As parents, our natural born instinct is to protect and shelter our children from pain, harm, or any negative consequences.
However, to grow and thrive, they need to suffer setbacks and failures to learn, and prepare for life.
So the question shouldn’t be IF we should let our kids experience negative things, but WHEN. Tenacity doesn’t just arrive on its own. As our kids get older, we need to ease the lid off the pain box and let a little out.
Am I making you uncomfortable suggesting ‘your beloved child’ and ‘suffering’ in the same sentence? Good. Then you need to hear this.
As odd and arrogant as it may sound, I choose to view my children as leaders; people that may one day change the world. So believing this, I know I need to expose them to adversity and challenge to build character, and increase critical thinking and problem solving skills.
We cannot candy-coat life and bubble-wrap our kids against all hurt and pain. We cannot helicopter over them either or be “Snow Plough” parents (the parent that stays out front of their kids, ploughing the path clear, constantly eliminating obstacles to ensure “pain free” success). These kids quickly learn to rely on others and never think for themselves.
If your child tries out for the high school soccer team and doesn’t make the team, let it be. Let them suffer. Of course, there should be hugs, compassion and consoling but let the setback linger.
Don’t creep the coach on Facebook, triangulate the coordinates of his home and be waiting in the shadows of his garage, with a flashlight under your chin, to ‘suggest’ that he ‘reconfigure’ his soccer line-up to include your kid.
For Luke Skywalker to become a Jedi he needed to endure pain and suffering and so does your little Jedi.
If we prevent and remove opportunities for growth, then we will raise *‘unresilient’ kids (*not sure if this is a word, but whatever the opposite of resilient is - didn’t think ‘helpless wimpy suckhole’ was appropriate). As a dad, one of my major roles is to encourage safe risk taking.
Kids that are rescued will still wait to be rescued as adults because it’s easier. They have never had to fight through and learn from adversity.
Resiliency is not a gift to being given but a trait that is born and built from repeated failure.
Both my sons take break dancing. At the end of each class, the kids have ‘break battles’, trading sweet moves with the crowd picking the winner.
The bubble wrapped/helicopter/snowplough parent in me wanted to talk to the instructor and suggest that all kids should dance and win.
But then I snapped back to this wonderful reality. I realized the power of my boys LOSING the battle. They work harder on their moves, dig a little deeper, discover their determination, and want to win next time.
I am not advocating pain and suffering for our kids, but when the wonderful gift of failure arrives, open it carefully and look for the teachable lesson.
In the words of the prophet Chumbawamba, “I may get knocked down, but I get up again!”
Until next time…
Last year was awesome. My Dad Vibe ‘tribe’ continues to grow and I want to quickly thank all of you for your support and sharing. How exciting to have an article go viral.
I’m hoping 2014 will be even bigger. One thing is for sure, my family will be larger as we welcome, in late May, our first child into our big, beautiful, blended family. If you follow me, you know our blended family began almost three years ago with the careful and intentionally slow introduction of our children: the two Williams and the one Jacqueline. Soon they will have a little brother or sister to call their own.
I am very excited to be a dad again, more excited than I expected. I was a fumbling inexperienced rookie all those years ago, but now I feel like Michael Jordan, coming back out of retirement for one last dance. I have written articles to new dads and now I get to walk the talk again and I can’t wait.
As we eagerly await our newest arrival (who we have convinced the boys will also be named William if it’s a boy, “cuz its only fair!”), we have so many fun decisions to make. Highest priority is the baby’s name while the lowest for me is what colour to paint the nursery.
The biggest question we are asked is, “Are you going to find out if it’s a boy or girl?” We are really not sure and flip-flop daily.
I am on the fence on finding out if we are having a little girl or a little boy. I am looking for your input to help in our decision making.
If we find out, then I will surely miss people’s cockamamie theories as to how certain they are of the gender. From the Chinese art of swinging a necklace over an open palm or naked belly to the awesome, “Oh, it’s a boy, you are carrying high!” or “Oh it’s a girl for sure, you look wider from behind" (only females can get away with that one!).
If we do find out early, I will miss episodes like the impish grocery store bag lady putting her hands on Jan’s belly and declaring to the rest of the line-up that it’s a GIRL, “Look how low she is carrying in her hips!”
When discussing this dilemma on the playground, a wise mom told me whatever feels right to the couple is what is right. If they want to find out, find out. If not, then don’t. Simple. I think she is right, it’s totally personal and whatever you do, do it for you because you know some Facebook jerk won’t like your decision anyway.
We mentioned to our kids that at our next ultrasound in two weeks, they might be able to look and see if it’s a boy or girl.
“How can you they tell Dad? The baby is so small!”
“Well, they will look for a penis!”
Well, that was it, the boys were giddy for the next 20 minutes talking about baby penises (is this where it starts?). Then dear Jacqueline, the diplomat who always seeks harmony and wants things to be fair, decided it would be great if they saw a penis AND a vagina to which we quickly shouted “NO!” that would not be best case scenario.
With so few true surprises in the world today, the fun side of me really wants to wait and find out on the day of our baby’s first breath (I also like waiting until Christmas day to open gifts, not this Christmas Eve crap). I would love to make that excited delivery room declaration, “It’s a BOY!!” or “It looks like a GIRL!” We could delight in the reactions of the kids, the joy, the shock, and tears would all be awesome! But times have changed. We don’t have to wait to find out anymore. I will not be pacing and handing out cigars in the waiting room. We have the technology NOW.
Why shouldn’t we use it? Kids today, when given a school research project, don’t have to trudge to the library and steal the reference books anymore, so why shouldn’t we use these new wonderful detecting tools? We can still have that excited moment of discovery AND also time to bond with the idea of our new baby being a daughter or a son. I think we would both feel more connected and the upcoming baby would become even more real!
I wonder if the older siblings would benefit from knowing if they have a little ‘brother’ or ‘sister’ now (so they can get over any disappointment if they wanted the other gender long before that baby arrives). Our children are 8, 6, and 5 so they get it but does knowing the gender make the whole experience a little more concrete for them?
There are practical reasons too like all our friends that have truckloads of baby clothes that they are dying to unload on you. As for the baby name dilemma, it would be nice to cut out half of the possibilities, although I was kinda liking the “catch-all utility” names like Pat, Chris, and Terry.
We are going to find out sooner or later, the secret will be revealed. If we can’t both decide, maybe just one of us could find out and fight to keep the secret?
Could the whimsical, surprise-loving parent be kept in the dark while the practical, organized-planning (OCD) parent find out early? (that is the same parent that tore open corners of Christmas presents weeks before Christmas and then taped them back up).
Either way, we are going to be surprised in a medical setting and there will be tears, screaming, and joy! Will it be in two weeks from now or four months earlier?
There is no right or wrong… what would/did you do?
Announcer Voice: “Welcome to another edition of “Starfish Sports. Here is your host, winner of 5 Buck-Eye News Hawk awards, Ben Dovermann!”
Ben: “Good day sports fans, we are live on location with a COL network exclusive. Today, I am speaking with Jeff Hay, the newest member of Team Colonoscopy! Jeff, how does it feel to be part of amazing team?”
Jeff: “Well Ben, it feels terrific to be part of Team Colonoscopy! I’m not gonna lie, I was a little nervous to first join, but it’s a great bunch of guys here, I just want to give it my best shot, and with the Good Lord willing, things will work out. You just gotta play’em one day at a time! I want to make this team proud!”
Ben: “Is it true that you are one of the younger players on the team?”
Jeff: “Yes, it’s true, most of the guys on the team are older, but my Doc, Seymour Butts (we call him Coach) saw something in me and wanted me to join the team right away! And I’m so glad I did because I now know all is well!!”
Ben: “How did you prepare for the Super Porcelain Bowl event?”
Jeff: “Well, Ben, the lead up was the toughest. The two day prep was not a place to cut corners, I needed to apply myself and get my body ready. Coach said he needed a full commitment from me. If I didn’t do everything 100%, my coach would be able to see ‘it’!”
Ben: “That makes perfect sense. How did game day go?”
Jeff: “Dude, on game day, I was so in the zone! I don’t even remember a thing. Coach said I was perfect out there and he loved what he didn’t see!”
Ben: “That’s terrific. Now how did your family react to you joining Team Colonoscopy?”
Jeff: “My family is really supportive and proud! They think I’m brave, but I don’t think its bravery: it’s just what a good dad does! Both grandpas gave me a proud pat on the back too, they joined the team back in the 80s!” It’s cliché to say ‘I want to be around for my kids’, and now I know my anus is the gateway to my future (that is not a cliché, but it should be).”
Ben: “So true. How have your friends reacted to the news?”
Jeff: “Well Ben, it’s been interesting. Most of have been happy for me, but some of the boys have scoffed. When I asked when they would be joining the team with me, they said probably never! One wimp even said he would never let another man ever look into his “potential”. I was shocked at such dumb juvenile behaviour!! I mean, this is your life! You gotta join the team, we always need more players. You can be embarrassed or dead, you decide. If you are over 35 and have an anus, you should ask your doctor when it’s right for you to join our team!
Ben: “That’s beautiful man… Thanks Jeff! Hey, I have an anus, maybe I should join?”
Jeff: “You should, what are you waiting for Ben Dovermann?”
Ben: “Okay Jeff, you got me… I’ll look into it!”
Jeff: “Better yet, let a doctor look into it!” (laughter, fade to black)
Look, I know it’s your bum and you might be embarrassed to even talk about it, let alone let someone look in there. But get over it! You need to do this. PERIOD.
The National Cancer Institute of Canada (NCIC) acknowledges Colorectal Cancer (CRC) as the third most common cancer and the second most common cause of death from cancer for both Canadian men and women.
According to Colon Cancer Canada, CRC is preventable, treatable, and beatable! Colon cancer is 90% preventable if detected early. 90%!!!!
Unfortunately, nearly half of those diagnosed find out too late. Imagine finding out 10 years too late about something that could have been prevented, and the alternate path your life could have taken. Just scoping one person can help screen across your family for warning signs.
The procedure is so easy as I was sedated. It doesn’t hurt, and you don’t walk like a bowlegged cowboy for days after. So put on your big boy pants, stop being a wimp, and remember where the crystal ball to your future is located.
Do it for your family, your spouse, and yourself! Don’t get left behind! Join Team Colonoscopy today!
Until next time…
This is a tough article to write as my vulnerabilities and weaknesses will be revealed.
I have had the opportunity to work with other people’s children and treat them as my own through various jobs running a childcare centre, directing a summer camp, and years spent teaching and coaching. However, now I am treating and loving another man’s son as my own. It is a wonderful and challenging opportunity.
Years ago, I heard a comedian make the comment, "I am going to work you like a red-headed step child." This made me both laugh and cringe and now I have a red-headed step-son!
Four minutes into my blind date with his mother, we discovered that we both had young boys named William. Our attraction was strong, so this was not a deal breaker.
As our relationship grew, we introduced the children and as the months passed, we let them decide what to call each other. At first, it was step brother and step sister, but happily it has just morphed into brother and sister. Now almost three years in, it is hilarious to hear my daughter introduce her brothers to strangers, “This is my brother Will and my other brother Will!” – At least it isn’t “Daryl!”
Given our past failed marriages, neither one of us is in a hurry to get married, but we are loving our second chance at happiness and raising our ‘step’ children together.
We have tried everything to differentiate the boys “Big/Little Will, Bill, Willie”. Nothing worked until a friend jokingly suggested using their ages. So now we have Will 8 and Will 6. (or ‘Eighter’ and ‘Sixer’). This strategy works awesome for now, as birthdays bring a new nickname, but I predict awkwardness and a change when the teenage years begin.
If someone asks, I say I have three children. And I do. I feel that and know that. But it is different. For two of my children, I have been there since the first tummy kicks, and I helped deliver them both into this world. For my red-headed step-son, I didn’t meet him until he was four.
Blending a family effectively requires a slow pace and much thought to the implications for the kids. Early on, I was almost in awe of how easily my partner welcomed my children into her heart. I honestly believe she loves my children as much as her own natural son.
Do women just have a greater capacity in their hearts to love? Or is it because she had a much more open and inclusive sense that families come in all shapes and sizes, while I was still grieving the loss of my family unit and the “white picket fence” dream.
I have lots of love to give, but early on, it didn’t flow as naturally from me to her son. If I am being truly honest, if we are watching the kids skate, my eyes would naturally find my daughter, while I would actively think to watch Will6’s progress.
I found this both mysterious and very troubling. It wasn’t that I didn’t love and care for her son, but it just wasn’t the same. I would see him differently; his actions and behaviour would register differently.
Will6 has a living, present, active, loving dad, and so I am not replacing an absent or deceased dad. Will8 told Will6 early on that he could call me Dad and Will 6 quickly said, "I have a Dad." Will8 said, "I know but I'm just saying if you miss him."
Will6 has a great relationship with his dad and I know that nothing I do will take away from that solid relationship. Will6 has the wonderful gift of two dads – his real dad and his ‘bald daddy!”.
As a step-dad, I need to honour his dad and carve out my own relationship with Will6. I want to be much more than just a “cool uncle” type: I want him to look to me for guidance, comfort, and discipline. While he still defers to mom when knees are skinned and for late night frights, he knows I am also there and a pretty solid second choice.
Canadian parenting icon Gordon Neufeld declares, “The only true authority we have with our children is the authority they are willing to grant us through their desire to maintain a strong relationship with us.” I think this is even more true when raising step children.
I have to earn Will6’s respect. I cannot demand it, that will only lead to more problems. I must take a more roundabout way into his heart. Without the luxury of years spent together, I try to maximize our time together to continue strengthening our bonds.
During my difficult divorce, there were times, I felt my bond with my own children being strained and threatened. Looking back, I know I focused too much attention on them out of guilt, for what they had been through, at the cost of building my new relationship withWill6.
Had I been more secure and confident in my bonds with my own children, perhaps Will6 and I could be further down the path together. But we are finding our way together quickly, creating our own fun memories and rituals (“Wake up time with Dr. Crush!”).
In the early blending days, there were definitely silent battles between the children to be beside me for movies or books at bedtime. There was also a lot of acceptance, resilience and understanding from all three of the children, as they had all been through the same thing.
Now my children are just fine with sharing their dad. I do try to spend equal individual time with all three so that they each feel special and unique. I always strive for equality.
It is critically important to me that Will6 feels and knows that he is equally important to me and he is not at the bottom of my hierarchy. I love my one-on-one time with him and whether we are off to a hockey game or the video game arcade, I feel new bonds of love growing all the time.
There are definitely growing pains as a family is blended together. I hate admitting that I did favour my children early on, in terms of who got the benefit of the doubt when battles and situations happened. Nowadays, if I am still being honest, I probably favour Will6 more!
The ultimate goal is to be a positive force in all my children’s lives. I want to be a strong male role model: the beacon to look to - for guidance, morality, ethics, and love.
While I wish it was totally natural and organic for me, the family assimilation came much more quickly and easily for my partner. One thing is for certain, the children are even better at it than both of us. They are thriving with their new normal and don't have the same mental restrictions/baggage that we, as adults, carry around.
I am certain plenty of step, adoptive, and foster parents can shed some light on the challenges and delights of loving children that are not ‘your own’ and how quickly they become your own through love, time, and understanding.
I would love to hear from other step parents. How easily did you accept your partner’s children as your own? What were your growing pains?
Until next time…
Read more The Dad Vibe articles
- God Bless the Lost Boys of Sudan Nov 22
- Do you think you are better than me? Nov 15
- A kid to share a drink with! Nov 8
- That's my daughter, the slutty pirate Nov 1
- I was a bad dad today! Oct 25
- Seven lessons from "Breaking Bad" Oct 11
- The McBlunder heard across Canada Sep 28
- What's a mother f#$ker Dad? Sep 20
- How to be Cool 101 Aug 2
- Hugs: Are you raising a sissy? Jul 19
- How I became worry-free! Jul 12
- Tips to better balance family and work Jun 21
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