Bonding with your kids can be hard, especially with so many modern distractions around. Here are a few tips to keep communications open.
As a father, there are a few rites of passage that you expect to be involved in. Teaching your kid to kick a footy or ride a bike are jobs usually reserved for dad. Showing your child how to skim a stone or how to get a truck driver to blow his horn are also very important life skills that should be left to dad to teach.
But, for whatever reason, this might not always pan out the way you planned. Who needs to skim a stone when there’s an iPad app for that? And what’s the point in riding a bike when mum and dad won’t let the kids out of their sight to go riding around the block? And I’m pretty sure there is a three-and-a-half minute medley of truck horns on YouTube. The fact is, there are many things that you may not get to do with your child, but there are some great activities that you never knew about just waiting around the corner.
Be prepared to develop new interests
One thing that I had absolutely banked on in having kids is that they would all follow my footy team and faithfully follow me every week to some cold, windy suburban ground to watch my team give their best. What I hadn’t planned for was three daughters with more interest in fancy dress balls than footy balls. I wasn’t, however, deterred.
Each year Santa brings my girls a new footy jumper. Each year I bravely try to drag them to watch a game. And each year I find myself at a cold, windy suburban ground with three crying girls all wanting to go home and I wonder why the hell I put us all through it. Older and wiser, I’m now ready to admit that footy is just something my kids don’t get. Yet.
Last year, my eldest daughter said she would like to go and watch an A-League soccer match. After half-heartedly trying to convince her that my code of footy was better, I agreed and we travelled into town for our first ever glimpse of home-grown soccer. We went back at least a half-dozen times that season with my other two daughters in tow. We now have a shared passion in a new interest, one that we all enjoy. And the more the girls get into soccer the more they ask about other codes of football. So just to be on the safe side, Santa keeps bringing those jumpers.
Be prepared to let other people be important in your child’s life
For whatever reason, dads can’t always be around. Whether it’s because of divorce or work commitments, there are going to be times when you are not there. It may not be to your liking, but your kids are not going to stop learning and looking for new adventures to suit your timetable. There are going to be times when someone else steps in and shares an interest with your kid, at the same time stepping on your toes. It is important to realise that you can’t control this, but you can control how you react to it.
In-laws, it can seem, are sent to test us. Last year while visiting my wife’s family, I wandered out to the backyard just in time to see Granddad teaching my eldest daughter how to kick a footy. It took a huge amount of restraint on my part not to give Pop a hip-and-shoulder and launch him into the bushes. If there was one thing that is my birthright as a father, that is to teach my kid how to launch a torpedo punt. In a sea of self-pity, I was convinced that something had been taken away from me. The fact is something very precious had been given to my child, and that is time with her Pop that she will remember forever. Sometimes as a dad you have to be gracious and allow other people (even other men!) be important in your children’s lives. It’s important to let go and realize teaching your child something as boring as good manners is just as fundamental as a good torpedo punt.
Don’t be afraid to get involved
Kids are scary. Trying to work out what they want and when they want it and whether you’re doing the right thing or screwing them up for life can be very difficult. At times it is tempting to let your partner decipher the kids’ needs and yell for you to get off the couch when you are needed. But the earlier you engage with your kids and make yourself part of their play the easier it all becomes.
The mathematics that kids live by isn’t complicated at all: the time you put in with them is directly proportionate to the time you get back from them. Think of them of mini super accounting computers. Your kids will always love you no matter what – that is a given. But the more time you spend exploring their interests the more time they will allow you to share your interests with them. Unfortunately for dads whose access to their kids is limited, there is no short cut to this. So make every minute with the kids count – make sure you read to them every night before bed, spend time chatting to them when they’re in the bath, make a meal together a time to talk and share. All these efforts will have their reward.