Dads. Stop breaking your children. Please.
I feel a need to write this post after what I witnessed at Costco yesterday. Forgive me for another post written in desperation and anger. Please read all the way to the end. I know it’s long, but this is something that needs to be said. It’s something that needs to be heard. It’s something that needs to be shared.
As Noah and I stood in line to make a return, I watched as a little boy (he couldn’t have been older than six) looked up at his dad and asked very timidly if they could buy some ice cream when they were done. The father glared him down, and through clenched teeth, growled at the boy to “leave him alone and be quiet”. The boy quickly cowered to the wall where he stood motionless and hurt for some time.
The line slowly progressed and the child eventually shuffled back to his father as he quietly hummed a childish tune, seemingly having forgotten the anger his father had just shown. The father again turned and scolded the boy for making too much noise. The boy again shrunk back and cowered against the wall, wilted.
I was agitated. I was confused. How could this man not see what I see? How could this man not see what a beautiful spirit stood in his shadow? How could this man be so quick to stub out all happiness in his own boy? How could this man not cherish the only time he’ll ever have to be everything to this boy? To be the person that matters most to this boy?
We were three from the front now, and the boy started to come towards his dad yet again. His dad immediately stepped out of the line, jammed his fingers into his son’s collar bones until he winced in pain, and threatened him. “If you so much as make a sound or come off of that wall again, I promise you’re going to get it when we get home.” The boy again cowered against the wall. This time, he didn’t move. He didn’t make a sound. His beautiful face pointed down, locked to the floor and expressionless. He had been broken. And that’s how his father wanted it. He didn’t want to deal with him, and breaking him was the easiest way.
And we wonder why so many of our kids grow up to be screwed up.
I’m going to be blunt. People see my relationship with Noah, and quite often put me up on a pedestal or sing my praises for loving him more than most dads love their own kids.
Damn it. I don’t understand that, and I’ll never understand that. Loving my son, building my son, touching my son, playing with my son, being with my son… these aren’t tasks that only super dads can perform. These are tasks that every dad should perform. Always. Without fail. There is nothing special about me. I am a dad who loves his son and would literally do anything for his well-being, safety, and health. I would gladly take a rake in the face or a jackhammer to my feet before I cut my own son down or make him feel small.
Sigh. I am far from a perfect dad. And I always will be. But I’m a damn good dad, and my son will always feel bigger than anything life can throw at him. Why? Because I get it. I get the power a dad has in a child’s life, and in a child’s level of self-belief. I get that everything I ever do and ever say to my son will be absorbed, for good or for bad. What I don’t get is how some dads don’t get it…
Dads. Do your faces light up when you first see your child in the morning or when you come home from work? Do you not understand that a child’s entire sense of value can revolve around what they see in your face when you first see them?
Dads. Do you not realize that a child is what you tell them they are? That people almost always become what they are labeled? Was whatever your child just did really the “dumbest thing you’ve ever seen somebody do”? Was it really the “most ridiculous thing they ever could have done”? Do you really believe that your child is an idiot? Because she now does. Think about that. Because you said it, she now believes it. Bravo.
Dads. Do you honestly expect anybody to believe that you can’t find 20 minutes to step away from your computer or turn off the television to play with your child? It has to happen every single day. Do you not understand that children will hinge their entire facet of trust on whether or not their dad plays with them and how involved he is when he plays with them? Do you know the damage you do by not playing with your children every day?
Dads. Should anybody buy into this silly notion that anger is sometimes or often necessary? Do you not understand that anger is almost always an emotion for people who wish to control others while simultaneously failing to control themselves? Do you not know that there are incredible books and courses that can teach you better methods? Most importantly, do you not see the speed at which a child is crushed or becomes completely defiant when anger rules the roost? Are you that desensitized to the luminosity of your child’s spirit that it doesn’t crush you completely when they flinch or cower in your presence? Is that really what you want your child to do? To fear you?
Dads. Do you not realize that your child needs to feel your skin on his? Do you not realize the incredible and powerful bond that skin on skin contact with your daughter will give you? Do you not understand the permanent mental connections that are made when you stroke your son’s bare back or rub your daughter’s bare tummy while you tell bedtime stories? And if any idiot says anything about that being inappropriate, you’re gonna get kicked in the face, first by me, and then by every other good dad out there. Touching your child is your duty as a father.
Dads. Wake up! These precious souls that have been put into your care are unique and so very sensitive. Everything you say or don’t say will impact their ability, success, and happiness throughout their entire lives.
Do you not realize that your kids are going to make mistakes, and a lot of them? Do you not realize the damage you do when you push your son’s nose into his mishaps or make your daughter feel worthless because she bumped or spilled something? Do you have any idea how easy it is to make your child feel abject? It’s as simple as letting out the words, “why would you do that!?” or “how many times have I told you…”
Let me ask you this. Have you ever looked into the swollen eyes of a parent who’s child has just died?
Have you ever cried through a child’s funeral?
Have you ever touched a wooden box with a child inside? A permanent tomb from which another laugh or giggle will never sound?
If you want the motivation to be the best parent on earth, do that just one time. I pray you never have to.
Dads. It’s time to tell our kids that we love them. Constantly. It’s time to show our kids that we love them. Constantly. It’s time to take joy in their twenty-thousand daily questions and their inability to do things as quickly as we’d like. It’s time to take joy in their quirks and their ticks. It’s time to take joy in their facial expressions and their mispronounced words. It’s time to take joy in everything that our kids are…
It’s time to stand up and ask what we can do to be better dads. It’s time to get our priorities straight. It’s time to come home and actually be a dad.
Dads. It’s time to show our sons how to properly treat a woman. It’s time to show our daughters how a girl should expect be treated. It’s time to show forgiveness and compassion. It’s time to show our children empathy. It’s time to break social norms and teach a healthier way of life! It’s time to teach good gender roles and to ditch the unnecessary ones. Does it really matter if your son likes the color pink? Is it going to hurt anybody? Do you not see the damage it inflicts to tell a boy that there is something wrong with him because he likes a certain color? Do we not see the damage we do in labeling our girls “tom boys” or our boys “feminine” just because they have their own likes and opinions on things? Things that really don’t matter?
Dads. Speak softly to your sons. Speak calmly to your daughters. Who do you want your child to be? Do you want him to be the kid at school that sits by himself with absolutely no friends or self esteem? Or do you want him to be the kid running for class office and feeling like he deserves to win it? Do we not see that we have the power to give that to our children? Do we not see that we have the power to teach our children the tools of societal survival?
Dads. Do we not see the influence we have when we say we believe in one thing, but our children see us living something else? Do we not realize how little we encourage our children to actually decide what they believe, declare what they believe, and then live by it? Whether it’s religion, politics, sports, or societal norms. It is not our place to tell our kids what to think. It is our place to teach our kids to think correctly. If we do this, we need have no fear of what they will decide for themselves and how strongly they’ll stand behind it. A man will follow his own convictions to his death, but he’ll only follow another man’s convictions until he steps in manure.
Damn it, Dads. Every child has the innate right to ask for ice cream without being belittled and broken. Every child has the innate right to do so without being made to cower in the corner because the man who is supposed to be his hero is actually a small, small man altogether. Every child has the innate right to be happy, and giggle, and laugh, and play. Why aren’t you letting them? Every child on earth has the right to a dad who thinks before he speaks; a dad who understands the great power that has been given to him to ultimately shape another human being’s life; a dad who loves his child more than he loves his television shows or sports games; a dad who loves his child more than his material junk; a dad who loves his child more than his time. Every child deserves a superhero dad.
Maybe the truth is that a lot of dads don’t deserve their kids.
Maybe the truth is that a lot of dads aren’t really dads at all.
I apologize for the heatedness of my post. I believe a part of me feels like a coward for not saying something to the man in front of me at Costco. Consider this post to be my penance. Perhaps a part of me feels that if even one person reads this and decides to be a better dad, it was worth every second that I spent typing it. If one child has a better life because something in my words stirred their father to step up their game, then it was worth every ounce of begging and pleading with you to share this with others, of which I am inevitably going to be guilty.
Dads. Children are gifts. They are not ours for the breaking. They are ours for the making. So stand up with me and show the world that there are a lot of good dads around.
Dan Pearce, From My Single Dad Laughing Blog
PS, I was seriously ornery and taken back when I wrote this. Please comment below and say whatever you like, but please also tell me about a good and real dad you know, somewhere, and what makes them good. I really need to hear it right now.