During the past few months, I’ve been thinking about how much I want to be a better dad. I noticed things that I don’t do well (which I need to improve). On the other hand, I also noticed some things that I’m super proud of (which I need to do more often).
I think it is so crucial, especially when your kids are as young as mine.
I am a role model
As a dad, I’m a role model, whether I like it or not. It’s easy to forget that fact but it’s true.
My kids are too young to hang out with friends. This means that Lazy FI Mum and I (except for the nursery staff, who are a close second) are the people they see the most. They will look at us and think that this is how humans (should) act and imitate us.
This is a huge responsibility (you’re quoting Spiderman now, aren’t you?) which I try not to take lightly.
As a reminder, my daughter is two years old and my son is less than six months old.
While my son is too young to talk, my daughter gave me a couple of reminders in the past month about how much of an influence I am on her life and personality.
They remember and understand!
Seeing how much they absorb from what you say and do is amazing. It blows my mind every time.
My daughter “punished” me
My daughter is now old enough to learn about cause and effect, about actions and consequences. She is also trying to test our boundaries.
I love this kid to bits and I wish I could give her anything she ever wants but I know that would harm her in the long term. I am her dad and I need to set boundaries for her.
If she does something she is not supposed to, I first explain to her that she shouldn’t do it (and try to remember to explain why).
Then she gets a warning “if you do ABC again, I will take XYZ away” or something like that.
If she does it again, I follow up on my promise/warning and explain:
“Abba (daddy in Hebrew) said not to do ABC, you did ABC, so I took XYZ away”.
Anyway, back to our story (literally):
I was sitting on the sofa with my daughter and she was reading a book about colours. She looked at me and said, “Abba, if you touch the colours, I will take the book away”. I have no idea where this came from but I had to test her so I touched the colours.
She closed the book, put it away and said “I said no touch the colours, Abba touch the colours so I took it away”.
I must admit it made me a bit sad at the time, that she remembers being punished. However, after thinking about it again- I’m super proud of her! She understood the structure and implemented it to perfection. The fact that she first warned me, then kept her word, and even explained it in the end is amazing!
“I believe in you”
The next instance came roughly a week ago.
She is learning to put on her own pyjamas by herself. Sometimes she struggles to get her hands in the sleeve and says “I can’t”, to which I reply “You can, I believe in you”. If she still struggles and gets frustrated- I’d help her out, of course.
We were sitting on the sofa one morning and out of nowhere, she turns to me and says “I believe in you Abba”.
My heart melted.
It reminded me how much she absorbs what I say and do.
How amazing is it to realise that my daughter remembers and understands being told that I believe in her?
Having better habits will help me be a better dad
The realisation of how much my actions (and words) affect my kids definitely made/makes me reassess what I say to them and what I do around them.
One of the things I’m most proud of with my daughter is my insistence on the word “please”.
Her: “Abba, I want water”
Me: “I want water… what?”
Her: “I want water please” accompanied by a smile.
Another thing I’m proud of is how little exposure she has to screens. This is a very (hard) joint effort by Lazy FI Mum and myself. My daughter is very rarely exposed to screens. She has an occasional video call with family members (who are in Israel), sees some photos/videos of her on the phone, and a rare Youtube video (usually the ABC song while Lazy FI Mum cuts her nails).
This resulted in a girl that loves going outside, loves reading books and even asks to go to the library! As you can guess, I’m very proud of her.
Some may say she needs to get exposed to screens as it will happen eventually anyway, and that it’s the age where she can learn this technology (vital skill) the easiest. I have no concerns about the learning abilities of a girl that loves books, none whatsoever.
Being a better role model
However, I must admit I do not lead by example, I am on my phone way too often around my kids. I’m aware that my actions speak louder than my words and that my kids notice them. I try (and will keep trying) to reduce my phone usage around them.
Instead of being on the phone, I think a better use of my time is to be present in the moment with them. It is known that eye contact improves the bond between humans, especially with babies. By being on the phone I am effectively harming my relationship with my kids.
I am not brave enough to implement a “no phone around the kids” rule because Lazy FI Mum will hold me up to my word, but I do want to reduce it. Don’t you worry, this text is enough ammunition for her already 😀 (she read this part before I published this post, laughed, and said “that’s so true” hahaha)
Alternatively, if they are entertaining themselves, I can read a book! I would love my kids to know that Abba is reading a book in the background.
This is a good place for me to mention that I like reading books, I won’t do something that doesn’t come naturally to me just to “fool” my kids.
Being the man I want to be
Mr. 1500 once said on a podcast something along the lines of “I can’t be the man I want to be for my family and have a full-time job”.
I love that (probably butchered) quote so much. The man I want to be for my family is a better dad. There are so many things I would love to do with my time that are way more important than work but sadly, I have to work. Time is limited and I have to split it between time with family, work, and sleep (more on sleep shortly).
I want to spend more time with my kids. I also want to work out so I can pick them up for longer without my back hurting. My employer has now started to insist that we come into the office twice a week so the “more time with the kids” part is becoming more of an issue.
Yes, I know that as a COVID parent, I’m spoiled. Being able to work from home three days a week is more than I could have wished for three years ago. However, times have changed and I got used to working from home 4-5 days a week. Why shouldn’t I strive for more time at home with my family? Isn’t this what FI is about?
Being less tired will help me be a better dad
I noticed that I make the worse decisions when I’m tired. During the evenings, after a long day, I eat more unhealthy stuff. I also use my phone around the kids more often in the evening or first thing in the morning, after a night with little sleep.
I’m hoping that being less tired will make me a better dad by making better decisions.
“How can I become less tired?”
Maybe, by freeing 40 hours a week that are currently used for work? maybe by forcing myself to work out because it is known that working out actually increases your energy levels.
For the work part- I’m pursuing FI. For the workout- I’m pursuing excuses, my current one is that I’m waiting for my son to start childcare.
My actions and words affect my kids, sometimes- more than I realise. I am a role model, whether I like it or not.
Lazy FI Mum says “I can’t always be available for my son when I work, but I love my work and it makes me happy. It’s important for him to see and have a happy mum”. I agree except for the part about loving my work. She can keep working and I’ll play with our kids 🙂
In the meantime, I’ll try and be a better dad.