A Strong Hand


Some would say I'm too strict. My wife and I certainly have gotten the wry smile from some family members or friends (oh, just let him have another piece of candy!) or the whisper of a disagreeing grandmother (let him stay up another hour!). But, I haven't changed..and my wife and I seem to be on the same page for the most part.

I believe in a strong father figure. One that has rules, requirements and is unbending in his ways. Why? Well, it doesn't necessarily come from my parents...although I do remember some unbending ways of my Mom and Dad.

My father wasn't particularly strict..I mean, he wasn't a push-over, but my Mom was the strict one and he certainly went along for the ride.  I think it's important to show a unified front to your kids..so, if one parent says "no" to something, your kid doesn't run over to the other parent for permission. They learn that, and they can play that game well.

My father was often gone for a day or two working (without going into it, his job required him to be away for a day and night before returning for a day and night). Because of this, most of the discipline was left to my Mom, and, well, let's just say that we kids knew that you could only push her so far. My father would return and help out at home..he wasn't an absentee father at all. Often, the rules were the rules, and even if my friends (often girls) were staying out later than me, I had my curfew and that was to be obeyed. My parents did a pretty good job I'd say..damn good. They have successful, pretty well adjusted children, who are into family, traditions and adored them.  Since my Dad's passing, that hasn't changed and all the children travel to see my Mom on many occasions. Even my wife and other children-in-laws have a very special relationship with my Mom...even more so than their own parents.

But, that still doesn't explain where I came up with the "Strong Father" model of child-rearing. Actually, I can trace it back to the birth of my second child. Because of my work schedule and the fact that we had an older child in the house, we decided to get a nurse to stay and help my wife the first few weeks. She was great with the kids. But, one day, I remember her sitting on the couch, feeding my newborn. My wife was in the shower and I was dealing with an frantic episode of a normal 3 year old boy. He was having a meltdown..crying, angry. I don't remember what the fuss was about, but I stood my ground. Told him to .."get dressed" or "you have to eat this" or "you have to go to bed now" or whatever the argument was about. A few minutes after he had calmed down, I returned to the living room, where the nurse continued to feed my baby...and she was beaming at me.

In her warm Jamaican accent she said "You know, you're going to be a great father" she said.
Laughing at her out of frustration of arguing with a 3 year old, I scoffed at her remark.
"I can tell." She continued:
"A boy needs a strong father..he needs a man in the house. You need to stick to your guns. Later in life, he will grow up and appreciate that..and instead of raising a child, you'll have raised a man."

That conversation stuck with me. It's why I am a strong father. Now of course, there's some give and take in there..especially as they've matured. But, I believe it's why my kids know that homework has to be done before the TV is put on (and that they are expected to do their best in school). It's why the XBox doesn't play until the books are away. It's why weekday bedtimes are adhered to. It's also why my kids excel at school, at sports, have great friends. It's why other Mom's come up to me and ask if my kids could marry their daughters one day! They're good catches and we know it.

I think it's also why my kids cuddle up to me when we're watching TV together, even though they are teenagers, way past the "cuddle stage". It's why they kiss me good-bye every morning before going to school and know that they can call me at any time if they feel they are in danger and need a parent. They also know that drinking is frowned upon, that drugs are prohibited, and responsibility and perception is everything.

It's why I think stable parenting is the most important part of raising a child.

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