Yesterday I was sharing with a couple of friends how parenting is analogous to navigating open waters. For currents and weather are often unpredictable, even to the most seasoned of fishermen.
The same goes for parenting.
Babies don’t stay babies. Neither do toddlers and prepubescent boys. They grow. They change. In ways not always predictable.
And when kids move into teendom? Well, let’s just say that simply attending parenting workshops alone — as helpful as they can be — isn’t enough to make me a great dad who knows how to parent teens! What parenting strategies worked last year may not this year. Sometimes, not even something that worked last week will work this week!
This can be very frustrating for fathers especially since, being men, most of us are pre-wired to seek solutions. And fast. Unfortunately, parenting doesn’t work that way many a time.
In fact, there are rarely quick fixes. Only quick tempers!
The role of a dad? It’s all about investing in his kid’s life
Now fathers aren’t just the ‘second adult’ in the home; the second fiddle to moms. Their role and influence as a father to their children are irreplaceable.
More so when the children are sons.
Which is exactly my situation.
But flying off the handle or succumbing to quick tempers do not make for good parenting.
The primary function of a father is to model what it means to be a guy, so sons look to dads to learn how to be men. And when dads are quick-tempered or aren’t there (or aren’t there often enough) to fulfill that role, then sons often turn to the world instead to find the answers.
A world that, more often than not, has pretty lousy models of how to be men!
If you’re a regular visitor here, then no doubt you already know this. I’ve talked a lot about my relationship with my boys on this blog. Especially these past four years, when I’ve played a bigger role in their lives as a mostly stay home dad. I’ve watched our relationships strengthen, and the accompanying rewards have been incalculable.
That doesn’t mean of course that I’ve nailed it as a father.
On most days, I still feel like a new dad learning the ropes!
Flyers that nearly had us flying off the handle!
As I write this, I’m recalling an altercation last night my wife and I had with our 13-year-old son over a stack of ‘stolen’ promo flyers he took from McDonald’s.
When we asked him why he did it, he said he was going to pass them to a friend for money. This of course raises all kinds of questions I’m not quite ready to address here. (Though rest assured dear readers, we don’t intend for him to see his plan through!)
His argument was that those flyers were free so what’s the harm of taking whole stacks of them? After all, they were placed in a prominent location in the restaurant and clearly meant to be taken free of charge.
His mom and I then spent 20 minutes explaining to and debating with him about the implications of his action — depriving other customers at McDonald’s, artificially boosting their hopes that the flyer promo worked, wasting paper and harming the environment, and just the sheer ‘duh’ of the behavior!
If you’ve ever exchanged words with a teenager, then you can fully understand when I say how exhausted and vexxed we were after those 20 minutes! And no surprise, we steered clear of one another til tempers cooled.
Interestingly though, his “get rich quick” scheme reminded me of another analogy I shared with my friends yesterday.
Parenting is like banking!
I don’t remember anymore where I learned about this idea of an emotional bank account.
However, I’m sure it’s one of the best analogies available to describe how parents should be “investing emotionally” in their kids from the time they were born.
Many of us have bank accounts for investing or personal savings. If not, we do at least understand the purpose and utility of having one. When we deposit money into a bank account, we expect it to be kept safe but also to grow over time. How quickly that happens is of course a separate matter.
But happen it should.
And when bills come or when emergencies arise, we can draw down from the money in that bank account to pay up. Ideally of course we should be investing and depositing more than we’re drawing, in order not to deplete the account.
The same goes for raising kids.
Parents need to spend quality time and dole out or ‘deposit’ generous amounts of love-in-action to their children in the growing-up years. It helps them feel safe and secure. And hopefully grow up well-adjusted.
Then, when the altercations come (like the one last night), and emotional ‘withdrawals’ are made, a parent can at least hope there are still ’emotional funds’ left in the kid’s emotional bank account to offset the ‘loss’.
In our case, thankfully there was.
For when we awoke this morning, the ‘weather’ was fine again!
Investing emotionally in children really does pay the “best dividends”!