How does a man learn how to be a Dad? I grew up with a hardworking German father. He was great at math though he only went through the fourth grade. Unfortunately, he could not understand why I was not good at math. He learned two trades in his life time, millwright and pipe fitter. He was a strong union man and could not understand why I was not. He was a Democrat and could not understand why I did not want to be a party man. He was 43 when I was born and in order to earn a good living for us he worked long hours. The other men in my limited exposure up through the teen years were not good father models. In addition, the men in my life were of a variety of eastern European descent, providing me with a very mixed perspective on manhood.
So, at twenty-nine, with the birth of my daughter, I was confronted with the question, “How do I learn how to be a Dad?” Perhaps one of the good things I had going for me was the fact that I knew I did not know the answer to this question. The second good thing I had going for me was the fact that my wife came from a great family and a great church where she saw fatherhood modeled. In addition, my spiritual father modeled Christian fatherhood.
Nevertheless, it was my sweet wife who taught me how to be a good father starting with holding Tammy while in the hospital. I very awkwardly took her when Pam offered her to me. She smiled and said, “Honey, she is not a China doll. She will not break.” I grew up playing with few other children. Until age six, my dog was my playmate. So, needless to say, I did not know much about playing with my children. Again, Pam was my guide.
She not only instructed me; she modeled good parenting. I will always remember the day when my wife knelt down in front of my five or six year old son, placed her hands on his shoulders and said to him, “Son, look me in the eye” and very firmly but gently explained to him how his disobedience was displeasing to the Lord and her. She walked him through repenting of his attitude and then sent him off with a gentle pat on the shoulder.
She encouraged me to wrestle with the children. She prompted me to read to them. When David was struggling with reading, she convinced me (behind closed doors) to allow him to read comic books. He caught the wonder of reading. Later I subscribed to four different Motor Cross magazines which he read faithfully and surprised everyone with his mechanical knowledge.
The moral of my story is twofold. Husbands should never be too proud to learn from wives. Secondly, good parenting is a team effort that is facilitated by good communication.