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One of the biggest challenges that I face as a father is in picking my battles: choosing when to be the cool dad vs when to be the stern dad. I’ve heard many people say, “I’m not their friend, I’m their parent” when describing their relationships with their children, but I have somewhat of a different philosophy.
I’m an avid chess player, so I tend to think strategically. In chess the victor is the one who makes the least amount of mistakes, and who is able to think many moves ahead. My ultimate vision is for my sons to want to come and hang out with dad when they’re grown men. I envision myself grilling steaks on a Sunday afternoon and watching football with my two grown sons. I can see us taking a road trip or meeting up for an NBA game, wearing our jerseys and cheering on our favorite team. I imagine getting a phone call from them at least once a week, just to “check in” and see how old dad is doing; that’s my ideal future. So how can I ensure that I maintain the most important relationships of my life?
The key word that comes to my mind is “resiliency”. Life is an amazing adventure, full of ups and downs; and as much as I’ve tried to shelter my boys, I’ve been unsuccessful in protecting them from Life’s disappointments. What I have found however, is that children are amazingly resilient. I tell the boys all the time about how strong they are, about how they as teenagers have already accomplished more in their life than dad did when he was a teenager. I remind them of how they’ve been able to take the lumps of divorce, of being separated as brothers, but still maintaining excellent grades and excellent character. I encourage their resilience, because it takes such to make it in this world.
I’ve also had to be resilient as well. As a grown man, when my heart ached to watch my boys go through disappointment, I still had to maintain discipline. I still had to require of them, that they remain respectful and that they continued to strive towards excellence. I couldn’t give in to the temptation of letting them wallow in sadness and pity; I had to require that they work through it, figure it out. On most occasions, the only comfort that I could offer my boys was my presence; and I’ve learned that my presence was often good enough. Now that my boys are approaching the 8th and 9th grades, I’m reminding myself of how important my own resiliency will be. I remember the challenges of high school. I remember the drudgery, as well as the fun times. I have the benefit of being many miles ahead of them, and can somewhat anticipate what it is that they’ll experience. Being equipped with this knowledge, and having made it through the crucible of puberty, I have a pretty good idea of how to deal with their changing emotions, their raging hormones, and the confusion that accompanies adolescence. I know that they’re going to make it through this next phase of Life, because Dad will be right there with them standing strong as a rock.
My mother has told me many times that “it takes courage to raise children”. It takes the courage of standing your ground and making the right decisions for your children, even though you know that they won’t like it or agree with it. It takes courage to demand of them their very best, especially when they’re fighting their own internal battles. It also takes courage to just allow them to Be. The older my children get, the clearer my reality becomes. Courage and stamina are the basic ingredients of resiliency. There’s a large amount of self discipline that we as parents make, so that we can be there for our children.
Thank you again for listening to my thoughts, and the best of luck on your journey as a parent!
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