Our male role models in our lives play a special role and offer unique perspectives. For young children, this often starts at home with dads, uncles, and grandfathers! Child Care Answers wanted to learn more about this perspective and had the privilege to interview four dads in our community about their experiences in fatherhood.
Share a little bit about your children
Jason: My boys are ten years old and thirteen years old. They have totally different personalities. There are some overlapping interests like music and video games, but they approach them in different ways. It makes for an interesting mix of balancing the two.
John: Claire is four years old and enjoys games and playing with her dolls. Charlie is eight years old and enjoys video games and Legos.
Tom: Damien is thirteen years old and Elijah is seven years old. They both love to draw, play Minecraft, Zelda, build with Legos, and watch shows. They both love to laugh and to make others laugh.
Cory: Freya is eight months old and loves to explore things that are not hers and loves to listen to the Beatles and Led Zeppelin. My son Reid would have been four years old but passed away after birth due to medical conditions. He loved to listen to mom and dad sing him Blackbird by the Beatles.
How do you spend time with your children? What activities do you do together?
“We just support little things that show him he is valued for who he is.” – Jason
Jason: I spend time with them in being involved in their interests. With the younger one, we play a lot of board games and video games together. We just support little things that show him he is valued for who he is. With the older one, he will sometimes help cook with me, but more often, we get his conversations at the dinner table or the ride home from school. We have a mutual interest in good food, and it has been fun to discover movies and TV shows that he is seeing for the first time.
John: Most of my time spent with my children is in the evening and on weekends. Activities include going to karate or dance practice, playing games, watching movies, or playing outside.
Tom: I am fortunate to be able to work from home most of the time, giving me more opportunities to connect with our kiddos. I enjoy doing home improvement and maintenance projects around our home, and I try to always invite the kids to join me in doing those, although, they often do not take me up on that. I try to make a point that, when my kiddos invite me to do things, I say yes as often as I can (even if I don’t feel like it).
Cory: I like to spend my time with Freya by having dance parties as a family and playing and talking with her.
What is the most challenging part of fatherhood?
“It’s always difficult to see your child upset or hurting. Resisting jumping in and ‘saving the day’ is an urge I have had to temper.” – Tom
Tom: Instead [of solving the problem for my kids], I try to engage them in conversation about the issue at hand and help them establish ways of dealing with it themselves in the future, while ensuring they know I’ll always be there for them.
Jason: The most challenging part to me is finding ways to be close as they grow away from you as a parent. Middle-schoolers want independence. That balance of independence and providing a safe space to grow is always changing, and it is hard to keep it together sometimes.
John: Time. There are only 24 hours in a day, and, after factoring in work and sleep, it can be very difficult to find time for yourself and your children.
Cory: Not getting as much sleep as I used to!
What is one thing that has surprised you about fatherhood?
“I have never, nor will I ever, love someone the way I love my kids.” – John
John: The connection to my children is different than any connection I’ve experienced before. I have never, nor will I ever, love someone the way I love my kids.
Tom: As our kids’ personalities flourish, I have been surprised at how many of our interests diverge from one another. I have found that being intentional about ensuring overlapping interests and having a go-to activity we can do together is really valuable for the relationship. For Damien and me, we can always sit down and watch Modern Marvels, play chess or Othello. For Elijah and me, I can always ask if he wants to play Star Wars on the Xbox or go for a walk to the corner store.
Cory: I am surprised by how much I connect with her. I really feel like I know her personality even at eight months.
Jason: The thing that has surprised me most is how quickly time goes. It seems like we were changing diapers yesterday, and now one is shaving! What happened to being able to pick them up and give them a hug? We had a principal one year explain that fourth grade is halfway to a child moving out of the house to college or adult life. I can’t quite wrap my head around that, but it is true.
What advice do you have for fathers with younger children?
“Sometimes you have to think outside yourself. Despite how hungry or tired you are, your baby will come first.” -Cory
Jason: Enjoy each chance you can. My favorite age with them has been whatever age they currently are. It is amazing to see their personalities blossom through their social interactions at school or other events. Allowing them to be their own person and support their discoveries about themselves has been just as rewarding for me as it is for them. No matter who they are or what they do, they should know that you are their steady support and safe space to be themselves.
John: Be patient. Cherish every day with your children. The days may seem long sometimes, but the years always feel short.
Tom: Swallowing my pride and ensuring I apologize when I screw up has been very hard, but it is always worth it for the relationship. Own what you did and make it right. Not only is this incredibly valuable for the relationship, it models for your children what they should do when they make a mistake. Many of the greatest conversations and most intimate moments with my kids have come from me apologizing for doing something wrong.