Adventures in Fathering

Four out of five, because it’s impossible to get them all together…

When you take over as a full time parent, people always seem to have expectations for your success or failure. Dads are particularly singled out with these expectations, but not in the way one might think. From what I have experienced, the male of the species is expected to do a lot less.

I get compliments all the time about my kids. I suppose I could just chalk it up to how good they really are, and beautiful, and smart. But most of the compliments seem to be aimed at me. But I am only half of the reason they are how they are, if that. Would people compliment my wife like that? Would they compliment her if she had to wrestle all five of them through a church service? They tell me I’m doing so well bringing them week after week, would they do the same to her?

The double standard seems to assume men aren’t as capable of parenting as women. Fathers are inept creatures, barely able to juggle one child, let alone five.

Frankly the assertion makes me laugh. Yeah, my kids are a handful. They are constantly moving, vibrating really, and sometimes they make noise at inopportune times. They treat me like a jungle gym. They stand firm in “no” and make me drag them by the leg into certain places. But it isn’t hard. It’s exhausting sometimes to be sure, but not “hard”.

I love them. I love the challenges they bring. I love watching them make connections and grow and learn. I love that they force me to be strong and active. I love that they ask complex questions and make me think. If I was not actively involved in their lives I dare say I would atrophy.

I pity the men out there who don’t have kids, or at least act like they don’t. I pity the men who don’t know their kids well enough to know what discipline works for what kid (hint: they are individuals, every one is different). I pity the men who never engage with their kids, physically or mentally, for they will grow olds quickly without the exercise.

Most of all I feel a bit grumpy towards the men who fit the stereotype of inept and aloof. They are the reason for so many misplaced compliments towards men like me. They are the reason I will get five compliments to every one my wife gets. They are the reason my kids never get told how awesome they are, everyone is too busy being surprised by me.

Next time you see a lone father (or mother) with well behaved (mostly) kids, compliment all of them.

They’ll appreciate it.

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Take Your Compliments and Shove ‘Em

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Just an average picture of an average guy.

Compliments, what do we do with them? How constructively do we take criticism? What do we do when faced with cricket chirps at our hard work?

As I mentioned last time, I’m slowly learning to like, indeed, love myself. Part of this process is learning to accept compliments, second is learning to accept criticism without magnifying it out of proportion. Third and probably the most difficult is learning how to properly interpret silence.

A few months back I talked about how my anxiety has robbed me of contentment for many years. It has also given me a large sentiment of cynicism. I don’t trust people when they compliment me. I assume that they can’t really mean it. I’m not that great, am I? I’m certainly not worthy of the love of others.

I am though.

If an infinite and holy God can love me, then certainly other, not-so-holy, created beings can love me too. By virtue of being an image-bearer I am lovable. And I can accept compliments about my person, my actions, and my creations, without cynicism or disbelief. Sometimes, I really do good work. I should accept that, and love it about myself.

Also by virtue of being an image bearer can I accept criticism without believing that I am a worthless piece of rubbish. Yes, I am a sinner, and I am fallible, and nothing I can do is perfect, but that doesn’t make me worthless. By the Grace of God, I am not a piece of garbage. Critique should drive me towards better work, and make me strive after perfection, not run from it.

But what about silence? What about the times when no one seems to notice?

I put in effort, I strove for perfection, I did my best.

*Crickets*

That one is a bit more difficult for me. I think silence drives most creators mad. They want recognition, even bad attention is better than no attention.

I have to tell myself that sometimes silence is merely a sign that I am doing just fine. There is no need for critique, but I am not to the level of deserving a compliment. Average-ness is properly met with silence. And average is perfectly acceptable, if one is progressing smoothly within their level of experience. If I paint an average painting, or write an average prose, or take an average picture, or sing an average song, are they not still acceptable?

If I want accolades I should strive for better than average. I should work on jumping out of my level and into the next. And I shouldn’t take silence as critique.

If I am below average I should expect to be corrected; average, an approving silence; above average, resounding praise.

All should be equally acceptable to me.