All You Need To Be A Dad

October 26, 2010 in Fatherhood Insights  

All You Need To Be A Dad

There’s a lot to worry about when it comes to being a dad. A lot of tips and pointers and new things to learn, etc. But there’s only one necessary thing, one thing that you *have* to do… one thing that, if you do it, you’ll be alright…

I know, right? Shooting a video in the car? And you thought talking on the phone while driving was bad! What can I say, when you’ve gotta go, you’ve gotta go.

But This Is Important

This message is real important. We’ve already put up several posts around this subject, around being good enough as a dad, around coming to terms with fatherhood, around how to cope with fatherhood. We need to attack this one from all angles.

This message is big. Pass it along to your friends who are dads… remind them that they’re already doing a great job just by being there.

Please Comment & Add Your Voice!

Portland Dad October 26, 2010 at 8:26 am

That is the biggest part of it, the whole thing about them not remembering what you said or what you did but instead just remembering that you were there. You were there when this or that happened

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Courtney October 26, 2010 at 9:13 am

Agreed. In the court of law, “showing up” is Exhibit A of fatherin’.

I also recommend head/face/scrotum protection, a good chemical-free disinfectant, a sense of humor and the ability to eat the rest of the food off their plates so you can skip the chore of cooking your own food.

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Chase October 26, 2010 at 9:21 am

HA! nice thoughts @courtney & @PortlandDad. Thanks.

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Mitchell October 26, 2010 at 11:25 am

Great stuff…..and MAN does that resonate with me. This journey can get so damn overwhelming but the way you broke it down to such a simple and powerful idea makes it all seem so much more manageable. Courtney’s helmet/cup/disinfectant ideas are close behind, though.

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Chase October 26, 2010 at 11:28 am

HA HA!! Yea, Courtney’s got a good runner-up for sure.

Thanks man, I really appreciate it!

Adam B October 26, 2010 at 5:19 pm

Vote 1 Courtney for Dad of the Year.
The simplest notions are usually the most powerful. Being there, showing up, speaks volumes to children, more than what you say. In our family, dinner is shared together.
And being there when the vomit is projected across the room, the nappy explodes in a smell that you are sure is from Satan’s bottom, and just simply hugs and cuddles.
Our children should always know that they are wanted and valued. Toys and stuff are fun, but experiences are priceless.

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Willie Jackson October 27, 2010 at 12:24 am

I want to drop kick other people’s kids when I hear them wailing in public sometimes.

Am I ready to be a dad? :) JK, you’re the best!! I seriously love your stuff. Keep it up.

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Keith Zafren October 27, 2010 at 8:36 am

Hey Chase, and other dads here. Love your stuff and your vision to be a great dad and provide a place where those of us who share that goal can talk about it. Thanks! I too agree that showing up is so important, being there, over the many years that your kids are growing up, making the sacrifices necessary to make that happen, professionally, relationally, personally, maybe financially. I think you probably mean this too, but just so it’s said, it is a bit more than just showing up and being there. I think it’s also actually learning to engage with your kids as they get older. I realize you, Chase, and some others it sounds on the site, still have very young children, and for now, you’re right on, your babies and toddlers really, in many ways, just need you to be there and to hold them, serve them (you know, diapers, feedings, baths, etc.). But as your children grow up, I have found that they need so much more of me than this (I have three boys 12, 11, and 9). And if I do not actually engage with them, if I am sort of just there and hanging around, but not actively involved in their lives, their sports, their play, their interests, their conversation, their dreams and disappointments, the shaping of their character, then I sort of become an absent dad even though I’m in the room. Does that make any sense?

Glad I found you and your site. Great stuff here!

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Chase October 27, 2010 at 9:02 am

@keith – Yea, I totally agree. It’s actually good to hear your perspective on “early on it’s important just to be there, but later on engaging your kids becomes a much more important role.”

It’s good to hear that because it already feels like that. Looking back on early fatherhood, when my son was squirming and screaming and letting me roll him into tight baby burritos, just being around, not running from the stress and sleeplessness and mishaps, etc., was the only thing I could count on myself to do.

But now, at 1.5 years old, that engagement piece is already central. If I don’t put my laptop down and get on the ground with him, he’ll get real grumpy which will make me grumpy and less likely to oblige him, etc.

Good words, Keith… Thanks for sharing!

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Courtney October 27, 2010 at 9:09 am

I think Keith’s assertion is totally legit and “just being there” is a brass tacks, essential kind of statement. I know for a fact that I have to engage my 4 and 2 year old or else they will make me PAY. They know when I’m disconnected and act accordingly. All kinds of hyper-kinetic, demanding behavior ensues. The importance of going the next step beyond “being there” gives weight to that old idea of quality vs. quantity. If I only have 15 minutes to see my kids, and I get down and only look at them and talk to them and wrestle them down, then most often they are 110% satisfied. My time was totally given over to them. No cell phone, no distractions, nothing. Just them. They have short attention spans anyway. An intense, short engagement with a young kid is so easy it’s ridiculous. The rewards are huge. So do it already.

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Chase October 27, 2010 at 9:24 am

@courtney – yea, boom. This is good… i think this actually changes our tune a bit, and we should make room for this “later on engagement means a lot more” message.

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Keith Zafren October 27, 2010 at 10:42 am

Right to both of you (Chase and Courtney). You are both already moving out of the baby (I just need to be there) phase into the toddler (hey dad, I want all your attention now!) phase. And if my experience is anything remotely natural (and this could be a stretch) the demand for my attention as dad (and yours!) only grows. I think that is because their need is so great and growing as they do.

As your kids turn about 10-ish, I found (and all my reading seems to indicate) that children, especially boys (girls seem to be a couple of years later) really begin needing their dad even more than they do their mom. A kind of separation begins to take place from mom (the old cutting of the apron strings, I guess), and the need to attach to dad grows exponentially. That is really, really cool, if you’re prepared for it and want it, but it is also a bit terrifying, realizing how much I matter to these precious little people.

Happy fathering guys. You will grow with your kids… as their need increases, your ability (and desire) to meet it, be there, love them, shape them, will grow accordingly. I would never have believed 10 years ago, had anyone cared to tell me so, that I would be the dad I am today with the capacity and desire to love and give I have now. It wasn’t in me then… or at least it was a very underdeveloped part of me.

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Lars October 27, 2010 at 3:29 pm

I agree that “showing up” is a requirement. You can’t be a father if you’re not there. I also agree that it goes a long way. However, as others mention, there’s a difference between “showing up” and “being present. Really, fully being present, being where you are, with the people you are with. Not thinking about that game, or work, or bills, or whatever. Being present is gold with kids. They thrive one it. And as some you remark, it makes a huge difference to the interaction.

No-one can be fully present all the time. We do have worries, interest, etc. Our thoughts drift. We think about that football game. But it’s really important to practice presence, and not just with kids. With our partner, at work, with friends – really being there when we talk, when we work on something – it’s so so important. It’s a lot to do with seeing the person you are interacting with, listening, caring about the conversation. Hard to do if we’re also checking out football scores.

To be good fathers, good husbands, good friends – learning to be fully present is a great start.

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Chase October 27, 2010 at 3:39 pm

good words, Lars, good words.

Keith Zafren October 28, 2010 at 12:25 pm

For you dads who have young kids, maybe especially boys, but I think for daughters too, I thought you might appreciate this reminder of the wonder young kids feel toward us dads… and how seriously we should take this awesome privilege and responsibility.

Does anyone remember a commercial that used to run on television when I was a kid? It was a Lifesavers commercial that had a boy sitting on the side of a hill with his father. The father and son were watching the sunset, and as the sun descended, the father whispered to his son going, going, going, and as the sun finally slipped beneath the horizon, the father whispered, gone. Then this kid, silhouetted in the evening light, looked up at his father and said, Do it again, Dad.

(As described by Donal Miller in his great book, To Own a Dragon: Reflections on Growing up Without a Father, p. 61)

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Keith Zafren November 1, 2010 at 2:00 pm

I just read something I thought many of us could appreciate:
“Every child needs at least one person who is crazy about them.”

From Tim Clinton, in a 2006 newsletter to the American Association of Christian Counselors.

Let’s make sure our kids know today that we are indeed crazy about them. And that we’re not the only ones who think so. I do something with my boys once in a while. I’ll ask one of them, “Who loves you baby?” And they’ll usually say, “You do.” “Right,” I say, “and who else.” “Mom.” “Right, who else?” “Papa and GG.” “Right, who else?” And on we’ll go for a while. Then, after they have developed a nice long list of all these people who love them, I’ll say something like, “Man, it must feel good to be loved by so many people.”

Just one way of affirming them and helping them know/feel they are deeply loved. You likely have your own tricks, but here’s one of mine to share.

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