If you approach fathering as one more task, one more job, you almost guarantee that it will not be an enjoyable one. If you appreciate the benefits that you and your child can derive from your interactions, you will act with enthusiasm and expectation. Your eagerness will infect your child, and you will both know that the other cares, that the other loves.
The more your children separate from you, the more they will be shaped by their peers and by their own culture. We increasingly fret over their well-being as they slip away from our protective shield. But we can lay a foundation that will enable them to make the right choices. We can ensure that they feel loved, so they do not reach out for recognition in destructive ways. And when they are conflicted and cannot make up their minds, we can create a relationship that invites discussion and is open to guidance.
You cannot undo your childhood. You can never receive what you deserved from your own father. But you are in the fortunate position of seeing to it that your child has the parent he is entitled to have. You have been given the chance to do it differently, to do it better, to do it right. Make a list of what you resolve to do more of with your child.
Our tendency is to imitate what we have seen in our own fathers and to cast our expectations after those. Don't repeat the mistakes your father made. Being a better father to your children can help heal the disappointments of your own childhood. As your life becomes more gratifying, as it becomes filled with love, you will find that your longtime, gnawing resentments toward your father will recede. You won't need to be angry any longer because your life will feel fulfilled.
Don't waste time blaming yourself for what you have or have not done with your children to this point. It is understandable that, to the extent you have not built a closer relationship with your child, you will feel more alienated and, perhaps, helpless now. The good news is that it is not too late.
Your responsibility as a parent is to nurture your child, to help him reach his fullest potential. Your child also presents you with an opportunity to grow. Seize that opening.
Excerpted with permission from The Gift of Fatherhood: How Men's Lives are Transformed by Their Children, Fireside, 1994
Copyright © 1994 by Aaron Hass, PhD
The information on this Web site is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your pediatrician or family doctor. Please consult a doctor with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your or your child's condition.