"A man who doesn't spend time with his family can never be a real man." - Marlon Brando as Don Corleone, The Godfather

May 21 2018

Some American sports hero was on TV recently, saying that, as much as he loved playing WampleBatHoops (it's possible that's not a real sport), what he most proud of was being a loving husband and father.


During the same interview, he admitted he didn't know what his kids' favorite movie was and had no idea what they ate for breakfast.


Look, I'm not saying that anyone needs to be plastered to their kid's side 24/7 to be considered a good parents. In fact, I think it's better to give your kids a little breathing room to become their own people instead of the newer, better, flashier you. However, I also think it's a huge steaming pile of doggie poo to claim that the best part of your life is parenthood if the reality is your household staff is doing the heavy lifting.


It's understandable when parents find other interests to occpuy their time, because so very much of parenting is repetitive gruntwork. "No, you can't have a cookie while I'm making dinner. Why not? For the exact same reasons I've given you every night since you discovered cookies exist."


That doesn't mean it's okay to hand over all parenting responsibilities to the point that you don't know who your kids are on a fundamental, what-food-are-you-allergic-to level. You can spout all the parenting axioms (yes, that's a real word) you like, but nobody's going to listen to you if the hired help is doing all of the actual parenting. 


On a more fundamental level, you can tell your kids you love them every day and you can tell them they're the most important thing in the world to you, but if you don't know who they are as people and how they move through the world every day, they're not going to believe you.


Let me say it again for everybody in the back: Your kids won't believe that you love them just because you say it on your way out the door. 


Writers have a saying: show, don't tell. Show your audience that  a character is a crazed psychopath through their actions, not just through a vague character description. In other words, if you have a character point to a guy named Bob and say, "Wow, Bob sure is a crazed psycho," it's weak storytelling. On the other hand, if you have a character point to a guy named Bob and Bob's reaction is to bite the guy's finger off because Bob thinks pointing is rude, then your audience will be able to craft their own fully informed opinion of Bob the Birthday Clown (also: knowing he's a clown helps inform that opinion).


Your kids will know that you love them without you even having to say it if you're putting in the time it takes to show them through words and actions. I am not saying that you should be a human doormat or unpaid servant for your child as a display of affection. If anything, that's going to burden your kid with a sense of entitlement that turns them into the kind of jackass that has few friends (but lots of servants). Showing a child you love them is ridiculously easy and usually doesn't cost a dime.


Listen to what they have to say as if it matters to you.

Remember what they've told you so you can talk about it again down the road.

Never laugh at your child when they're in pain (physical or emotional).

Tell them you're proud of them when they do something kind, not just something impressive.


You can earn millions of dollars. You can have famous friends. You can even be the WampleBatHoops World Champion. But if you don't know what your kid eats for breakfast, can you really call yourself a dad?

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