21 of 100 Dads – They Are Watching

Brian and I go back over 30 years, having grown up in the same neighborhood. Although I wasn’t aware at the time, we had a mutual love for an adorable blond, bright-eyed and continuously bouncy young teen named Jason.

Although I was a little older and Brian a lot older, than Jason,  youngfriend reached the heart of us both. I like to think Brian was a kind of big brother, and I was a big sister although I’m sure Jason would have seen us all as simply just friends.

Jason and I were somewhat outcasts, well not really ‘somewhat.’ We didn’t quite fit in at school, in the neighbourhood or in our own homes. We found commonalities and love with each other.

I remember how fondly Jason spoke of Brian. Any friend of Jason was sure to be a friend of mine.

Rolling the clock ahead 20 years, Brian and I crossed paths through our careers. Our memories of Jason quickly lead us to shared reflection and immediate heart swell in Jason’s loving memory. His boyish charm was unforgettable.

We sadly reminisced as Jason had since passed away. He was loved by us both.
I was very happy to have Brian’s participation in the book. I knew his involvement would not only provide tips from a strong and engaged Father, but it would also give me an opportunity to capture Jason’s memory and in some small way include him in this chapter of my life.

I’m confident if Brian parented in the manner he treated us, misfits, he will have raised two great men. Oh, to have had such a Dad.

Not surprisingly Brian absolutely loves being  a Dad. He expressed how great it was to have the title. He loves the sound of the word and the meaning behind it.

Brian is enjoying an accomplished career and watching his two grown sons build their own lives.

Brian, Be a good role model. They are watching you all the time and learning the good, the bad and the ugly from you. Tip 9

Brian’s tip #9, was always in the forefront of my mind. I was a good example. I took the job very seriously, albeit too seriously at times.

I remember learning, your kids will do what they see, not what you say. That was a scary concept to me. I was a smoker until Michael was age 10. I was terrified he would smoke, given the example I provided. That was just the beginning of my fear.

Example is everything. We do teach them what is “normal” by the example we set. Our example establishes their normal; as in the case with door slamming, as in the case with everything.

If I slammed doors, Michael would grow to believe slamming doors is acceptable. If I slept with random men, did drugs at the kitchen table, had the language of a foul sailor, he would believe those things also to be normal.

Example is deep.

Would you believe that I actually thought all dads were passed out on the living room floor? I was not ashamed. My friends and I just stepped over him and went to my room. I completely thought that was normal.

From the simple things to the not-so simple things, what we show them becomes how they live.

Take, for example, a towel. If I had a home with only hand towels, my son would dry himself with hand towels. He would never even look for a bath towel. Michael would not know of, or come to expect, anything other than hand towels. If my standards are low in the home he will likely settle for the same as an adult.

Likely there would come a day when Michael would uncover a large, plush bath towel, he might think it too elaborate, unnecessary. He might inquire as to what it was used for. He may even think those who use them to be ridiculous.

It is a great deal of pressure to hold high standards, particularly when you were raised with a lower set yourself. As a child, we had a few “nice towels,” (they weren’t even that nice). I wasn’t allowed to use them. In fact, only within the last few years have I felt worthy of using the “nice towels” in my own home.

Increasing standards and setting a strong example is worth the effort. Even if you can’t afford fancy linen, at a minimum tell your kids they are available. Even if you behave poorly, you can apologize, re-adjust and correct.

Teach them about the big, fluffy towels. Encourage them to work hard and to someday own their own bigger, fluffier towels. If you can’t access the finer things, make sure your kids know they are out there.

I was exhausted with setting my best attempt at a flawless example. I didn’t swear, scream, gossip, gamble, drink, drug, or even shake the salt (in front of Michael) – a very tall order! What I wanted for Michael’s future I modeled in our home.

I told myself I would behave impeccably for 15 years, and secretly made that commitment to Michael. I’m not sure why I decided on 15 years, but that’s what I decided. I speculated if I could set a solid example, hold my shit together, for 15 years, Michael would have a concrete foundation.

Maybe less would do, but 15 seemed to have done the trick for us. I’m far less perfect these days.

Thanks Brian. I’m so happy to have met you on both sides of my journey.

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