours away because I was on painkillers from having my wisdom teeth removed, he simply said, “Well, you’re not going to miss it. I’ll drive you.” And he did.
- Grow up. But don’t grow up. Without getting into a discussion on gender stereotypes: Be the “man of the house” for whatever that means in your house: protect your family, make sure the doors are locked, the bills are paid, and the lights are turned off. Help clean up. But remember . . . never stop playing (see #1).
- Branch out. From NHL hockey to Broadway shows, my dad has always had a lot of widespread interests. I grew up listening to oldies (1950s/1960s) music, rock n’ roll, Broadway show tunes, steel drum bands — quite the random mix of tunes. I loved it, and I learned to appreciate it all. It was far more interesting to me than listening to the same type of music over and over (except when he and I jointly belted out “Memory” from Cats multiple times in a row in his car).
- Let habits become traditions. When you find a restaurant you love, stick with it. When you find a Caribbean cruise you love, go on it more than once, year after year. This seems to be how my dad operates. Sometimes, I’ve found it frustrating, wishing he’d branch out even more. But as I now find myself returning to the same hotel and same beach vacation every year with my kids, I understand that there is comfort in familiarity, and no need to stray from it if you’ve found something you love.
- Look in the rear view mirror. It seems like this would be a metaphorical statement, suggesting that we should all reflect on who we are and how the past and the people in our lives have shaped us. But I actually mean that you should look in the rear view mirror. I remember my dad doing it often when I was a kid in the backseat. It was annoying. He’d make silly faces, or he’d glance back too frequently. I do it to my sons now, often playing a game, but more often just soaking in their adorableness, their existence, their presence, and storing it in my memory bank for future access. I don’t know if that’s why my dad did it or if he was just being silly, but now that I do it, too, I hope my sons adopt this habit when they are dads themselves.
No, it’s not Father’s Day or Grandparents’ Day or anything like that. But every day is a chance to try to raise these boys into amazing men, so today is as good a day as any to celebrate my dad and the impact I hope he has on my sons, the same way he has had on me.
#mobtruths #raisingsons #raisingboys #momsofboys