So your sitting in your chair minding your own business occupied paying bills and balancing the family budget, and your littlest bundle comes and starts to squeeze through that gap between your arm, leg, and table. You, of course, ask them what they are doing and they say “Climbing up here, will you snuggle me?” they ask as they arrive in your lap and push their little body in between you and the important task in front of you. Here is the moment of truth, your dadhood is on the line. What do you do?
Your gut reaction might be to carefully put your little kiddo back down and tell them that you are trying to balance the books and as soon as you’re done you can snuggle. Bzzzt. Wrong. A father does that, a father doesn’t like to be interrupted by his children when he is doing important things. I’m going to put a pin in that lesson for a moment.
If you’ve got your ‘dad card’ in your wallet your reaction will be quite different. Put your checkbook away (does anyone still use checkbooks) and wrap your arms around that little guy and them him hug you back for as long as they want. Okay, let’s grab that pin and bring it back down. Here is the critical difference between the simple father’s way and the special dad’s way.
One of them is reassuring to your child they are more important to you than the thing you are working on. A child expected to want this kind of attention might even perceive what you are doing as just doodling on paper. You know it is the financial stability of the family, but they don’t, and now you told them they are less important than doodles. Ponder that for a moment.
Even the child who is older and recognizes what you are doing is going to randomly walk up some time and want to hug you for no other reason than that they love you. Your reaction will shape their life. It will be one of the many measures of self-worth. It will be one of the many measures of you as a dad.
How does it shape their view of themselves is a good question. Well, you are the male role model, your actions affect everything in your household. Including how everyone feels about themselves. A man who berates others, it doesn’t even matter who teaches his children they are a disappointment and will never live up to his expectations. Children often do deal in absolutes like that.
A father who does not put his pen down to bring that child up into this lap to hug him for as long as they want is failing. That father is chipping away at the self-worth of his child. A real dad on the other hand who does a full stop and gives his attention to his child is building up that child’s self-worth. One tiny action compounds with the next tiny action.
A snuggle or a hug may not seem like much but it is a building block as a child comes to know his place in the family. It’s complicated, but you can have an impact. Your child deserves your heart, and a real dad knows that. So when you are in the middle of doing something and your child comes to snuggle with you, drop everything and snuggle as if your life depended on it. Because it does, and so does theirs.
Because any man can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad.