The 1950s and 1960s model of fatherhood usually meant a Virginia man left home early each morning, returned home in late afternoon, and expected to relax with the evening newspaper without so much as a peep from his kids. Mom was expected to feed, clothe, bathe and supervise them. Dad was the disciplinarian, but every parent knows that hand can become ineffective if overplayed. So Dad, really, was a role model of absenteeism. No more. Dads today are nurturers and more.
Call it what you will: involved father, caring Dad, committed parent. A father who moves beyond biology to be intimately involved in his children’s lives is a 24/7/365 Dad.
Such a Dad is a role model for his sons, demonstrating that manhood means commitment and caring. No dramatics. Righteous, not misplaced, anger. Plenty of praise, pats on the back, and encouragement.
Such a Dad is a role model, too, for his daughters: this is how a real man treats girls and women. Look for a man like your own Dad, daughters, when seeking a husband. Look for a man who can father the way your father fathered.
Learned and Natural
Parenting is a learned skill, but it has natural instincts at its core. Men of all societies throughout history have demonstrated every level of caring (or inattention). Today’s Virginia man can learn to fill in the missing parts of good fathering, building on the natural instincts to, say, catch a falling kid. The National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) offers five steps to becoming a 24/7/365 Dad, in the form of five questions.
How Well Do I Know Myself?
Be self-aware. Only by knowing yourself — your triggers, your delights, your frustrations — can you know how best to be “there” for your kids.
Know that you are responsible for your behavior. None of these:
- “Well, if you just got good grades I wouldn’t have to yell as often.”
- “You made me punish you.”
- “If you just behaved I wouldn’t have to spank you.”
Know your emotions, your strengths, and weaknesses. NFI recommends re-framing basic questions through this lense. Instead of saying, “I’m too busy to go to my kid’s recital,” maybe “I didn’t make my kid’s recital a priority.” That tells you a lot about yourself, and it telegraphs to your children.
How Well Do I Care for Myself?
You are human. You need good nutrition, proper sleep, annual physicals, six-month dental checkups; the works. You may be your child’s only source of income. Protect yourself and your children by taking good care of yourself.
Some Virginia men take perverse pride in advertising to their own children that some misbehavior makes them better men or cooler dads:
- Shooting or storing guns unsafely
- Drinking excessively
- Trading dishonestly (shoplifting, cheating friends, “getting one over on some fool”)
- Taking needless risks (involving trucks, guns, explosives, hot foods, law enforcement, wild animals)
- Ignoring pain, injury, or chronic health problems
These signal to your children that your life is cheap, and theirs of little value because you are not protecting yourself in order to protect them.
How Well Do I Father?
What are your children’s shoe sizes? Which child plays the clarinet and which child plays the oboe? How expensive was Tiny Tina’s tutu? How are you paying for Big Boy Brian’s baseball glove?
The involved father helps dress, feed, entertain, and encourage his children. He goes to baseball games and ballet recitals. He meets with his children’s teachers. He sits at the table and wracks his brain to remember eighth grade mathematics. He reads bedtime stories.
Consider this: if you stopped doing what you do now to father your children, would they even notice? How long would they need before they realized Dad was not doing Dad stuff with them?
How Well Do I Parent?
Fathering is not identical to parenting. Fathering is being involved in everyday activities, special events, and crises. Parenting is nurturing each of your children in many ways:
Discipline is intended to shape future behavior, not inflict injury. Rules are intended to create harmony, not confusion and panic. Love is given freely and given more when a child deserves it less.
How Well Do I Relate?
Men can cry, laugh, hug, love, befriend and care. Society, not humanity, dictates the roles men fall into. Push against the expectation and embrace the full dimensions of being part of your family.
No matter the structure of your family — single Dad, divorced father, mixed family, adopted, foster or step-kids — you are in many circles. You are part of your nuclear family, extended family, neighborhood and community.
The good Dad, the fine father, the proud Papa constantly seeks to strengthen connections to others. He improves his skills at communicating clearly, forcefully, and with heart.
Separated or divorced? Show your children their mother still has your respect if not your love. She deserves to be treated well, and so do you.
Single Dad? Show your kids that you manage time around them, not a bottom dollar.
Starting a second marriage with adopted or step-kids? Show your new family that caring Dads care about all people in their circle.
NFI says if you ask and answer those five questions honestly, you will become the kind of 24/7/365 Dad your kids cherish. Don’t your kids deserve a great Dad?
With your call to 757-383-9184, or when you contact us online, the experienced team of attorneys at The Firm For Men can help you with every aspect of Virginia family law. Separation, divorce, child custody, parenting time — all of it is familiar territory to our dedicated lawyers. We are here to serve Virginia’s men exclusively, preserving your rights, safeguarding your future.