Responsible parenting and leadership are a start. In between reaching for the sky (Toy Story rocks).

Screw the darkness. I prefer the lightness of Pop.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Daddy K says, Take responsibility for taking responsibility

Regardless of your politics, Senator Barack Obama delivered a compelling Father's Day speech last month about the need for responsible fathers. And although it was directed primarily toward African-America men, his words can be applied to all men and fathers. Thanks once again Wayne's Fatherhood Blog.

I've been thinking a lot about responsible fatherhood, and based on my childhood experiences, and the fact I'm having a child of my own now, I can't comment enough about it.

"Too many fathers are M.I.A, too many fathers are AWOL, missing from too many lives and too many homes. They have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men. And the foundations of our families are weaker because of it."

Amen, Barack.

And he should know, because he was raised by a single mother. But no, he's not Muslim. Really. Stop talking about it.

Even children that are adults whose father hasn't spoken to them for decades, or vice-versa, doesn't negate the fact that some kind of amends could be made. Whether a relationship can be rekindled after years of separation and neglect is secondary to asking for forgiveness and giving it as well. That is taking responsibility for not taking responsibility and forgiving the unforgiveable.

According to Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D., in an article titled Fathering in America: What's a Dad Supposed to Do?, regardless of whether the father lives with his children, active participation in raising those children is good for everyone.

Amen, Dr. Marie.

She goes on to highlight practical guidelines for responsible fatherhood. Here are some of my favorites:

Embrace your responsibility. Once you are a father, you are a father for life. The knowledge of fatherhood changes a man. It can be a source of pride and maturity or a source of shame and regret. Even if you have good reasons for not being actively involved, acknowledging your paternity is a minimal gift you can provide to your child. With it come many legal, psychological, and financial benefits. If you want to be in your child's life, it also protects your rights to have time with your child should you and the child's mother have a falling out.

Be there throughout their childhoods. There is no time in a child's life that doesn't count. Research has shown that even infants know and respond to their fathers differently than they do to their mothers. The bond you make with a baby sets the foundation for a lifetime. As the kids get older, they'll need you in different ways but they will always need you. Insistent toddler, curious preschooler, growing child, prickly adolescent: Each age and stage will have its challenges and rewards. Kids whose parents let them know that they are worth their parents' time and attention are kids who grow up healthy and strong. Boys and girls who grow up with attention and approval from their dads as well as their moms tend to be more successful in life.

Balance discipline with fun. Some dads make the mistake of being only the disciplinarian. The kids grow up afraid of their dads and unable to see the man behind the rules. An equal and opposite mistake is being so focused on fun that you become one of the kids, leaving their mother always to be the heavy. Kids need to have fathers who know both how to set reasonable, firm limits and how to relax and have a good time. Give yourself and the kids the stability that comes with clear limits and the good memories that come with play.

Be a role model of adult manhood. Both boys and girls need you as a role model for what it means to be adult and male. Make no mistake: The kids are observing you every minute. They are taking in how you treat others, how you manage stress and frustrations, how you fulfill your obligations, and whether you carry yourself with dignity. Consciously or not, the boys will become like you. The girls will look for a man very much like you. Give them an idea of manhood (and relationships) you can be proud of.

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