I began fatherhood with a mistaken assumption: If I do this right, it will be easy.
Well, maybe not easy, but easier than many parents seemed to think that the gig was.
In my mind, those that were struggling as parents simply weren’t doing it right. The difficulty that they were dealing with (child behavior; poor sleep patterns in their children; etc.) was because their technique was wrong; straighten out the method, and the difficulty of their parenting work would be relieved.
For example, I knew (read: thought I knew) that the parents standing helplessly in the grocery store checkout while their toddler threw a world-class tantrum needed to understand (and implement) good communication and discipline. They needed to be the adult and get the situation under control.
I know, I know: condescend much? The arrogance reeks even all these years later.
The experience of being a dad has shown proved (time and again) that good parenting—good dadcraft, if you will—is anything but easy. In fact, it’s often actually harder than bad parenting. It’s patient (doing the right thing or teaching a lesson…again and again), faithful (present, engaged, and not distracted), focused on the long-term, and encouraging one’s children toward character…and these aren’t easy, quick things.
Easy is never admitting to my children that I’m wrong. I’m your dad; what I say goes…always. Hard is recognizing that I’m not always right, that I make mistakes…and that I need to acknowledge this to my kids and my wife.
Easy is addressing boredom through screens. Another half hour until dinner is ready…how ‘bout another episode of Your Favorite Netflix series? Hard is recognizing that I default to screens too easily myself, that I need to demonstrate what I want my kids to live, and that good book, a coloring sheet, or a quick game fill downtime more constructively and creatively than a screen.
Easy is cooking or grilling on my own. I just need to get this grub on the table ASAP. Hard is recognizing that the slower, messier way to put a meal on the table is often the more memorable, meaningful approach.
Easy is allowing my kid to quit when the going gets tough and an activity is no longer fun or winnable. This is as painful for me to watch as it is for them to suffer through…why press on? Hard is recognizing that grit is a critical, developable trait that I can strongly influence in my kids. Hard is recognizing that losses and struggle provide critical learning opportunities.
If we do this right, it will often be hard…but the difficulty will be worth it. That’s the path for patient, faithful, long-term focused dadcraft.
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Even when we’re trying hard, we’ll still fall short…and that’s part of the dadcraft journey as well.