I learned many life lessons from my father, and I sure hope I’m passing these along to my son.
Last week, the fun lifestyle website DailyPlatofCrazy.com ran a feature for articles about men looking back at their childhoods with their fathers. Please click on the screencap below for my contribution to the series. It’s about baseball, Star Wars, and the values I learned from my dad and am trying to model for Nick.
What memories do you have as a kid that you are now sharing with your kids? What lessons are you trying to impart? Let’s discuss in the comments section.
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After describing the rhythms of his household before and during his travel, Jason provided some great advice:
The point is, dads, we are missed. A lot. A WHOLE lot. I read on a post recently that a dad has four girls that make him feel like a member of the Beatles when he gets home. We’re all rock stars to our children, and we can take care of our “fans” by taking a bit of care with how we leave them for our work trips. It will pay dividends in the end to pay attention to how we deal with being gone, as our little ones are dealing with us being gone. So I’ve looked around the web, read, asked, cajoled, and uncovered to find what we can do when we have to be away. The list is organic, so use or don’t, add to or take away.
Our job as fathers is to equip our children to have productive, happy and meaningful lives. The best way to do so is by role-modeling the values, priorities and actions we hope they will aspire to.
At last, the finale! If you haven’t already, please read Part 1 and Part 2, which were posted last week. This article picks up where those left off.
Someday, and sooner than we think, my Nick (and your kids) will be making choices about their careers, marriages and families. When the time comes, I hope Nick will:
Choose a career that makes enough money for his life to be comfortable and so he can take care of his future family.
Choose a career he enjoys, finds interesting and meaningful, and through which he can make a larger contribution.
Understand the importance of balancing his career with that of his future life partner
Understand the relative importance of work and family while having a balanced set of priorities.
In the prior articles, I focused on the first three bullet points, Today, I’ll focus on the fourth.
One day, I hope Nick will be a father, and while I want him to value his own (part 1) and his spouse’s career (part 2), I reallywant him to know that family comes first. As in the case of the other lessons I’ve discussed, this is not a lesson that is taught effectively through words. I hope that, by seeing how I try to juggle work and family, he sees a role model for himself- just like I did when observing my father. This article is much more about my father than it is about me.
4. Work has its place, but is never more important than family
Our job as fathers is to equip our children to have productive, happy and meaningful lives. In my opinion, the best way to do so is by role-modeling the values, priorities and actions to which we hope they will aspire.
One day, I hope Nick will get married, and I want him to value not just his own career, but also the career of his life partner. This is not a lesson that is taught effectively through words. I hope that, by seeing how supportive I am of my wife Amy (and she is of me), he will seek out a supportive spouse and that he will value his spouse’s career as much as his own.
First off, if you haven’t already, please read Part 1, which I posted on Monday. This article picks up where that one left off.
What lessons about work and family should we be role-modeling for our children?
For me, I hope my son learns that work can bring fulfillment, meaning, and opportunities to help others- not just money. I also hope he learns that work-family balance means family first and that his career priorities should take his future spouse/family’s needs into account.
Young kids don’t fully understand why we sometimes have to be away from them and at work. They know they miss us, and they can get resentful- it’s only natural. In response, it is easy to say that we work for money- to buy them things- and that we’d rather not work and just be with them.
It’s a comforting story in the moment, but I bet it is not entirely true for most of us- and I think it actually sends a very different signal than what we should be sending.
Someday, and sooner than we think, my Nick* (and your kids) will be making choices about their careers. And I’d rather he understand that work is not JUST a chore, and not JUST about money. Right now, he wants to be a Jedi (he’d be really good at this!), baseball player, geologist, waiter and circus performer. But when the time comes, I want him:
To choose a career that makes enough money for his life to be comfortable and so he can take care of his future family.
To choose a career he enjoys, finds interesting and meaningful, and through which he can make a larger contribution.
To understand the importance of balancing his career with that of his future life partner (see part 2)
To understand the relative importance of work and family and of working towards a balanced set of priorities.
I once heard a quote that “the best way to teach your son to be a man, is to be a good man and let him watch”.
This is why I am very mindful about sending signals to my son about the importance of both work and family. These are hard things to teach directly in words, but I try to get these lessons through by my actions and by how I talk about work when he is around. Here’s what I hope he learns from me:
I never liked Dwyane Wade. He always seemed to me a borderline dirty player who intimidated referees and constantly drew attention to himself. No one can deny his skill and work ethic, however, and some of my negative perceptions, I must admit, are based on his beating down my beloved Knicks (55 points at MSG in March 2009) and the self-aggrandizing persona of the Miami Heat’s “Big Three” (and don’t get me started about The Miami Heat- my enmity for them goes back to the Pat Riley betrayal of 1995 and the Jeff-Van-Gundy-attached-to-the-leg-of-Alonzo-Mourning fight of 1998).
19 Dad Bloggers were asked the question “When/How To Introduce Your Kids to Star Wars?” You can read the entire piece here. Here’s my entry:
I’m a planner by nature, and I think the world is in a rush to have our kids grow up too fast. So, I delayed Star Wars until Nick was 6 (he’s now 7 ½). I LOVE Star Wars and wanted him to love it too- I figured premature exposure may ruin it.
What pushed me over the edge, despite my hesitations, was when I was called to do a customer focus group for some unknown product. It turns out the focus group was to get reactions to new Lego Star Wars products (awesome!), and the room was full of Dads about my age with kids about my son’s age. Almost all of them had shared Star Wars with their kids by then, and especially extolled the virtues of the Lego Star Wars video game.
The next day, I showed Nick some you tube clips- as a way to gauge his interest (through the roof), expose him to characters (he instantly was head over heels for Darth Maul!), and talk about basic plot points. I figured this would make the movies easier for him to understand and enjoy.
A few years ago, I was in a big, fat stinking hurry for some thingthat I am sure I thought was important at the time. Nick was just old enough to get his coat, hat, gloves and shoes on by himself, and I needed him to do so quicklyor else we’d be late for the thingthat was soooo super-important that now I can’t even remember what it was.
So, of course I see Nick presumably fooling around and taking his sweet time getting his jacket on. We’re running late. This thingis very important. We needto get going. So, I snap at him about his jacket.
He’s a great kid and I hardly ever raise my voice to him, so he is struck by my tone, and he sheepishly says that he can’t get his sleeve on. “Of course you can,” I bark at him as I start to shove his sleeve onto his arm. But his arm won’t go through- something was blocking the sleeve. That’s when I realized I had put his hat and gloves in his sleeve earlier that day.
Expedia just started airing a fantastic ad, focusing on a father who was clearly struggling with work-family balance, and who (of course with the help of Expedia- it is an ad, after all) was able to have a moment of joy and clarity (on the Disney teacup ride) to help him realize his work-family priorities.
After a month or so of writing this blog, I realize that I should have started from the beginning- by sharing my own work-family balance story. So, please allow myself to introduce…myself…
I’m lucky in that, as a college professor, I have a career with a lot of built-in flexibility in terms of where and when I get most of my work done. Aside from classes, office hours and occasional meetings and campus events (usually about 15-20 hours a week), all my other work- class prep, grading, research writing, statistical analysis, committee work- can be done from anywhere at anytime- as long as it gets done (my work motto: have laptop, will travel). I could be grading, preparing, teaching or even writing this blog in my pajamas from the Bahamas, although it is usually from the dining room table.